During past From Vision to Action Executive Roundtables, we have discussed the roles, responsibilities and challenges of senior leadership and middle management. At the Spring 2012 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable, those gathered also discussed the roles, responsibilities and challenges of being a front line supervisor.
In the beginning, we have to ask a simple but important question: How many of us remember being a front line supervisor? As senior executives, we, at times, forget that front line supervisors are dealing with entry level staff, the people who make the brand real, and often the people with the least experience. We also forget how hard and frustrating this work can be on a day to day basis. We can even forget the struggles to manage the people and the diversity of systems that are constantly changing.
The first step to improving front line supervisors’ effectiveness is to remember what they are actually expected to do each day. Here is a short list:
- keep people safe
- focus people on the work that needs to be done
- build and maintain a team
- teach people what they need to need to know
- reward good outcomes and behaviors
- balance the needs of the company vs. the needs of their direct reports
On top of the above, we also need to remember that many front line supervisors are often supervising their former peers!
Given the current economy and the speed of desired change in many companies through out the country, we have to add to the above list these “new” expectations:
- clarify direction, expectations, and what is non-negotiable
- make the right decisions
- participate on teams over which they have no control and little influence
- do performance management including coaching and employee evaluations
- participate in hiring and orientation
- maintain boundaries with former peers related to HR issues
- handle complaints
All of a sudden the job of a front line supervisor starts to look like the job that many mid-level managers were expected to do 10 to 15 years ago. In this economy, more and more senior leaders need to realize that the expectations of front line supervisor are becoming more complex and difficult than they were many years ago.