supervisor standing at front of table

The terms supervisor and manager are often used interchangeably. However, there are distinct and important differences between them.

Understanding the distinctions between the supervisor vs. managers role and their nuances is crucial in identifying ways to coordinate your organization’s responsibilities and tasks to achieve results. Organizations will also achieve better fit and alignment when you select the right candidates for each role and provide them with the relevant training that they need to excel.

Similarities Between a Supervisor and Manager

Supervisors and managers both hold leadership positions. They are typically responsible for:

  • Workforce member actions and their results.
  • Applying the right leadership style for a given situation.
  • Identifying ways to elevate team performance, collaboration and team dynamics.

Differences Between a Supervisor and Manager

While supervisors are responsible for administering and overseeing the day-to-day tasks of team members, managers generally embody a more strategic role by helping teams and businesses establish and pursue critical business goals and execute strategic initiatives.

For further clarification, we break down supervisor vs. manager roles into authority level, responsibilities, and objectives.

1. Authority Level

Managers carry a higher level of formal authority than supervisors. Supervisors are often the first point of contact for front line workers and individual contributors. The supervisor formulates work plans and makes decisions that are discussed with and approved by the manager and based on organization policy.

Depending on the organization’s size, several supervisors may report to one manager. The manager in turn reports to a department’s director.

2. Responsibilities

Supervisors focus on day-to-day operations to ensure that:

  • All team members have the training, technology, tools, and resources they need to succeed in their roles and projects.
  • Individual contributors understand the impact their performance has on the team, organization, and the products and services they produce.
  • Ensure that tasks are effectively distributed to people, and established goals and milestones are completed.
  • Interpersonal and work-related issues are resolved.

Managers meet with supervisors to discuss the overall performance of the team and workforce members. This may involve:

  • Talking through any issues or roadblocks that may deter the team from achieving desired outcomes.
  • Providing supervisors with advice on how to navigate challenges and improve their leadership skills.
  • Discussing methods for improving processes to elevate team and business performance.
  • Offering insights and ways to align team objectives with organization’s broader objectives.
  • Examining the department’s budget and resources and making the necessary adjustments.

3. Objectives

A supervisor’s objective has an internal focus—they are mainly focused on their team members’ level of engagement of day-to-day tasks, problems, and challenges that may affect quality and deliverability of goals and services to customers.

A manager has an external focus as well as a tactical internal perspective—not only are they accountable for the team’s performance but also the organization’s performance long term. They must take on overarching issues and challenges as well as to finetune and streamline goals and innovations that align with the organization’s mission and vision.

supervisor and employee in office

Top Skills for Supervisors

A supervisor’s responsibilities require essential knowledge and capabilities such as the following:

Interpersonal Skills: Cooperation and collaboration within the team are crucial to achieve results. Strong interpersonal skills are ultimately the fuel that drives collaboration, employee engagement and business results.

Delegation: As supervisors strive to ensure that all tasks are completed on time and up to quality standards, they must understand how to delegate effectively. Delegation is a powerful tool for overall workplace effectiveness. Supervisors must be thoroughly trained on how to leverage an effective pragmatic delegation framework to bolster team morale, performance, and the professional development of each team member.

Conflict Resolution: Conflict is inevitable in a team environment, and 85% of workforce members experience some type of conflict in the workplace on a weekly basis. Effective supervisors handle pressure well and understand how to help team members effectively manage conflict.

Tops Skills for Managers

A manager requires long-term, big-picture skills such as:

Strategic thinking: Strategic thinking involves leveraging one’s strengths and insights to ignite positive change and elevate a business’s competitive advantage. Successful strategic thinking is being able to critically analyze a situation, adapt to changing environments, and manage risk and opportunities. Managers are focused on what they need to do today to create a better tomorrow.

Accountability: Managers must take accountability for the objectives and initiatives they establish to help reach bottom-line results. This requires having ongoing coaching with supervisors and staff and communicating key information and updates to relevant stakeholders.

Attention to detail: Managers have multiple roles and responsibilities which require attention to detail to ensure that high-quality work is produced and that bottom-line objectives are achieved.

Elevate Your Supervisor and Manager Training with CMOE

The CMOE team has you covered for elevating your leaders and driving your business forward. For more information and guidance, refer to CMOE’s Supervisor Development and Training Programs and Leadership Development Workshops.

Contact our team for any questions.

About the Author
CMOE Team
CMOE’s Design Team is comprised of individuals with diverse and complementary strengths, talents, education, and experience who have come together to bring a unique service to CMOE’s clients. Our team has a rich depth of knowledge, holding advanced degrees in areas such as business management, psychology, communication, human resource management, organizational development, and sociology.

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