Keep Supervisors on Track

February 1, 2005

How can I keep supervisors on task and sharing in the responsibility of overseeing staff? All too often, one person is left to do all the work. Everyone on the team seems to have great ideas, but administering and organizing them is not on their to-do list.

Question: How can I keep supervisors on task and sharing in the responsibility of overseeing staff? All too often, one person is left to do all the work. Everyone on the team seems to have great ideas, but administering and organizing them is not on their to-do list.

Answer: First, recognize that what you describe is the most difficult part of management - everyone struggles with this.

Start by assessing supervisors' job duties. Is it possible that your supervisors just don't have the tools or training to do what you've asked of them?

Interview the supervisors to see what their strengths and weaknesses are. Some people are better with human resources while others really shine when it comes to crunching numbers. Cooperatively establish short-term and long-term measurable objectives for each one. Include team as well as individual objectives.

Are job descriptions up-to-date? Make it unquestionably clear in a written, detailed job description what is expected of each supervisor.

Now, let them work. Give support and advice, make midcourse adjustments if necessary, but hold them accountable to meet their goals and deadlines. Don't get dragged into solving every single day-to-day problem for them. When they come to you with a problem, ask, "How would you handle this?"

Hold quarterly, rather than annual, performance reviews for a while - tell them it's because as managers they are critical to the practice's success.

Focus performance evaluations on objective measures that help establish practice values. For example, if getting claims out fast is a priority, measure it. If an employee has suggested an idea, measure their ability to implement it. Include the employee in the review process by asking for a self-evaluation.

You may have to take extra steps to keep supervisors energized. Try perks like inexpensive gifts, handwritten notes on hiring anniversary or birthday, and, of course, expressing thanks when you see a job done well.

If a supervisor still isn't meeting his clearly (and fairly) defined objectives, maybe he isn't right for the job.