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Empowering Front-Line Leaders: Setting Them Up for Success

Updated: Dec 17, 2023


Front-line supervisors play a crucial role in employee engagement and operational performance. However, all too often, they are unknowingly set up for failure. Whether it's a lack of leadership skills or mismatched expectations, supervisors may struggle to fulfill their responsibilities effectively. In this article, we will explore the importance of hiring and developing the right supervisors, the skills they need to excel, and the common pitfalls to avoid.


The Super Employee Becomes the Supervisor

Promoting a high-performing employee to a supervisory role without providing them with the necessary leadership skills can create challenges. While they may have excelled in their previous position, they may lack the knowledge to motivate others, deal with performance issues, or create an environment that fosters discretionary behavior. The transition from a peer to a supervisor can be difficult, as they now have to oversee their former peers. This shift can sometimes strain relationships and hinder effectiveness.


Choosing the Right Supervisors

When hiring supervisors, it's crucial to assess their abilities to not only get things done but also lead others to higher performance levels. Whether promoting internally or hiring externally, the candidate should be evaluated for their fit within the organizational culture and their potential to enhance it. Organizations should aim for leaders who inspire and engage their teams rather than mere overseers of activities and results.


Facilitating Performance Improvement

Effective supervisors have the potential to achieve much more than just overseeing tasks. Great leaders are distinguished by their ability to lead others to accomplish remarkable outcomes. Therefore, it's essential to evaluate the current state of your supervisors. Are they primarily focused on task supervision, or do they possess the skills to facilitate performance improvement within their teams? Assessing their capabilities in this regard is key to their development.


Strategic Development Efforts

To support supervisors' growth, organizations should take a strategic approach to development efforts. This involves defining what success looks like in a supervisor role, assessing the current skill levels of supervisors, and planning for reinforcement, accountability, and measurement. By aligning development initiatives with the organization's goals and the supervisors' needs, organizations can choose the most effective path for their development.


Assessing Existing Skills and Needs

Before seeking out leadership development opportunities, it's crucial to internally agree on the desired characteristics and capabilities of an excellent leader within the organization. Profile the qualities that make an outstanding leader and assess where your supervisors and managers stand against this ideal. Identify the skills they already possess and those that require development. By understanding their current capabilities, you can ensure that development opportunities will yield the desired results.


Support and Preparation

New leaders can be demotivated if they feel unprepared or unsupported in their roles. It is essential to provide the necessary training and support to set them up for success. Furthermore, avoid overwhelming them with pointless requirements and activities that do not contribute to their abilities to succeed as leaders. A well-structured development plan that focuses on their growth and mastery will enable them to become effective leaders.


Effective leadership is not just about what supervisors do; it's about what they lead others to accomplish. By selecting the right supervisors, providing them with the necessary skills, and supporting their development, organizations can empower front-line leaders to excel in their roles. Assessing their existing skills, defining success criteria, and strategically planning development efforts are essential steps toward creating a supportive environment that fosters effective leadership. Remember, great leaders are not made overnight; they are cultivated through continuous learning and growth.

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