First-line leaders are the largest and arguably most important group of leaders in any organization. They are the main drivers of business results, typically managing strategic execution initiatives, customer success, and employee engagement.
In today’s changing business landscape, the role of the first-line leader is more challenging than ever. Advances in technology, constant and increasing levels of change, and the pressure to deliver business results despite unprecedented cost and resource constraints have created a more complex workplace.
In an effort to quell some of the anxieties and stress that comes with VUCA, it’s important to provide these front-liners with essential leadership practices.
Establishing the essentials
In our nearly five decades of research, we’ve found that highly effective leaders do many things well, but that early on they develop mastery in several foundational people-leadership areas. That is, they:
- Take a more strategic approach to where they focus their effort and energy
- Invest proportionately more time on high-value goals, those that (1) further organizational goals and objectives and (2) develop their team members and increase their success in delivering high value to the organization
Being able to delegate in this way allows for managers to deliver results from those who report in to them, coach their team to a higher level of performance, and maximize each team member’s willingness to work hard.
Our research shows that there are four key leadership practices that will help to enable your first-liners.
Think Like a Leader
As mentioned above, one of the key characterization’s of a high-performing leader is the ability to identify high-value goals and exert energy there. In the Digital Age, this can sometimes be hard to execute.
Only about 10% of first-line leaders are able to focus their energy on highly effective and impactful activities. With technology that often blurs boundary lines and unexpected changes happening almost on the daily, many front-line leaders are being bombared with additional tasks that pull their focus from higher level objectives.
It’s imperative for these leaders to understand the barriers that often get in their way. In understanding and identifying these obstacles, they’ll be better able to delegate additional tasks out to the team and keep their eye on the (grand) prize.
Coach Your Team
In order to delegate tasks out to the team, a leader has to be able to trust said team. That calls for a certain amount of coaching from front-line staff.
Start with assessing your employee’s capabilities. Find the strengths, weaknesses, and interests of each team member and find a strategic way to utilize them to your best ability.
Work to reinforce the positive behaviors and create a plan to improve any performance issues that may arise. Continue professional development in your reportees through consistent feedback and coaching conversations.
Get Results Through Others
Delegating is important, but even more important is how you do so. Effective leaders will think strategically about this.
Determine what needs to be delegated and how. Do you need to a create a task force for a large project, or is it easier to itemize your to-do list and split between each team member? Assess the task at hand and make sure to communicate clearly what is expected of your employees.
Effective delegation is a must, and quite honestly one of the only ways front-line leaders can clear up their time to focus on high-level initiatives.
This goes hand-in-hand with influencing positive behaviors within your team. Knowing when an employee is engaged vs. not engaged is a crucial skill. It allows you to understand where effort may be lacking and how to address it appropriately – for the good of the individual and the team.
Work to identify the core engagement needs on an individual and team level. Teams often take on a “mob mentality”, so if one member is showing signs of fatigue, it will likely effect others. Find ways to boost morale and get employees excited about overarching goals. An energized team is a productive team.
Empowering your leaders
Here at AchieveForum, we’re committed to helping businesses overcome these obstacles. We even have a learning journey dedicated to First-Line Leadership Essentials on our open-source platform, Universal Access.
Universal Access is our solution to providing leadership learning for all members of the team. You can sign up here to receive login information to our website equipped with course materials, fully-editable outlines, virtual instructor-led classes, and our First-Line Leadership Essentials learning journey.
No smoke and mirrors, no hidden catch – we are committed to our mission: empowering all leaders to lead in all situations and that starts with democratized access to leadership learning.