Start your Leadership Development Efforts with Frontline Managers

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Tom Sheehan.pngFrontline managers have become the linchpin that connects the organization’s strategic priorities with the tactical responsibilities necessary to produce results.  They need to have technical knowledge and expertise in the areas they supervise.


Frontline managers also need to master ‘people’ skills like leadership, communication, problem solving, and teamwork. Increasingly, they are tasked with goal alignment, connecting individual, tactical employee goals with the broader, strategic goals of upper management.


In a recent study conducted by the Harvard Business Review entitled ‘Frontline Managers: Are they Given the Leadership Tools to Succeed’ 600 companies were surveyed to determine how well their frontline managers are being developed. The finding suggest that the frontline managers play a critical role in achieving customer satisfaction, productivity, engagement, and business goals.


How important are Frontline Managers to Achieving Business Priorities?    (% saying very important)


  • Achieving a high level of customer satisfaction               (78%)
  • Helping your organization achieve its business goals    (76%)
  • Achieving a high level of productivity                                (73%)
  • Achieving a high level of employee engagement              (72%)


If your company’s frontline managers are like the other 600 companies involved in this study they too have room for improvement on vital leadership competencies such as strategic and innovative thinking, developing talent, and inspirational leadership. Why does this gap between what is expected and what is delivered exist?


It all stems from a lack of leadership development.


As illustrated below, only 19% of companies felt that their frontline managers were inspirational.


How would you rate your Frontline Managers Leadership Competencies? (% saying very competent)


  • Strategic Thinking             (21%)
  • Innovative Thinking          (21%)
  • Developing Talent              (20%)
  • Inspirational Leadership  (19%)


Not Enough Development for Frontline Managers


Frontline managers are not typically offered robust enough training and development programs to meet the rising job demands. Leadership development for this level tends to be ad hoc, sporadic, or too
brief to adequately cover all of their responsibilities. Most companies said that frontline managers received training and development only occasionally or infrequently, with nearly half indicating a frequency of once a year or less.


When training and development is provided here are the top methods:


  • On-the-job


  • Classroom


  • Personality
      and leadership assessments


  • Online


  • 360-degree


  • Coaching
      and Mentoring





For one reason or another, many companies tend to devote the bulk of their development efforts on the more senior leaders within the organization. This generally occurs at the expense of the frontline manager. We suggest that your organization’s performance may in fact experience greater results if development was targeted on the frontline managers. After all, frontline managers are closer to both the employees and the customers they serve.  Give me a call if you'd like to discuss this issue further.