The Basics of Good Supervision

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Dawn Kessler-Walker
  • 4th Medical Operations Squadron Commander
What does it take to be a good supervisor? I believe there are four main standards that cover all the basics: listening, empowering Airmen, enforcing the standards, and having a good attitude. Almost everyone in the Air Force is a supervisor, and if you follow the basics, you create a better environment in the workplace.

The first thing a good supervisor does is listening. Find out what is going on with your Airmen and learn about their lives. Once someone knows you care, she/he will be more likely to tell you what is really going on. Listening does not always mean solving problems, sometimes you just need to be a good sounding board. If a problem does need to be resolved, ask Airmen for their suggestions and input. Open communication is the key; keep your Airmen informed and they will be more likely to do the same for you. This gives you the opportunity to take care of problems while they are still small.

Empowering Airmen will reap many benefits. When they are ready, give them more responsibilities so they learn what they are capable of at work. Give them the chance to shine, make sure they are taking classes to complete their Community College of the Air Force degree, their bachelor's degree, or even their master's degree. Ensure they are involved in activities outside of direct work duties and put your best up for awards. Discuss future goals with them so they become better Airmen and individuals. When an Airman does well, others see the benefits and may become more motivated themselves.

Enforcing the standards is something that often falls through the cracks. Everyone can follow standards and set a good example for others. When you have an Airman who does not meet standards, action has to be taken, since this affects the morale of everyone. If you have Airmen who are working hard and maintaining standards and they see others who don't and are not confronted or corrected, you create an environment where mediocrity is accepted.

Finally, attitude can really make a difference in the work environment. This is something that can be controlled by each individual, and we can all work to improve our attitudes. Even when things aren't going great, how we approach them makes a big difference. Even basic things like smiling and saying "hi" to people can help. If there are two people in the exact same situation, and one has a good attitude and the other a bad, you can clearly see how much difference a good attitude makes. Attitude is contagious; make sure you spread the right one.

If every Airman makes it a priority to be a good supervisor by taking care of people and being a good role model, we would all be able to spend more time focusing on the mission and ensuring the success of others. During a busy day, sometimes it feels like there is not enough time to do the right thing and take care of others. Taking the time it requires to lead people in the right direction ultimately saves time in the long run and will reap many benefits. Do everything you can to be a good leader/supervisor, and you will find out for yourself the benefit it brings to you and your people.