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  • Writer's pictureMark Bragg (Braggy)

Frontline Managers- Holders of the Performance Keys

When it goes well they are the unsung, unnoticed heroes…when it doesn’t, the finger points directly at their chest.

They are frontline managers, team leaders, supervisors and foremen…the people that turn up daily to lead front-line teams, facing down the dual challenges of management that wants them to deliver and a team that craves direction and support. 

They are Diamonds caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand they are desperately trying to deliver the management agenda, on the other they are trying to maintain the support, trust and respect of the people they are managing.

More than any other group in your company or department, these managers will determine your success. Their ability to execute and influence their team to execute makes them critical to an organisation’s success.

Every objective, strategy, project, change, process, system or direction…passes through his or her guiding hands. If you want to get stuff done…this is where you have to start (and finish). 

But there’s a problem

1. Businesses fail to invest in these assets.

Scott Blanchard, principal with The Ken Blanchard Companies makes this point clearly.

“There’s a bit of a slow rolling crisis occurring among first-time managers as they step into their first leadership assignment. Research first conducted by CEB estimates that more than 60 percent of new managers underperform or fail in their first two years on the job. Even worse, research by Harvard professor Linda Hill indicates poor leadership habits developed in a manager’s formative first years will hobble them for the rest of their managerial careers.”

2. They hold the keys to engagement 

Recent Research from Dale Carnegie Training placed the number of “fully engaged” frontline employees at 29%. Essentially that means 71% of employees are less than fully engaged. 

The number one factor the study cited influencing engagement and disengagement was “the relationship with their immediate manager or supervisor”.

Engagement is directly linked with performance, productivity and efficiency. If you really want to get stuff done, execute strategy, improve performance then the only ticket in town is the quality of your Frontline Managers and Team Leaders.

So in simple terms, frontline managers hold the keys to our success, but we are not doing enough to help them be successful. Worse we could be contributing to their failure by ignoring their development.

What to do? A couple of thoughts.

1. Recognise their value 

These Managers are the most valuable commodity in your organisation. Take care of them, support them, listen to them, and get their feedback. Most of all make sure they actual understand their value and feel important.

2. Train them

From Day One train them. Have something in place that will help them develop sound management and leadership skills from the very beginning. Give them a platform that will provide them a solid chance at success.

Even if you have a small organisation with limited resources and can’t provide professional training, you can be just as effective with regular one to one mentoring and encouraging them to read and learn their craft.

3. Connect them to the bigger picture.

Ensure they know how they and their teams contribute to the bigger picture. Take them on the journey with you. Without a clear purpose and concise direction these managers wither and die on the vine.

Deprived of an objective and a clear path to achieving it, no management or leadership ability on their part will help. They will be dead in the water and their teams will not deliver.

4. Don't give them a hospital pass.

Hospital pass (def’n): in sport when someone passes the ball to a teammate just as he or she is about to be hit by an opponent twice as big as they are. In the end, they get hit so hard they end up in hospital.

In other words, giving a front-line manager an assignment that is impossible to achieve is a hospital pass. No chance of success, no matter what “here catch this…good luck!” Hospital pass!

5. Think of these guys first.

Next time you roll out a strategy or a change of direction think about how it impacts the front-line first. Think about what it is you want them to accomplish. Decide where you want them to focus their time, effort and resources and be prepared to support them to the hilt.

A Final Point

These guys hold the keys to your organisations success, but they can only play with the hand they have been dealt…give them good cards.

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