The Challenging world of The Frontline Leader
I’ve done a lot of research into the Front Line Leader role. Apart from being one myself for 8 years I’ve coached Front Line Leaders and I’ve listened to them talking about the challenge of the job.
Here’s some of the challenges:
Realising that you are the person who has the most daily contact with the majority of employees in your organisation. When you add all the Front Line Leaders together, you can see how many employees they control and it becomes apparent who has most influence in an organisation.
You have this very visible role and you are on view all the time. You are literally performing every minute of the day to large audience. In fact you could say there’s an invisible line in everybody’s job description which is “watch the Front Line Leader’
Your job is stressful, often very stressful. You have a manager holding you accountable. You have a team whose expectations of you are higher than the ones they set themselves. You are expected to work closely and effectively with your peers and other departments. This is 360 degree responsibility.
You are expected to interpret the direction given to you from the organisation and this comes from people who don’t always understand your job and what’s involved.
Your job involves a lot of relationship management. More than anyone else in the organisation so you have by necessity learned good relationship skills. I often find that it’s the Front Line Leaders who are the best “people people” because they get so much practice. However it is challenging to have to be constantly available to deal with relationship issues.
How best to manage Front Line Leaders:
The first skill to apply when managing Front Line Leaders is listening. They have a lot to deal with so listening and understanding their world will take you a long way towards being able to influence what they do.
Ask “What support do you need? A manager’s position allows them to remove road blocks to progress. If your Front Line Leader is struggling, assume that you can do something to assist and support them.
Making sure that your relationships with other departments managers are good. There’s nothing worse for a Front Line Leader than seeing turf wars break out above them and have to take sides. This destroys the ability of an organisation to deliver outcomes efficiently and wastes so much time.
Take a big picture view and explain that to the Front Line Leader. What are you trying to achieve as a manager, what are your goals and how do those align with the goals of the FLL. (If they don’t align, this needs to be fixed so they do)
Watch your Front Line Leader’s level of stress and learn to read the signs and offer support when stress cranks up for the FLL.
Acknowledge and appreciate the efforts of your FLL’s. They control their effort but they don’t always control the results. Usually a bad day is when the most effort is made so don’t miss those bad days and say something about the great effort made rather than complain about the result.
Front Line Leadership can be a lonely place. It’s very difficult to demonstrate good leadership in this role without the support of your manager. If that support is missing, many FLL’s look for it from team members which can compromise their leadership skills.
There’s much more to say about the Front Line Leader. I will add more in future posts.