Five Character Components Every Supervisor Needs

By Dan Bobinski

If you walk up to any employee in any company and ask what is necessary to create an engaged workplace, you’re likely to get a wide range of answers. There’s a good reason for this. People value different things. There are some things that everyone seems to want and, unfortunately, these things can be lacking – or missing altogether – in some workplaces.

As a consultant and management skills trainer, I have the benefit of having worked with hundreds of teams over the past 28 years, across a wide spectrum of industries. That doesn’t make my opinion the last stop on the road to workplace wisdom, but it does afford me the opportunity to see common factors that are needed across all businesses and industries.

If you’re like most people, you’ll scan over my list below and say, “No kidding!” But there’s a serious reason I’m creating this list, and it’s this: No matter where I train, and no matter what team I’m working with or what industry, the items below keep coming up as things people see lacking in their workplaces.

Therefore, if you’re a supervisor, manager or leader in any capacity, please don’t take this list lightly.

Let me repeat that: Please don’t take this list lightly.

Instead, I urge you to take a few minutes for introspection to learn where your organization might be able to improve. You’re likely providing these things, but maybe not to the degree you could be. Or everything on the list below is happening, but your teams aren’t seeing it.

If the latter is the case, guess what? If your people are not seeing it, it’s your problem, not theirs. It’s the supervisor’s responsibility to ensure these things are part of the recognized culture in a workplace.

Here is the list:

1. Honesty

Yes, this ought to be automatic, but teams everywhere are bringing it up, so it’s on the list. For workplace teams to be committed and engaged, they need honesty from their leaders. They don’t want half-truths or feeble attempts at winging an answer.

I can’t tell you how shocked I am when I’m working with a team and people start talking about how some of their superiors lie to them. It disappoints me greatly every time I hear about it. And, I hear about it way too much.

I understand why some of it happens. Many supervisors think they need to have answers for every question. (Note: They don’t). So here is a golden nugget of wisdom for everyone: If you don’t know the answer to a question, just say so. Let your yes be “yes,” and your no be “no.” Also, be up front with facts. By all means, don’t lie. You will forever lose credibility when (not if, but when) you are found out.

2. Trust

This is another “ought to be automatic” item, but I hear it from teams all the time. A typical complaint sounds like this: “They put us through training on how to do certain things, but then they don’t let us do what we’re trained to do. They don’t trust us!”

They have a point. If companies spend time hiring the right people and training them, shouldn’t the employees be trusted to do what they were hired and trained to do? One ripple effect of lack-of-trust is lower levels of production. In other words, show that you don’t trust someone and soon they’ll be doing only the bare minimum. If we don’t trust people to do their jobs, they’ll lose the incentive to be engaged or take mental ownership of their work.

3. Mutual Respect

Many years ago, I had a mentor who taught me a great maxim: “Give what you want to get.” And, that maxim fits here very well. In other words, if we want respect from our teams, we’ve got to give it. But remember, this request for respect is something I’m hearing from teams, it’s not coming from me!

In addition to being polite, mutual respect involves talking with people as people, not barking at them as if they were slaves. It also involves listening attentively, and seriously considering what people say.

In other words, just because someone is “lower” than us on the organizational chart doesn’t mean we can talk down to them. To play on something that the late advertising guru David Ogilvy once said, if we treat people like dwarfs we become a company of dwarfs. If we treat people like giants we become a company of giants.

4. Recognition

This one is simple. People want recognition for what they do. Yet time and again, people are telling me they are not being acknowledged for their contributions. They feel taken for granted.
One helpful tip here is balance. A supervisor or manager should not rely solely on individual recognition nor solely on team recognition. A balance is needed. People should be acknowledged when they do well individually. And, for many folks, it should be done in front of other team members. By the same token, when a team meets or exceeds a goal, the team should be recognized for the collaboration that took place.

5. Support

Quite simply, without support, teams will struggle in maintaining their foundation. They need to know that when they are given objectives and are working toward them, they’ll have moral and financial support while getting their assignments done.

Again, you might think that people getting support is a universal given, but with so many people telling me it’s lacking in their workplace, I am compelled to mention it here as something for you to consider.

This list is not exhaustive, but these five ingredients are necessary for a strong workplace. No matter what your position, if you’re reading this, why not conduct an introspective inventory of yourself (and your workplace overall) in these areas and look for ways to improve? If improvements are made, chances are others will notice a difference – and you will, too.


Daniel Bobinski, M.Ed., is the CEO of, helping teams and individuals learn how to use Emotional Intelligence. He’s also a best-selling author and a popular speaker at conferences and retreats. Reach him at