Keith knows his business in-depth. He is one of the best communicators I have ever worked with. He has the unique ability to be very detailed yet constantly keep the whole picture in front of him.

— Tom Kerins, Program Director, Center on Innovation and Improvement

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The Supervision Triangle and Why You Should Know About It

“You’re the supervisor. Supervise.” It was no sooner than the words came out of my mouth that I realized he didn’t know how.  He’d spent his brief career delegating – telling people what to do – telling people to do all he didn’t want to, all he didn’t know how to do. He hadn’t learned how to get results. His outcomes were a throw of the dice, a hope that people would do what he asked and that somehow that would move the needle.

I’m sure I must have made some facial expression that gave me away, but if I did, he didn’t let on as if he saw it. There’s a moment when you know you have your work cut out for you. You know you didn’t quote a high enough price for the work. This was that moment. I was starting at square one.

In my work with Fortune 500 company and small businesses, I often find stories like the one above. There aren’t many companies that teach you how to supervise. Most people are promoted into supervisory roles because they did their previous job well. It’s a well-known fact that if you can do the job, you can supervise someone doing the job, right?

Wrong!

Supervision is a skill. You’re not born knowing how to do it. You have to learn, and if you’re a small business owner who hasn’t had the opportunity to see someone do it well, you may need more help than you think, if you want to be successful.

With my clients, I frequently discuss the supervision triangle – the balance of three required elements that lead to supervisory success. Here’s a quick run down:

  1. Expectations – setting clear and fixed performance targets that are known to your employees.
  2. Support – providing differentiated coaching and teaching to ensure all employees have the knowledge and skills to do their jobs successfully.
  3. Accountability – measuring and communicating the degree to which employees meet the performance expectations, as well as describing the needed actions to hit all targets.

They’re like a three-legged stool. Without one, you topple over. You need all three to be stable.

What are your best supervision stories (or even nightmares)? What successes have you had? What challenges have you faced? Share them below in the comments. We can all be better supervisors. It just takes a little knowledge and some practice.

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Keith is a life & business strategist, connector, author, facilitator, speaker, entrepreneur & CEO. He’s a dad to an 8 lb. pit bull wannabe, a wine drinker, a softball player and a not-so-silent social voyeur.

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