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John E. Tropman

Supervision is an important life skill with many applications, all of which involve the provision of helpful guidance to others. Guidance may come in the form of encouraging self-realization or the explanation of specific procedures. Generally, supervisory encounters involve one or two issues or their combination: counseling problems and coaching problems, broadly conceived. Counseling problems involve issues of attitude, more or less. Coaching problems involve issues of information. A supervisory framework includes the identification of stairs of supervisee competence: novice, beginner, competent, proficient, expert, master, and maestro (a master who can motivate others and blend the individual skills into a larger collective product) (Dreyfus & Dreyfus, 1986). Each stair, or stage, has its own "flow chart," where the complexity of tasks is matched by the level of competence. When the supervisee gets to 8/9 or 9/9, it is time to move to the next level. Supervisors need to know the six supervisory competencies: professional supervision (clinical/educational), managerial, supportive, career development, reflective supervision, and coaching. Being well supervised helps the supervisee be a better supervisor. There are several guidelines to follow to be a good supervisor: Consider what makes a supervisor “great” or a supervisor “awful” and apply what is learned to one’s supervisory practice. Organize each upcoming supervisory meeting and plan an agenda for it. It is helpful to be aware of “wicked problems” (which are multisided and complex, and often without simple resolution). Know the difference between professional work and emotion work, and between formal and informal managerial supervision. Finally, consider 19 common supervisory questions and suggestions.