Being a better supervisor

Apr 22, 2019

“A lot of managers in AEC firms – design and technical people who have become managers – need to learn a few supervisory basics.”

We can talk all we want about leadership and management. But the fact is, a lot of managers in AEC firms – design and technical people who have become managers – need to learn a few supervisory basics.

Here are some specifics:

  1. Return all emails from people who work for you promptly. Even more fundamental –respond to ALL emails at some point. People could be waiting on your feedback. They need your input, or approval, or ideas. You are holding them up by not responding, and it is very frustrating to those who work for you.
  2. Talk to everyone who works for you. Even the lowliest technician or intern – if they work for you – wants to have their existence acknowledged by you. Get out from behind your desk and go see them. Walk around the office. Ask questions. Better yet, take some individuals to lunch whom you wouldn’t normally go out with. Show interest in your people.
  3. Check in when you are gone. If you travel, it helps to make a quick five-minute call to those who work for you – particularly your seconds-in-command – daily. Yes, it’s a pain to make these calls when you are traveling and sitting in meetings all day, but they are super-important to make.
  4. Give clear directions. Assume nothing. A quick email or text to instruct people, so that they do what you want them to do on a daily basis, is essential. Expecting people to know what you want without clear direction makes no sense. Punishing or criticizing them after the fact – when you failed to give clear direction – isn’t fair.
  5. Some other pointers: Watch your sarcasm. Everyone won’t get it. Give praise publicly and criticism privately. Set a good example for hours worked. Do your timesheets and expense reports on time. Don’t cheat your clients by overbilling them. Keep a clean office. Be nice. Treat everyone with respect.

All of us can be better supervisors. Maybe a brown-bag lunch to talk about these pointers would be helpful!

Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.