Management/Supervisory Development in Four-Steps

by | Nov 12, 2021

One of the most enduring challenges facing businesses is the development of the next level of supervisors and managers. I often hear from executives who are frustrated by the need to step in and handle management challenges, particularly those involving the performance and behavior of their people. Their managers and supervisors are simply not equipped to deal effectively with these issues. Therefore, the executive or senior level manager steps in, addresses the performance or behavior problem (most often, it’s the latter) and they move on. The supervisor is relieved, the executive is annoyed but, at the same time, feels a sense of accomplishment for having dealt with an important matter. What’s going on here?

This example is repeated any number of times in so many organizations. Since leadership, management and supervisory skills development is not a point of emphasis, it tends to happen in a haphazard, ad hoc way. We can do better.

Here’s a simple four step process for developing competency, skills, and confidence in your managers and supervisors.

Step 1

Tell/Teach them. Explain how to approach employee issues in the most effective way, by balancing empathy, calmness, and self-control with the need to communicate for corrective action. Laying out a step-by-step approach and sharing this process is the first step in developing these competencies.

Step 2

Show them. By demonstrating how to pro-actively address employee issues, senior managers share the benefit of their experience and skill. As supervisors observe this first-hand, they increase their understanding and appreciation for how these matters are handled in real time.

Step 3

Watch them. Telling, teaching, and demonstrating by doing are the first two steps and only that.  Either in a roll-playing scenario or at the next “live” opportunity, it is imperative that the supervisor take the lead in handling the corrective action needed.  Prepare them and observe them closely. This is a critical step in developing the competency and the confidence of the supervisor.

Step 4

Offer feedback. Explain where they did well and how they can improve. Chances are that a new or inexperienced supervisor who has never had to have a “critical conversation” with a direct report will not do it perfectly the first time through. Observing closely and providing helpful input is a needed part of the development process.

In my experience, senior managers and executives rarely complete these four steps.  Many get to steps 1 and/or 2 and level off there.  Over time, any benefit of doing this is lost as the supervisor settles into an expectation that when confronted with a challenge, they simply delegate the matter upward.  That’s no way to learn.

Of course, there is no substitute for formal supervisory training via workshops, seminars and professional development programs designed for this purpose.  Either way, managers and executives who follow these four simple steps will see the rate and pace of supervisory skill development increase in measurable ways.

For more information on how you can develop the next generation of leaders in your organization, contact me at


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