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You got me thinking, Jim. (Yeow) What is a 'supervisor' anyway? Where do they come from? Are they picked from the most senior and best performing non-supervisors in a work group? Or are the somehow developed and trained? How much training do supervisors have in performance management, performance feedback, paying for performance, etc., etc.? I see what the job description says but what really are 'supervisors'? Do they really provide 'functional guidance' or do they really behave as 'bosses'? When ERI surveys these folks to you ever ask the survey participant to do more than match people to 'supervisory job descriptions'?

All of the things you say about 'supervisors' assume we know what they are and I wonder if I know.

Yeah, Jay, we ARE treading on dangerous ground when we accept the employer's confirmation that the "supervisor" actually DOES all that stuff. All we can do is ask, however, since we can't independently verify every such assertion.

I too am skeptical about the degree to which supervisors actually manage performance. Issues of institutional interference or personal incompetence plague supervisory ranks in virtually every enterprise, and it's hard to separate the problems. Without folks conducting detailed investigations at every employer, we may never know the full truth.

Maybe that should be the next line of research for you and Pat to pursue.

Meanwhile, I've never found the that the most senior and best individual performer automatically makes the best supervisor. It's a different role. Usually, that selection scheme just removes your best sole contributor from the production process. It also frequently yields your worst supervisor, because (if they actually SUPERVISE now) they are no longer permitted to do what they did so well before. Us military vets understand the vital importance of NCO academies and OCS training, but not every company does.

If top executives all followed the prescriptions in our articles and books, everything would be perfect, right? But you know they don't and it isn't. Why not explore how big the gap may be?

Pat and I are waiting for Ann to translate our material from the WorldatWork presentation into a blog post. She is much better at it than we are but it will make an interesting dialog.

Several of the 'old aerospace companies' tried training supervisors in supervision and then placing them in units or teams as 'supervisors' but it situations where they were not 'subject matter experts'. I remember some articles on that but lost track of what the results were. If good supervision is 'good supervision' it should be agile enough so if you can manage performance, pay, and all that stuff for accountants you can do it for engineers even though you are not an accountant or engineer??

Bob Greene tells me that WorldatWork no longer 'teaches performance management'. And the reason they don't is because total reward professionals are not interested in performance management. If that is true how are we ever going to impart this wisdom upon 'supervisors' whatever they might be?

Anyway, I was always a terrible 'supervisor' no matter who I was supposed to be 'supervising'. My bosses used to say that if somebody can't 'supervise themselves' don't assign them to anything Jay is trying to accomplish.

But you are obviously a great subordinate, since Pat has achieved so much with you. When I did my corporate T&D/OD time, I taught "Basic Supervision" to SMEs who were assigned subordinates, so that inspired me to make "Performance Management" the topic of my last book; obviously a bad choice of subjects, these days.

Bottom line: if no one is interested in managing performance, the number of enterprises that survive long enough to employ people will tend to shrink.

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