How Do I Select the Right People for Supervisor Roles?

By Corporate Education

The sweet spot of Corporate Education is in training and developing the leadership ability and functional skills of supervisors.  Our clients trust us to support them with our expert trainers and programs.  Our annual event on April 4, 2024 revolves around this theme: the Supervisory Academy 2024.  Check it out!  It’s a great opportunity for your existing supervisors, those you have already put in place, or high-potential employees, to focus on some key competencies.  

In the natural progression of your organization, you as a hiring manager will have to fill vacant supervisory roles.  Of course, you can look outside for talent but it’s far more valuable to identify and promote current individual contributors to these roles.  You intuitively look for the most successful workers you have: the ones who are the most productive, the hard-working ones, and those who take initiative.  Click here for a list of 7 qualities that make for the highest performing individual contributors (

These super-productive people certainly seem like they would make the best supervisors, don’t they? 

The answer is No! 

Research is clear: the most productive individuals do not necessarily make the best supervisors.

It’s not that productive and initiative-taking workers will naturally make bad supervisors; it’s just that those qualities that made them successful in those roles do not translate sufficiently into the skills needed for supervisory success. 

In short, successful supervisors are others-centered and have good interpersonal skills, among other key traits.  I highly recommend this excellent article from the SHRM website (reprinted from Harvard Business Review) that lists in detail the qualities and behaviors that make for great supervisors (

If you were to reflect on your own experience of supervisors in your career, what would you say made the best ones great?  Here are traits from my own history of managers:

  • They listened and gave me honest feedback.
  • They were patient with my mistakes.
  • They provided the resources I needed to be successful.
  • They were trustworthy and trusted me.
  • They were interested in my future.
  • They were equitable to everyone.
  • They led us through hard changes.
  • They reminded me of our purpose and provided a vision for our future.

Please notice that I didn’t list boundless energy, technical expertise, or great networking ability as traits that stood out.  My previous bosses each had some of these but that’s not where I benefitted the most.  How they related to me and the team, and demonstrated the pathway to success within our organization mattered the most in the long run. 

Now is the time to carefully consider the people on your own team.  Do you see people who have a natural inclination towards these traits, who know how to handle conflict calmly, get along well with others, can train and motivate others, who has a clear sense of what the organization is all about, who are committed to the mission? 

The article from SHRM above makes one more very important point.

Organizations need to start training and developing these skills in potential supervisors before they start the official role before they get promoted. 

When our consultants at Corporate Education sit down to strategize with organizations in our community about developing their talent, we always ask them if they can identify the high-potentials among their contributors and include them in the development programs.  We encourage their managers to identify and start coaching and training these future leaders now, as soon as they see that they have the traits that could make them effective supervisors. 

It’s never too early to start planning your talent development! 

Our Supervisory Academy 2024 on April 4 could be a great start or a continuation of your existing programming.