By Angela Kambouris – Entrepreneur
When it comes to transforming an organization’s strategy into results, frontline managers are the linchpin of business success. Few roles demand technical knowledge, expertise, and soft skills such as clear communication, team building, and resolving conflicts.
In her book Becoming a Manager, Harvard Business professor Linda A. Hill describes how managers are the cornerstone to sustaining quality, service, innovation, and financial performance. As the primary face of leadership for the workforce, frontline managers serve as a talent pipeline for senior leadership roles and are an untapped resource for innovation.
Organizations today require a new approach to the development of frontline managers by identifying specific priorities, real-world tools and solutions that are integrated into the manager’s daily and weekly routines, and executive and organizational support. When investment in the leadership basics for frontline managers occurs, the organizational rewards can be more confident leaders, healthier and productive teams, more satisfied customers, a more agile organization, and a boost in financial performance for the business.
Here is how frontline managers can have a seat at the table and set up their own and the organization’s success.
Your understanding of yourself, how you see your values, passions, aspirations, and how they fit with your environment. Your reactions and impact on others is an ongoing process of self-reflection and improvement. Alongside internal self-awareness, understanding how other people view you helps you become more attuned to the needs of others. You’re in a better position to manage your responses to situations more effectively. Leaders should explore where their biases lie and how they can break through these to view the world more realistically. Mentorship can be invaluable in supporting your progress, expanding your self-awareness, and stepping into a leader people strive to emulate.
Be the first domino
How often do you hear, “When is management going to get it right? They never listen.” The frontline manager must model the behavior you wish to see in others. Rather than buying into the drama, diatribes, and emotional waste, adopt the role of rebuilder and healer to serve as the role model for others to follow. Leaders can engage in asking quality questions to transform negative energy into self-reflection, leading to better self-awareness and positive change. For instance, asking, “What could you do right now to help or how could we make this work together?” is far more empowering and brings calmness to the workplace.
Coach, not command
The Gallup “State of the Global Workplace” Report reinforces that employees want their supervisors to function like coaches who can leverage their strengths and open reciprocal communication channels. The role of a frontline leader is to foster an environment where individuals and teams thrive. Through coaching, leaders infuse positivity into the working areas, know their employee’s strengths, and build their teams from those assets. Leaders create a space for celebrating accomplishments, manage reactions to stressful situations, recognize progress, and actively listen to build trust and understanding within the team and organization.
Ignite insight and unlock human potential
Harvard Business Review article “The Leader as Coach” encourages leaders to ask questions that ignite insights in the other person and unlock their potential to maximize their own performance. Employees are human beings, and compassion is much needed in workplaces today. Leaders can grow team optimism, cultivate common goals, celebrate commonalities, and differences in implementing the vision of the business.
Better serve people and the organization
A Harvard Business Review report, “Frontline Managers: Are They Given the Leadership Tools to Succeed?” uncovered that only 12% of respondents believe their organization invests adequately in the development of frontline managers. Sixty percent of frontline managers never receive training for their first leadership role.
A crucial investment in managers is an investment in the entire organization. Frontline leaders require a leadership-focused training program to enhance soft skills strategically, develop better leadership competencies, and strengthen decision-making capabilities.
Even though the training is one part of development, organizations can focus on understanding what frontline leaders do and embed development into their everyday work and routines. Organizations and individuals can define the developmental priorities that have the biggest impact on performance, identify top performers where employees can shadow them as they work, and identify trends and points in the workday where new capability-building measures can be added.
Lead with genuine care and empathy
People will not bring their best effort and ideas forward unless they work for leaders who authentically care about them, support and encourage them, and help them breakthrough through challenging times. Wegman’s has shared how 90% of leaders define Wegmans as a psychologically and emotionally healthy place to work and 90% report that their direct supervisors demonstrate “a sincere interest in me as a person, not just an employee.” Wegman’s Chairman Danny Wegman and CEO Collen Wegman routinely visit the company’s over 100 stores to express their gratitude for how committed their staff is to the work they do.
Inspire people to learn, connect and progress
Mentoring circles are an easy and cost-efficient way to harness internal knowledge banks exponentially. They can improve culture by connecting people, increase the satisfaction of your people by allowing them to keep growing, and saving you millions in preventable turnover.
A circle of contribution can foster personal and professional growth and can be used to recruit participants and manage projects that may lack resources or expertise. For instance, a focus group can test new initiatives and brainstorm innovative ways to support employees. Mentoring efforts can focus on industry challenges, a common goal, or on a subject such as leadership development, onboarding new hires, or diversity, and inclusion.
Employees are the superheroes
Exceptional leaders inspire others to be their best every day and to place other’s needs ahead of but not at the expense of their own needs. They exercise selfless leadership in working with others. Appreciation, praise, and recognition for a job well done can build raving fans, strengthen reputation, and brand equity. You do not need fancy software to celebrate strengths, the achievement of milestones, or any successes. It can be as simple as a handwritten appreciation card hand-delivered, hosting a Facebook Live to recognize people who help others, or a staff prize of having dinner with the CEO.
Hilton, a global hotel chain developed a calendar that features 365 no and low-cost easy-to-implement ideas to thank employees. Texas Health Resources recognizes every 5 years of each employee’s service by customizing a celebratory yearbook with a message of appreciation from the CEO and gestures of gratitude from employees at work. Barry-Wehmiller shines a light on individuals who significantly contribute to how they touch the lives of others through a peer-nominated process and involves a celebratory unique car to drive for a week. There are all kinds of creative ways to make frontline managers feel appreciated. Whatever time and resources you invest in this will pay back dividends.