High performing supervisors – what does it take?


Continuing with the theme of Training and Competence (TC) excellence, my previous blog highlighted a key component of success was the necessity to have supervisors with the skills to coach, assess and support individuals.

I learnt my supervision ‘trade’ in the 1990’s supervising a geographically spread team. This was then followed by a move into Learning and Development (L&D) where I facilitated lots of Supervisor and Management Development programmes.

Leading teams and supporting the development of individuals was the most rewarding part of my corporate career – spending time with an individual, understanding their strengths and development needs and agreeing the next steps to support their growth.

The Financial Conduct Authorities (FCA) rules and guidance requires staff who are carrying out activities covered by the TC Sourcebook to be supervised by individuals with the appropriate technical knowledge and the necessary coaching and assessment skills to act as a competent supervisor. Individuals also need to demonstrate how this competence is being maintained.

38% of participants polled stated they were only somewhat confident or not confident at all that their managers could demonstrate a consistent approach to TC

The Senior Manager and Certification Regimes (SM&CR) also place an onus on those carrying out fitness and propriety (F&P) checks to be able to ‘certify’ competence and capability, putting a premium on an individual’s ability to assess and develop skills. Firms are obliged to ensure that staff understand their responsibilities and are competent to carry out these assessments against clear standards, building a portfolio of evidential findings.

Whether you call them supervisors, line managers, team leaders and/or whether they are governed by the TC Sourcebook, I believe investment in this population is key in developing skilled and effective teams who can deliver fantastic customer outcomes.

So, what does it take to develop competent, high performing supervisors?

In-depth technical knowledge
Individuals need the required knowledge to effectively undertake their responsibilities. Firstly, you need to determine the knowledge requirements for the role and then decide how you are going to impart, assess and evidence this knowledge both initially and ongoing.

The TC Sourcebook provides guidance and rules on whether an appropriate qualification is required and/or should be considered for those supervising individuals who are not competent.

Firm specific knowledge on applicable policy, product, process and systems is also important. Not only the knowledge pertaining to the products and services but also the wider people policies. You need to be confident in the individual’s understanding around your firm’s recruitment, performance and employment practices and how these dovetail with the approach to T&C and Certification.

I also urge firms to consider supporting the attainment of a relevant ‘Supervision’ qualification. I took the Chartered Insurance Institutes ‘H15 Supervision and Sales Management’ 18 years ago and it provided a great foundation knowledge of TC, leadership, and behavioural models. It also encompassed everything from how to recruit, train, coach, motivate and manage, including disciplinary and the laws relating to employment. All relevant stuff for those involved in people management.

Evidencing the maintenance of knowledge is one of the bigger challenge’s firms face; are once a year, point in time e-learning tests really demonstrating on-going technical knowledge?

A comprehensive range of demonstrable valuable skills
The skills of a supervisor are crucial in the consistent and effective assessment of the teams they lead. The ability to identify and tailor solutions which reflect learning styles and identified competence gaps is not something which is created overnight.

As with knowledge you need to determine the specific skills you require your supervisors to apply on a regular basis. For most firms these will include observation, feedback, coaching and analysis skills. Others may include the skills to hold effective one-to-ones, identify training needs and devise SMART development plans.

Next is the definition of the accompanying standards. What does ‘good look like’ in relation to coaching and feedback, what is required to be documented following a one-to-one? What is not acceptable? It is the definition of these standards that provides the benchmark from which training objectives are agreed and validation assessments are designed. It is also the step which some firms struggle with, not necessarily having the experience to determine what can be subjective practices. However, once these standards are defined they support greater assessment objectivity and consistency of approach.

Supervisors then need to be supported via more formal training interventions which aim to equip them with the skills to conduct their role activities and assess their initial competence. The learning is then continued via their on-the-job experience and relationships with others.

In a recent webinar I co-hosted with Adrian Harvey, CEO, Elephants Don’t Forget, 38% of participants polled stated they were only somewhat confident or not confident at all that their managers could demonstrate a consistent approach to TC.  Perhaps this is an area for evaluation and improvement in 2021 for your firm? Look at the FCAs positive and negative indicators for the assessment of F&P https://tinyurl.com/yp8yeh5v and gauge your performance.

Supervisors and line managers are absolutely key to the people experience. So why is it that firms sometimes scrimp on this area? The leadership and culture of a firm is reflected in their approach to TC; how would you rate your approach?

Now I’d like to hear from you:

What do you think it takes to develop high performing supervisors?  Maybe I didn’t touch on one of your principal strategies? Do you agree that the approach to TC and investment in people is reflective of firm culture?

Either way, please let me know.

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About Author

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Lynne Hargreaves is Director at ClearStep Consulting. ClearStep specialises in the interpretation of FCA regulations and the impacts on people. This includes the design and development of TC frameworks, competence training and assessment and consultancy support for the Certification Regime and Code of Conduct.

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