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Leadership Pipeline 101: Steps to Cultivate High-Performance Supervisors

Leadership Pipeline 101: Steps to Cultivate High-Performance Supervisors

Do you have supervisors who feel under-equipped? It's an unfortunate reality that many organizations we work with have under-equipped supervisors. Oftentimes, people are thrust into roles they aren't fully prepared for due to sudden employee departures, leaving a void that's difficult to fill. Without proper training, the potential for these supervisors to effectively lead and grow beyond their current roles is limited. And, as a result, leaders find themselves caught in a perpetual cycle of vacant positions and a lack of qualified replacements…once again left to hire an underqualified internal candidate or hire from the outside.

This is a frustrating reality; with small teams and a lack of resources, many leaders feel hiring from the outside isn’t possible. So what do you do? How can you end the cycle? The solution is seemingly simple - to initiate lasting change, leaders must commit to prioritizing the development of others. This transformation begins with the strategic cultivation of a pipeline of future leaders with ongoing supervisor training.

Can Anyone Become a Supervisor?

 Let’s answer an important question first….can anyone become a supervisor? Yes and no.

People have natural fit for jobs. Some people would rather do the work while others would rather lead the work. The main key is to only put people in the leadership pipeline who actually want to lead. If no one fits that role, then that’s the time to look at an outside hire.

This is where understanding the gifts and talents of your teams is so important. Figure out what gives your team life so you can assess who is a good fit for promotion. Value alignment and high performance are not enough - they need to have the right fit, too.

Similarly, having documented career leaders for both management and specialist pipelines is also important. Those who do not desire a supervisory role in the future should have just as many options, and a clear growth path, as those who express interest in management roles.

If, upon reflection of your current workforce, you realize you may have many employees who are under-equipped for their roles, here are some questions to consider….

1. Are we considering the right people for supervisory positions?

Only some people should (or want to be) a supervisor. It’s important to be thoughtful about who you are promoting into supervisory roles. When looking at your current team, don’t just assume that skill equals supervisory ability. Though supervisory competencies can be trained, there is a degree of skill assessment that must be done.

First, start with values alignment. This should be easy to evaluate someone who already works in your organization since they wouldn’t have been hired if there wasn’t a values alignment.

Then, look at fit. What is this person good at? Do they have the skills we need to tactically fill this role?

Next, consider where they are along the current leadership pipeline. There is likely a leadership journey this person is already on; does this role fit along that pipeline?

Finally, consider their experience. What do they bring to the table? Do they need any more specific education to be effective in this role? Can we, as an organization, support them as they achieve the necessary skill development they need to be successful?

If, when evaluating your current talent pool, you do not have anyone who fits these criteria as well as a desire to be in a management position, consider an outside hire. As was mentioned earlier, a person can have all of the skills and competencies to accomplish the job, but without a desire to be in a management position, they will continually feel out of place and unhappy in their role.

2. Do we offer supervisor training?

This seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many leaders I’ve spoken with who are puzzled why their supervisors are struggling but have provided little to no training on how to actually be a supervisor. There is in fact a difference between being a supervisor and a contributor, and no matter the working ability of an individual, this is something that must be taught. While most managers have skills and behaviors that support team member success, they often fail to deliver on all the needed areas because of a lack of awareness, training, or experience. Effective supervisors are equipped with the tools they need to be effective.

Thankfully, you can train for competencies. We’ve identified seven core competencies that all effective supervisors possess and should be trained on.

Effective managers have competencies in:

  • Hiring- they understand the hiring process and the hiring experience.
  • Communication- they practice clear communication and understand different communication styles.
  • Connecting- they meet regularly with their teams through frequent 1-1 meetings.
  • Performance Feedback- they support performance excellence.
  • Delegating- they know how to delegate well.
  • Developing People- they empower and grow their employees.
  • Collaborating- they foster collaboration on and between teams.

When building out your supervisor training, be sure to include training in these areas. If you’re struggling to build out a supervisor training program, contact us for more resources and additional support. We’re happy to help!

3. How are we encouraging and building a learning organization?

People development is an ongoing process and supports a learning organization. But for many organizations who recognize their staff are underequipped, the option to invest has become optional. This not only does a disservice to your employees but your organization as a whole. And remember, learning happens through mentorship and coaching, not just training

You will find that a clear leadership pipeline with training and ongoing support not only equips your supervisors to effectively fulfill their job responsibilities but also adapt to change and thrive in an ever-changing environment. A mindset of continuous learning and improvement ensures that everyone in your organization - from the bottom to the top - remains effective in all circumstances.

When leaders commit and invest in their own learning, it sets a powerful example, signaling that learning and growth are expected, not just encouraged. It's never too late to transform into a learning organization—a culture of development benefits everyone.

Committing to development is not just a leadership choice; it's a promise to nurture the growth and flourishing of the entire organization, fostering a dynamic, flexible environment that can withstand the challenges of the future.

For more information about developing people and equipping supervisors, contact us today!