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Practicalities of supervision in firms

Different definitions for clinical supervision exist. However, for purposes of this discussion I will glean over the one offered by Bernard and Goodyear (1998). The two authors posit that:

Robert Mandeya with People management issues

“Supervision is an intervention that is provided by a senior member of a profession to a junior member or members of that same profession. This relationship is evaluative, extends over time, and has the simultaneous purposes of enhancing the professional functioning of the junior member(s), monitoring the quality of professional services offered to the clients she, he, or they see(s), and serving as a gatekeeper of those who are to enter the particular profession.”

Within this definition, there is mention of several components of supervision:

An intervention

There are unique competencies and skills involved in supervision that allow the supervisor to help the supervisee. Models of supervision exist that provide a framework for the process. In addition, supervisors incorporate various modes and interventions to facilitate supervisee development.

Awareness of these models, modes, and interventions will help the supervisee understand the underlying processes of supervision and therefore, be a more active participant in the supervision process. A dialogue can develop between supervisor and supervisee as a means to share personal styles and preferences for frameworks and interventions to be used in supervision.

A relationship over time

The process of supervision occurs within the relationship established between the supervisor and supervisee. It is important to keep in mind that both the supervisor and supervisee contribute to the relationship and have responsibilities within the process.

The assumption of supervision is that it will last long enough for some developmental progress of the supervisee. Supervision is differentiated from brief interactions (such as workshops), and consultation that, by definition, is time and session limited, although all of these interactions share common goals (eg, training in a skill, clarification of process, regaining objectivity). The fact that supervision is ongoing, it allows for the relationship to grow and develop. The importance of the supervisory relationship has received much attention in supervision literature.

While not the sole determinant of the quality of supervision, the quality of the relationship between the supervisor and supervisee can add or detract from the experience. It is important that the “relationship” aspect of supervision is not overlooked or neglected.

Supervisor as a gatekeeper

In addition to enhancing the professional functioning of workplaces, supervisors have an ethical and legal responsibility to monitor the quality of work that is being delivered by the supervisee. In order to enhance the professional functioning of the supervisee and assure quality of work, the supervisor constantly monitors and provides feedback regarding supervisee performance.

This formative evaluation forms the basis of the work done in supervision. The supervisor also serves as a gatekeeper for quality productive work. The supervisor is charged to evaluate the supervisee based on work done and how it meets expected standards.

As part of this role, supervisors formally evaluate supervisees. These summative evaluations occur after there has been enough supervision to expect a certain degree of competence.

Evaluation is a crucial aspect of the supervision process, and one that is often the source of discomfort for both the supervisor and supervisee.

Why a supervisor is important?

Firstly, a supervisor is responsible for effective and efficient utilisation of resources. Without someone who is responsible for these resources, the organisation is likely to fall into a situation whereby some resources are unused, misused, or abused. The end result will be the collapse of such an organisation.

A supervisor also controls work activities on the shop floor. The supervisor gives instructions and monitors the work being done to make sure that people are performing up to the required standards. It should be noted that “controlling” here does not mean breathing down an employee’s neck and watching their every move to make sure that it is absolutely right.

Thirdly, a supervisor is involved in the planning of day-to-day activities. All the work that the employees do should be planned beforehand, and it is the responsibility of the supervisor to carry out this planning. Without someone to plan, the work done by employees would be haphazard and goals might not be achieved.

Fourthly, a supervisor is responsible for ensuring production targets are achieved. It would be difficult to measure the progress being made in an organisation if no reference is made to attainment of targets. The supervisor becomes important because he is tasked with making sure that the targets that have been set are achieved, within the set time frame, and to the correct standards.

Lastly, a supervisor is responsible for ensuring that the employees are motivated and well taken care of. In this regard, the supervisor acts as the team leader and role model. Every team needs someone to inspire and encourage them, and who also caters for their needs at the workplace, and sometimes away from the workplace.

Mandeya is an executive coach, trainer in human capital development and corporate education, a certified leadership and professional development practitioner and founder of the Leadership Institute for Research and Development (LiRD). — robert@lird.co.zw, info@lird.co.zw or +263 772 466 925.

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