Towards self-directed organisations – What do we need supervisors for?

A real-life success story

Supervisor, coach, mentor – this familiar, yet transforming role has many names. The role is so significant that its representatives are considered the most important target group of top management – even more important than customers. This may sound strange in a time that considerably highlights the importance of customer experience.

Leadership as the driver of employee engagement and change

Based on a number of studies, both our own and conducted by others, a committed personnel creates genuine added value to the organisation. This value is reflected in the company’s results. Employee engagement results in authentic motivation, stemming from meaningful work and the company values. A committed personnel is ready to take initiative even more than what is expected of them.

The skills, actions and attitudes of supervisors strongly impact the emotions and behaviour of the people around them.

Working life is in a constant state of change, which requires adjustments to the culture and leadership methods of many an organisation. Supervisors are at the centre of this change, no matter what you call them. The skills, actions and attitudes of supervisors strongly impact the emotions and behaviour of the people around them which, in turn, is inevitably reflected all the way back to the end customer. A supervisor’s enthusiasm or lack of it is easily and widely infectious, for better or for worse.

A real-life story

The engagement indicators of an organisation situated in Central Finland were heavily in the red. In addition to everyday development work carried out by the teams, an approximately year-long development programme was designed for the company’s supervisors as the impact of leadership on engagement could be clearly identified in this scenario as well. The development programme included individual assessments, related coaching and independent development work carried out by each individual.

When it was time to measure the engagement of the personnel again, the results of the indicators were significantly more positive. The personnel’s experience of a poorly functioning organisation had transformed into an outlook that was considerably more positive than the average level in Finnish working life. The impact of managerial work on the level of engagement at that time was clearly observable through correlation analyses.

From monitoring authority to encouraging supporter

High-quality leadership is a prerequisite for staying on top of your game and managing all the changes. The change-related trends in terms of leadership and managerial work are particularly related to a coaching approach, mentoring, enabling, encouraging people to take initiative, promoting creativity and inspiring, instead of the more traditionally hierarchic and, perhaps, even somewhat monitoring role. The authoritarian mindset is currently being replaced with a supportive approach that takes the needs of the individual into consideration.

Today’s supervisor guides individuals to take responsibility and ownership over their own actions and professional development. Such a supervisor encourages people to innovate openly and boldly, to act in an actively entrepreneurial manner, to think outside the box.

Framework of ideal leadership achieved through expert guidance

I encourage organisations to reassess their leadership principles in case they have been left to gather dust. The framework of ideal leadership must be defined in tune with the times. Leadership can, thus, be mirrored against and developed against this pursued state by means of individual feedback customised to the customer’s situation and the seamlessly related coaching, for example.

Investing in leadership and managerial work is vitally important to secure the competence, well-being and enthusiasm of the supervisors and to hold on to the best workers in the industry.

It is the duty of any organisation striving for success to provide tools for succeeding in the managerial work of today. Investing in leadership and managerial work is vitally important to secure the competence, well-being and enthusiasm of the supervisors and to hold on to the best workers in the industry. It should come as no surprise that weak leadership skills of employees’ immediate supervisors play a major role in the employees’ likelihood of switching jobs.

Who can afford to say no?

Leadership created prerequisites for the organisation’s success in the changing worklife, all the way from the personnel experience to the formation of the desired culture and the customer experience. If now is not the right time to invest in the development of managerial work, when?