Cover Image
close this book Community Nutrition Action for Child Survival
close this folder Part III - Project management systems
close this folder Unit 3 - Supervising community nutrition activities
View the document Session 1: The role of the supervisor
View the document Session 2: Identifying and solving problems
View the document Session 3: Problem-solving/role play
View the document Session 4: Planning and conducting supervision visits

Session 1: The role of the supervisor


1. Analyze past experience as a subordinate and as a supervisor .

2. Define the functions of supervision in nutrition improvement programs.

3. Discuss the characteristics of community workers and volunteers that affect supervision.

Time: 3 hours


- Handout - "Supervisors I Have Known"

- Handout - "Supervising Volunteers"

- Flipchart and marking pens


Review handouts and prepare questions for discussion.


1. Introduce the topic of supervision by brainstorming the functions of program supervisors. Add the following points, if they are not mentioned:

- Direct and control program activities

- Provide support and encouragement to workers - Provide on-the-job training

- Monitor program activities

- Contact and share information with village leaders and other administrative officials

- Motivate staff and volunteers

- Set an example

- Reinforce work of subordinates

- Identify outside technical and financial assistance, if necessary

2. Distribute the Handout - "Supervisors I Have Known" and ask participants to read and answer each question.

3. Divide into two work groups. The task of each group is to share its answers to the first and second questions on the handout, then to develop a group list of the characteristics of an effective supervisor.

4. When groups finish, ask them to write their descriptions on the flipchart and to present them to the group.

5. Comment on the similarities and differences in the groups' definitions and add the following points, if they are not mentioned. An effective supervisor:

- Has a good understanding of the job of the worker/volunteer

- Listens

- Cares about the worker/volunteer

- Helps the worker/volunteer improve

- Looks at performance, not personality

- Gets the facts before making a decision

- Gives feedback

- Is specific about tasks to be performed - Is open and communicative

- Motivates through words and actions

6. Return to work groups. Ask work groups to share their answers to questions 3 and 4 on the handout about their own strengths and problems as supervisors.

7. Assign each group the task of designing a short role play to illustrate one or two of the problems they have encountered as supervisors of people and activities. Groups should choose problems that several of them have in common. (Allow 20 minutes for preparation of role plays.)

8. Work groups present their role plays.

9. After each role play, ask participants to summarize the problems presented. List them on the flipchart.

10. Lead a discussion based on the problems presented in the role plays. Possible questions to stimulate discussion might be:

- What are the causes of each supervision problem?

- What are the skills supervisors must have to overcome and avoid these problems?

- What kinds of support and training do supervisors need to overcome these problems?

11. Discuss the characteristics of workers/volunteers that affect how supervisors approach and work with them. These include:

- Often unpaid

- Low level of basic education

- Short training in nutrition

- Different motivations for becoming workers/ volunteers

- Age

- Sex

- Etc.

12. Distribute the Handout - "Supervising Volunteers," and discuss the differences between supervising volunteers and paid workers. Emphasize ways to motivate volunteer workers:

- Giving positive feedback, praise

- Working with them

- Helping them improve and acquire new skills

- Etc.

13. Summary: In this session, participants reviewed the functions of supervisors of community nutrition and health activities. They listed the characteristics of effective supervisors, and they discussed common problems faced by supervisors. The sessions that follow will help supervisors develop problem-solving, planning and communication skills needed for effective supervision.



1. When a supervisor inspires you to perform a job well, what does the supervisor do?

The supervisor_______________________________________________________________________

2. How would you describe your ideal supervisor?

My ideal supervisor is a person who___________________________________________________

3. If you have been or are a supervisor of people or activities, what are the things you like about your style of supervision?


4. What problems have you encountered as a supervisor?




The following chart compares the characteristics of leaders in volunteer organizations and in organizations with paid staff. These characteristics often determine the role and the approach of a supervisor.

Characteristics of LeadersVolunteer Organizations

Organization With Paid Workers

1. Leader/supervisor


Paid a salary

2. Subordinate/worker


Paid to perform tasks

3. Consequences for
the worker if work
is not completed

Not severe
Not financial

Worker could lose
job and salary

4. Duration of job

Volunteers often
want only short-
term responsibility

Paid workers want
long-term assurance
of job

5. Goals

Usually agreed
to & set by all

Usually set by top

6. Leadership style

Manager must
"consult" volunteers;
works with them

"Tell"; "sell"; "direct"

7. Authority

Comes from the

Comes from above

8. Personality

Dynamic, charismatic
personality often required

Dynamic personality
helpful but not critical

9. Expertise of supervisors/

Generalists-wide range
of people and technical


10. Job orientation

Must be people oriented

Task and/or people