Emotional intelligence and staff supervision

August 29, 2018

One of the most talked about aspects of England’s 2018 football World Cup campaign was the success of the manager, Gareth Southgate in restoring faith in the England team, and even providing inspiration and hope to the whole nation! So what was it about Southgate’s management that was so effective, and you’re probably thinking, what’s that got to do with health and social care? Well the link is something called emotional intelligence that is crucial to the provision of quality supervision. As John Crace said in an article in the Guardian (The manager who found football’s soul 10.7.2018) ‘Southgate is blessed with the rare gift-in football, especially- of emotional intelligence.’

The supervisor’s role

The importance of staff supervisors having emotional intelligence features in the work of Tony Morrison who wrote extensively on the subject of supervision in health and social care. I’ve been heavily influenced by Morrison’s work, and on exercises he uses with trainees to identify what makes for good supervision. In one exercise workers are invited to list the most important characteristics for them of a supervisor. Now at first thinking, you might consider issues like knowledge and skill and experience in the area of work they’re supervising would be at the top of the list. Of course these attributes are important in a staff supervisor but if you do this exercise with fellow workers the answers you are likely to find at the top of the list are attributes like empathy, understanding of pressures on staff, and giving time for staff to talk safely through difficult issues. These qualities are all part of what we call emotional intelligence.

Key ingredients

Emotional intelligence means essentially that the supervisor is aware of their own emotions and the emotions of the workers they are supervising. This provides what Morrison describes as the ‘understanding and skill to provide a containing and secure supervisory climate’, and this can help give staff the confidence to do their job effectively. Morrison lists the elements in his manual Staff Supervision in Social Care (2005). Let’s think about these and how they might relate to the role of a team manager (in health and social care or football!).

  • Self-awareness: being confident in your own abilities but knowing where you might need support
  • Self-regulation: being professional, keeping calm under pressure
  • Motivation: wanting to improve, not just get through
  • Empathy: being aware of the feelings of others as individuals or as a group
  • Social skills: being a good communicator


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