Frontline Leaders Development: The Essential Skills Leaders Need
Frontline managers are common. Frontline leaders are not.
What is the difference?
Frontline managers are implementers. They translate the company’s strategy to employees and report operational results to upper management. It is a cycle of supervisory role in managing a team, dealing with customers, negotiating with suppliers, monitoring inventory, optimizing resources, and more.
Who are the frontline managers?
Frontline managers are the most hardworking people that put one’s company on the map. They are the shop supervisors, restaurant managers, department heads, team leaders in call centers, and more. They represent the first level of management across a company’s business operations and functions.
Why is there a need to transform frontline managers into frontline leaders?
According to a 2018 global survey, while 40% of leaders enjoy being one, only 10% of them actually see themselves in a C-level position in the future. 18% of them regret stepping up the ladder.
If this trend continues and no one is willing to step and take the lead, how can a company retain top frontline talents?
One common issue reported is that many individuals taking on leadership roles were not prepared or developed properly. Some assumed the position primarily for the pay raise and not the job. Some accepted the title to boost their portfolio. Some were first-time leaders or the least experienced in the tier of managers.
Worst, not all companies invest in sound frontline leadership development.
The goal of frontline leadership development is to equip frontline managers with the necessary skills to effectively handle the highs and lows of the business.
What are the essential skills that frontline managers need?
1. Business Acumen
There are five distinguishing traits that can tell whether your frontline leader is business savvy or not.
- A thorough understanding of how the key drivers of the business work together
- The ability to cleverly use business data to build a sales funnel, customer mapping, etc.
- The ease and competence in communicating business metrics to peers, stakeholders, and customers,
- Confidence in creating timely decisions
- The flexibility to deal with any changes in the future
Certainly, a frontline leader who possesses these traits will spend meaningful time collaborating with the right people, taking risks on business insights, and adopting sales strategies that boost business growth.
The problem is that most companies fail to identify people with strong business acumen because the focus is on hierarchy instead of business opportunities. That one quiet individual in the corner could have the skills to transform small business ideas into a huge profitable entity.
The organizational structure of the company hinders people with the aforementioned traits to step up unless the company’s HR perceives them as qualified or frontline managers have the potential to eye new talent in the team and recommend them to be part of a core group.
To avoid this misstep, the company’s leadership development program must be open for flexible mentorship and cross-training through a variety of accessible platforms, including online course providers that offer relevant programs.
2. Goal alignment and goal setting
Frontline managers are responsible for leading daily business operations with the right balance of managerial skill set and leadership mindset. This requires tremendous focus, especially under the pressure of organizational politics.
They are expected to inspire cohesiveness among the team by translating the company’s strategy into practical work assignments. To succeed in this task, they must identify the goals that are relevant to the organization’s growth and focus the team’s effort on addressing them.
These goals, for instance, may include eliminating customer complaints, maximizing resources, creating a website to increase reach and sales, improving service rate, and more.
To ensure that the company and its employees are on the same wavelength, the company’s leadership development plan must include opportunities for relaxed videoconferencing or town hall meetings and other strategic meetings in informal settings.
3. Goal execution
Once the goals are set, frontline leaders are in charge of monitoring the progress of the workloads as well as evaluating the productivity of employees. To oversee both tasks, establishing performance indicators are helpful in providing corrective actions for delays in output and relevant feedback for underperforming employees.
Of course, a leader should provide employees the opportunity to improve and upskill. When managing a remote team, for example, remote employee training must be provided.
4. Coaching and feedback
Successful frontline leaders are capable of generating genuine support from employees because they facilitate desired results with the right combination of empathy, trust, and respect. Employees need to know the impact of their contribution.
In fact, team members at all levels need to be able to accept feedback and learn how they can improve. Some companies have found success by using storytelling and explainer videos to address situational training and develop staff to manage problems, handle negative situations, and help team members confront their areas of weakness.
Using these formats, companies are able to clearly communicate while also keeping the tone lighthearted with animation and a third party protagonist.
5. Strong Analytical Skills
Frontline leaders are the ones that manage the direct reports within their organization. They are responsible for the execution of the business strategy, but also customer satisfaction, and profitability of the business.
That’s why it’s a MUST for frontline leaders to possess strong analytical skills, research the market, and tailor the strategy to the business’s customers. To accomplish that, they must also be well aware of the stages of the sales funnel and each step of the customer journey.
These leaders need tools to implement new systems, generate opportunities and respond to challenges. It’s a pretty difficult role and that’s why there is a big shortage on the market.
It carries a strong responsibility for the overall success of the business.
Frontline leaders are capable of running business operations with the right balance of managerial skill set and leadership mindset. They figure out the best way to handle a company’s workforce, market base, partners, competitors, and stakeholders.
It is a tough situation to be in, especially if frontline managers were not empowered to make decisions, develop policies, and take actions as they navigate their way in satisfying all key players in the business.
It is high time that companies utilize technology, such as explainer videos, to make this easier for human resources, managers, and all levels of your organization.
Upskilling frontline managers is never a waste of money because, without skilled frontline leaders, every day is a bad day at work.
Hanson Cheng is the founder of Freedom to Ascend. He empowers online entrepreneurs and business owners to 10x their business and become financially independent. You can connect with him here.