6 Keys to Unlocking the Potential of Front line Managers

Things are finally starting to pick up economically, slowly.  As this long overdue turn around gains momentum, one key segment of the working population needs some attention and nurturing, the frontline managers in your company.

Because of all the cutting, squeezing and lean operational moves necessary for survival, this particular group has been through a LOT of stress and perhaps even neglect.  Understandably so.


So, how to get them back on track, in a more positive place, with less stress and more smiles in the workplace?  And with the obvious business benefits of better retention rates down the road, less absenteeism, higher productivity, etc etc.???

The best information I have seen in awhile comes from my business partners at Profiles International.  Rather than reinvent the wheel, let’s take a look at some of the key points they shared with me and use it accordingly, where and when we can.


6 Keys to Unlocking the Potential of Frontline Managers 

The effects of poor frontline management may be particularly damaging at service companies, where researchers have consistently detected a relationship between the attitudes and behaviors of customer-facing employees on the one hand, and customer perception of service quality on the other. In service industries, research has found that three factors drive performance:

�         the work climate;

�         the ways teams act together and the ways that things are done;

�         And the engagement, commitment, and satisfaction of employees.


Leadership-particularly the quality of supervision and the nature of the relationships between supervisors and their teams-is crucial to performance in each of these areas.

1.       Identify employees with the capability and interest to be good managers by: 

  • Using assessments to identify employees who demonstrate the behaviors and interests that will make them successful managers.
  • Helping managers understand the core behaviors, capabilities, and preferences of the people they manage so that they can adapt their communication and management styles to get the most from their people.
  • Helping managers develop the mindset that they will be more successful if the people they manage succeed. This helps managers become invested in the success of each individual.

2.       Help managers clarify their teams’ goals and roles by:

  • Using these goals to create a personal dashboard that helps the manager set his own priorities that drive results.
  • Creating tools to help your managers communicate these requirements and track progress toward these goals. Seek direct input from frontline employees in the form of employee surveys and 360� management assessments to determine if the message is getting through.

3.       When helping managers better understand the people they manage, consider these points:

  • Human beings are complex creatures that can be very hard for the average manager to read, especially in the early stages of the working relationship. Ironically, this is when the manager needs the most help. A valid assessment process can be very helpful for an organization to develop a deeper and more objective understanding of its people.
  • Helping a manager to understand his people’s skills, behaviors, and interests helps him build on his people’s strengths and mitigate their weaknesses. It helps the manager communicate better with the employee, zero in on the employee’s most critical developmental needs, and focus both informal coaching dialogue and formal training and development investments in the employee.

4.       Help your managers understand themselves and how they impact their people.

  • Management is all about people, and this requires a high degree of self-awareness. Managers should go through the same assessment process as their employees in order to understand how their innate behaviors, interests, and skills either complement or hinder their personal interactions.

5.       Don’t assume your managers know how or even when to coach. These two action steps can help:

  • Develop the fundamental coaching skills of your managers, and develop a culture of coaching.
  • Help your manager understand his leadership style and motivation. Many of us have a number of key leadership qualities, but we still need feedback so that we can build on our strengths and fortify our weaknesses.

6.       Try to minimize administrative work to give managers more time to develop their people by:

  • Thinking very carefully about the administrative tasks you assign to your frontline managers and be sure that they add sufficient value.
  • Making the information easy to obtain so that they aren’t spending too much time aggregating and formatting spreadsheets, etc.


Let’s get back to the frontline folks now before it’s too late – in a different, more positive way.  After all, they are the face of our organizations!