By Wally Bock

Some companies call them supervisors. They’re also crew chiefs, team leaders and many other things, including “manager.” They’re responsible for the performance of teams at all levels. That means they’re responsible for the performance of your company.

Consider that:

  • Good supervisors make things better for everyone. Gallup research has found that a person’s immediate supervisor has the greatest influence on that person’s morale and productivity.
  • Good supervisors reduce turnover. People who think their supervisor’s performance is poor are four times as likely to leave as those who think the supervisor’s performance is excellent. HR pros like to say that people join companies, but they leave bosses.
  • Good supervisors help you avoid lawsuits. As employment law attorney John Phillips puts it: “Most employment lawsuits have a supervisor or manager at their center.”
  • Good supervisors make the future better. James Kouzes notes that the single best predictor of career success for an executive is the relationship with his or her first supervisor.

So why are so many bosses so bad? There are two simple answers. We promote people for the wrong reasons. Then we don’t do things that will help them succeed.

But just because we’ve been doing it wrong for years, doesn’t mean you have to continue in the old ways. Here are 10 things you can do to make your bosses’ performance better.

1. Don’t make becoming a boss the only route to success.

Lots of people know they really don’t want a boss’s job, but they apply for or accept the position anyway. That’s because most companies only have one route to more pay and prestige: management.

2. Give people an opportunity to try on the boss role before committing.

Supervision looks like it ought to be easy. But the only way a person can discover if he or she enjoys the challenge is to try it out. Task force leadership and leadership of small, temporary projects are great ways to do this.

3. Select people for the boss jobs who are likely to do the job well.

Don’t select people for a job where they’ll be responsible for the performance of a group because they’re good at some other job. Don’t select them because they’re smart or personable, either. If you’ve let people try on the role, you’ve got some actual performance you can use when deciding who becomes a boss.

There are three questions you should ask about everyone you consider moving from individual contributor to boss:

  • Will they confront others?
  • Will they make decisions?
  • Do they like helping others succeed?

4. Give them training on the skills they’ll need.

Training is not magic, but you can help your new bosses develop supervisory skills. Help them learn to set clear expectations, check for understanding and follow up to make sure that understanding translates into performance or behavior. Teach them to write good documentation.

5. Help them through the transition.

The transition from individual contributor to boss is one of the toughest in business. It involves new duties, changing relationships and changing support structures. It also takes 12 to 18 months. Make sure you provide special support to your new bosses during that time.

6. Help them learn self-evaluation.

We know that new bosses will learn their craft primarily on the job. They’ll observe others. They’ll try things. If they learn to do effective self-evaluation they will turbo-charge their learning and development.

7. Help them identify role models.

When they’ve got to decide what to do, they can ask, “How would my role model(s) do this?” So help them choose good, effective role models.

8. Provide peer support during and after the transition.

Peer support helps a new boss learn by asking more experienced bosses how to do things. In smaller companies, peer support “roundtables” can be created with managers from several companies.

9. Help them find mentors.

Mentors provide the personal touch in development. The best mentoring relationships grow naturally. Teach your new bosses the importance of mentors, how to find some and how to cultivate the relationship.

10. Create developmental assignments.

Leadership is an apprentice trade. Most bosses learn about 70 percent of it on the job. You can make that learning more effective by helping your bosses take on short- and long-term assignments that stretch them and help them develop new skills and confidence.

The performance and morale of your people grows out of the relationship with their boss. When you invest in making your bosses’ performance better you’re actually investing in the performance of the whole company.

Wally Bock is an author and coach who helps bosses at all levels do better. He writes the award-winning Three Star Leadership Blog and is the creator of the Working Supervisor’s Support Kit.