supervisor standing at front of table

The terms supervisor and manager are often used interchangeably but there are distinct differences between them.

Understanding the supervisor vs. manager role distinctions and their nuances is crucial in identifying ways to coordinate your organization’s roles and responsibilities. You will also be better equipped to select the right candidates for each role and provide leaders with the relevant training they need to excel.

What Are the Similarities Between a Supervisor and a Manager?

Supervisors and managers both hold positions of leadership and typically engage in the following tasks:

  • Oversee workforce members and help them make decisions.
  • Apply various leadership styles based on a given situation and the characteristics and needs of their team members.
  • Identify ways to elevate team and business performance/value.

What Are the Differences Between a Supervisor and a Manager?

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

To clarify this idea further, we have broken 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:

  • 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.

  • 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 an 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 member’s level of engagement in day-to-day tasks, problems, and challenges that may affect the 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 fine-tune and streamline goals and innovations that align with the organization’s mission and vision.

Discover how CMOE's leadership training workshops can create lasting change and address the unique needs of your leaders.

supervisor and employee in office

Top Skills for Supervisors

A supervisor’s responsibilities require essential skills like the following:

Interpersonal Skills: Team alignment and collaboration are crucial growth areas that supervisors oversee, and strong interpersonal skills are the fuel that ultimately drives both areas.

Delegation: Supervisors strive to ensure that all tasks are completed on time and up to quality standards, so 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 conflict in the workplace. Effective supervisors handle pressure well and understand how to help team members effectively manage conflict.

Tops Skills for Managers

Managers require long-term, big-picture skills:

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 risks 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 ongoing coaching with supervisors and staff members and communicating key information and updates to relevant stakeholders.

Attention to detail: Managers have a lot of balls in the air. They generally manage a variety of roles and responsibilities, which requires significant attention to detail. Detail orientation ensures 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.

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About the Author
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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