Development Plan for Improving Supervisory Skills

Department Expectations of Supervisors

  • Communication
    • Hold regular meeting with your supervisee(s).
    • Give clear instructions.
    • Provide constructive and timely feedback regarding supervisee's job performance (e.g., coding, analysis skills, report writing, professional demeanor, publications, ensures end product is of highest quality, pays attention to detail, communicates effectively, etc.)
    • Communicate clear deadlines for project-related tasks.
    • Provide the opportunity for supervisee(s) to discuss the deadline, related deadlines, timing, and resources.
    • Ensure timely e-mail communication with colleagues and supervisees.
    • Address performance concerns directly and timely.
    • Initiate feedback from collaborators/colleagues re supervisee performance.
  • Professionalism
    • Maintain proper professional boundaries.
    • Display credo behavior.
    • Demonstrate that you have enough job knowledge to make decisions about their work.
    • Let your supervisee know when they have done a good job.
    • Be aware of relationship between your supervisee and collaborator, your supervisee and other supervisees within department, and support suggestions (or take actions) that are meant to correct existing problems. Work with supervisee to define underlying issues and seek resolution.
    • Ask if your supervisees have the necessary materials and equipment available to perform their job.
  • Autonomy
    • Encourage your supervisee(s) to try new ways of doing their job.
    • Consider supervisee's input on project priorities and deadlines.

  1. Make sure the performance evaluation is useful in helping your supervisee improve their work performance.
  2. With input from supervisee, prepare objective development goals for the new performance year.
  3. Include team/group/unit goals in development goals.

Practical suggestions


  1. Meet with the person you supervise almost every week. At least every other week, ask him/her the following, among other things:
    • How are things going?
    • Do you have the technical support you need?
    • How is your workload?
    • Are there any problems with priorities of different projects?
    • Are there any problems working with any investigators?
    • Are you getting sufficient variety in your work and do you have sufficient challenges?
    • Can you think of anything the department can do to better help you or that the department could improve in how it operates?
  2. Learn how to be firm but gentle. Make sure you say what is on your mind but do it in a polite fashion with sensitivity towards the person's feelings.
  3. Encourage supervisee(s) to be receptive to change and new ideas.
  4. Give your supervisee tasks that require 1-2 times as much understanding as she currently has. This is how growth occurs. Take time to explain things. This requires significant time up front but saves time later by having your supervisee better equipped to extend what you are able to do.
  5. Recognize your supervisee privately and before co-workers, colleagues and/or collaborators. Consider sending a hand-written thank you note, which is simple yet powerful.


  • Communicate information from the monthly faculty meeting and other committee meetings.
  • Review goals and objectives to ensure on track.
  • Encourage your supervisee's career growth. Employees who do not attend one training per quarter will be assigned training by supervisor. Growth is part of VPES evaluation.
  • Provide opportunities to improve their professional knowledge and job skills.
  • Ask if your supervisees are satisfied with the training they receive.
  • Review the CME report and attendance at seminars, clinics, grand rounds.

Successful supervisors generally

  • Communication
    • incorporate humor into their work and interactions
    • are active listeners
    • use good coaching techniques
    • communicate regularly and directly
    • provide timely feedback (positive or constructive)
  • Professionalism
    • practice kind assertiveness
    • set a positive tone early and regularly
    • deal with under-performance early
    • ensure consistent treatment and non-favoritism
    • are personally well organized
    • practice good time management in their own work
    • are decisive and give clear instructions
    • are advocates for the supervisee to those outside the department
    • are accepting of suggestions
    • provide back up to supervisee if unrealistic priorities are set by others
    • are not afraid to apologize
    • are not afraid to admit mistakes
    • address problems quickly (don't let problems fester)
    • set high standards
  • Autonomy
    • give credit for successes and take blame for failures
    • meet targets and exceed deadlines
    • have high expectations for their supervisee
    • provide significant autonomy to the supervisee
    • encourage work/life balance
    • give their supervisee a voice in decisions regarding their time allocation
    • encourage continual learning

Department and University/Medical Center Alignment

  • Communicate that the medical center has a clear sense of direction
  • Communicate about the excellent benefits that Vanderbilt offers
  • Speak positively about University and Medical Center leadership

Books and CDs with Useful Advice About Supervising People

  1. Good to Great. (Chapter 2). Jim Collins.
  2. Execution. Larry Bossidy.
  3. Getting Things Done. David Allen.
  4. The Success Principles. Jack Canfield.
  5. Leadership. Tom Peters.
  6. The Effective Executive. Peter Drucker.
  7. The Coaching Manager. James Hunt and Joseph Weintraub
  8. COACHING for Performance. John Whitmore
Topic revision: r30 - 29 Mar 2012, LindaStewart

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