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In today’s business the front line delivers the bottom line


The Challenge
The world of business is undergoing a global transformation. Economic pressure, social issues and political challenges are forcing a fundamental change on how business needs to compete to survive. This change is most evident at the front line of businesses where the current battles for productivity, cost, and survival are being fought.

The Current Battle
The role of the Front Line Manager (FLM) has significantly changed over the past 20 years. Evolved from the supervisor role the FLM has taken on additional responsibilities as a result of industry advances. The emergence of Strategic Human Resources (SHR) has added the responsibility for performance management, performance appraisal, training and development, and coaching. Flatter organisational structures have increased the accountability of the front line and driven delegation and team work to new levels. The emergence of the ‘knowledge worker’ coupled with employee’s diversity has changed the profile of the front line. FLMs can no longer depend on the supervisory skill set laid down by Henry Fayol in the middle of the 20th century, instead they require a more robust and integrated set of skills.

Enabling the Front Line
In my experience of designing and delivering FLM programmes, at IMI and in other organisations, I have found the Management Effectiveness Cycle (MEC) has proven to be a very useful approach to enable FLMs to deliver business results in a short period of time. The MEC is a Front Line Management development framework that includes 6 core stages:

Stage 1 – Understanding the role and context
The FLM needs to be able to interact with both the people and the business, to understand exactly what the current situation is and to be able to diagnose current challenges.

Stage 2 – Planning and goal setting
Setting specific smart goals, that are directly related to the business and enable the employees to understand that by doing what it is they do, they are contributing to achieving the organisational goals.

Stage 3 – Aligning goals and recourses
The ability to produce more with the available resources maximises the return on investment. Aligning goals and resources requires a selection of skills including delegation, communication, versatility management, empowerment, innovation, and creativity.

Stage 4 – Building an enabling culture
Building an enabling culture is an ongoing process similar to the training of a marathon runner. By giving the person support and encouragement along the way to make sure that they are equipped and nourished to deliver the different stages of the long run. It is not standing at the finish line with a trophy.

Stage 5 – Review and renew
FLMs also need to look at how they can reinvest, redevelop and renew their energy and the energy of their staff. Providing feedback, performance management, energy management, innovation, observation, and assessment are the key enabling skills to review and renew.

Stage 6 – Leadership
In this model leadership sits at the centre of the management effectiveness cycle. This is not accidental. Leadership is the individual’s ability to create followership, so that people at the front line can look at the FLM and be inspired, motivated, and trust the FLM competencies, skills, and abilities. Leadership starts with an internal search, understanding your motivations, your values, your direction, your vision, your goals. Only once the FLM has mastered these skills can they look at how to inspire others.

Ultimately, to successfully enable FLMs to deliver results, organisations must help them to blend the internal personal mastery with the external environment to inspire the followers to succeed. IMI is dedicated in helping organisations develop their Front Line Management to deliver bottom line results, to learn more about it check our dedicated FLM web site space.

Derek Fox is an expert in management development, innovation and interpersonal communications. Derek has published a number of books including his bestselling titles in both Psychology (DISCovering your style and dealing with difficult people) and Presentation skills (Presenting without fear).  He contributes to journals and business publications such as: T&D Magazine, HR Ireland, People Management, and has published articles with the Sunday Business Post, and the Sunday Times.


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