Being a supervisor in any setting brings to mind a myriad of responsibilities. Is it best to guide or direct, monitor or inspect, influence or manage? As a supervisor to well over 120 speech-language pathologists in school settings during the past 15 years, I have learned a lot about duties and people.
Each situation or SLP calls for different handling at different times, but staying true to one’s own supervisory style is most important, I feel. Consistency helps everyone stay connected and working toward mutual goals.
Over the years I have developed a list of seven skills that have, time and again, helped me stay on track and support staff, even when I really had no idea how to handle a particular situation! If the following list can help even one person, I offer it with humility, as I am still learning and growing:
- Listen! Actively listen to staff (and parents!). Do not interrupt or begin to form a response until the person is done speaking. Sometimes people only need to be heard.
- Be available. Let staff know how, when, where to find you helps alleviate concerns.
- Take responsibility for your actions and for those on your staff. Do what you say you will do.
- Give credit where credit is due. Usually the best ideas have come from the staff.
- Lead, follow or get out of the way. Okay, I stole this one from Thomas Paine, but it is true. Often it is necessary to lead, but recognize and follow a good idea when it is offered. At times, you have to let a staff member figure out a solution for him or herself (this I learned from a seasoned supervisor).
- Stay informed. Stay current with knowledge and skills for your area of the field; it is fine to learn from other staff or supervisors.
- ACT. Be accountable, credible, trustworthy
Your list may be very different from mine, and I would be happy to compare notes. Supervision has been, by far, my most challenging and interesting job during my 30+ year career in speech-language pathology. And I am honored to be able to work with a dedicated and professional group of individuals! Each one has taught me valuable lessons about coaching, guiding, monitoring and supervising. The staff is truly the most valuable asset, and, as such, honing one’s supervisory skills is critical to your and their success. Good luck!
Janice Tucker, SLP.D, CCC-SLP, is a supervisor of speech-language support programs in Pennsylvania. She is past president of the Pennsylvania Association of Speech Supervisors and past vice president of the Pennsylvania Speech-Language-Hearing Association. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 16, School-Based Issues, and 18, Telepractice.