Bill Cottringer

“You cannot teach a man anything. You can only help him discover it within himself.” ~Galileo Galilei.

There is no shortage of information about being a successful supervisor. But, that is a problem in itself—there is probably too much information on this important topic for any meaningful and immediate consumption. The best approach to learning how to be a good supervisor is to learn and apply principles that seem to hang around for us for learning and applying at the right time in our journey, such as these seven sure solutions to successful supervision below:

1. Use Your Main Talent.

We are all born with a unique talent—a special gift to help us succeed in life and work. Once you find out what your best ability is, you will need to develop it and find many ways to exploit it in a positive sense to maximize results. Focus on growing and improving this “gift” of yours and forget about trying to overcome your weaknesses (all you get from that effort is an accumulation of mediocre abilities). Just try and avoid situations where you are exposed by what you can’t do well. Find someone else to cover that base. What is your main talent that can help you be a good supervisor?

2. Avoid Extremes.

Although moderation and balance are difficult and challenging goals to achieve, such a character trait shines a very bright light for others to see and follow. And, it will always get you to a better place than to the far right or left of a thing. This just means work at being reasonably balanced in things like your talking and listening, thinking with your head vs. feeling with your heart, making things too complex vs. too simple, using a microscope and telescope, and over-or under-supervising others. The “middle place” is the best place to be because you can see in all directions—to the left, right, up, down, inside, outside and all around. In what areas of supervising are you most out of balance?

3. Manage Time.

The most important resource we all have that is most related to success is TIME, or more specifically how we think about it and how we use it. Just like it is better to focus on what you are doing than what you are getting from what you are doing, it is better to stay focused on your supervising than on the time you have to do it. Think about this and it will become clearer as a powerful force that makes more time to do more things. And consider this: Focus on results and you don’t get any change; focus on change and you always get results. What do you need to change about your approach to time management in your supervising activities?

4. Be An Expert Communicator

The most successful people in any career—whether politics, sports, entertaining, service industry, volunteering or stay-at-home parenting—have one very important thing in common. They are all master speakers and writers, especially in communicating these other six solutions to being a successful in anything, including supervising others. Master communicators say what is most important in a way that is clear, clear, concise, complete and correct. And they don’t create defensiveness in others by insinuating superiority or conveying anything close to being over-controlling, insensitive, accusing, manipulating or dishonest. Do you inadvertently communicate things that create defensiveness in others when you are supervising?

5. Lead by Example

Although this successful supervision solution is so trite and usually goes without saying, the awesome power of being a good role model is often not used often enough. The important flip side of this is that supervisors are often put under a microscope by others and one small slip can result in a very BIG fall. Remembering that it is your actions (louder than your words) and how you treat people, especially during adversities and rough seas, is what gets remembered most. Make those moments count most. Are you doing this now as a supervisor?

6. Study déjà vu experiences

This solution isn’t about reincarnation theory, but rather noticing something that too often goes unnoticed—how going through a present problem predicament may seem very familiar from past experience. When you realize you may have had a past experience with someone else solving a similar problem, you will get the point behind the “mysterious” déjà vu experience. It is the successful solution to the problem that is being reincarnated so to speak. True success principles exist with or without our comprehension, but they are always there waiting to be experienced. Are you noticing these déjà vu experiences in your time in supervision?

7. Be a Perpetual Learner

As soon as you think you know it all a funny thing happens—you don’t. The plain truth is that the most successful people constantly stay open to learning, growing and improving. This is because they know that important knowledge about being successful is tentative at best, and the big picture keeps growing with every day ahead. Being open to change and learning is the surest way to be a good supervisor. Warning: Sometimes stretching is painful (but more rewarding in the long run, with a little patience). Are you open to growing your supervision toolbox?

These seven solutions for being a successful supervisor are by no means an all-inclusive, exhaustive list. But they are a good start to finding the right road from all the possible ones before you.

“Five frogs are sitting on a log. Four decide to jump off. How many are left? Answer: five. Why? Because there's a difference between deciding and doing. ~Mark L. Feldman & Michael F. Spratt

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is Executive Vice President for Employee Relations for Puget Sound Security, Inc. in Bellevue, WA, along with being a Sport Psychologist, Business Success Coach, Photographer and Writer living in the mountains and rivers of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, “You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too” (Executive Excellence), “The Bow-Wow Secrets” (Wisdom Tree), and “Do What Matters Most” and “P” Point Management” (Atlantic Book Publishers), “Reality Repair” (Global Vision Press), and Reality Repair Rx (Authorsden). Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (425) 454-5011 or