The 4 Skills Of Effective Frontline Managers

The 4 Skills Of Effective Frontline Managers 

Research from McKinsey & Co suggested that 4 skills correlate closely with the success of frontline managers.

I have written before about the importance of middle managers, and how frontline supervisors have a greater impact on company performance than any other role. This stems from the key role that middle managers play in project management, coaching individual performance, and the supervision of deadlines. For sure, this is not the most glamorous side of leadership, but it is where the key to higher performance lies. Middle managers coordinate the work of others and play a key role in fostering innovative and creative team environments.

According to the McKinsey article Decoding Leadership: What really matters, a survey of 189,000 people suggested that we need to encourage and grow these 4 skills. Here is my take:

1. Solve problems.

The key to effective frontline decision making is being able to diagnose and solve problems effectively. To quote Peter Drucker from the seminal management book The Effective Executive“Effective executives are not paid to do things they like to do. They are paid to make effective decisions & get the right things done.”

When it comes to problem-solving, I always like to refer to the GROW framework:


What is the goal? What is the desired outcome? What problem are you trying to solve?


What is the reality? What is happening? What are the facts? What does the data say? Why is it happening? (hint: ask why 5 times to identify the root cause)


What options do we have? What else? What are the pros and cons of each option?


What do you recommend? What is the next step? What option would you choose if it was your decision to make?

2. Strong focus on results.

As I wrote in a previous article, managers must “weed the garden” and hold people accountable. Making performance visible using a dashboard is immensely helpful, but it is just the first step. Team leaders must meet with their people to ensure they are achieving the required standard of performance and provide corrective feedback as appropriate.

Here are some guidelines I have put together that clients have found useful:

How to run a daily huddle

How to run a 1 on 1 meeting

How to run an effective team meeting

3. Seek different perspectives.

WW2 General, George Patton said, “If everyone is thinking the same, then someone isn’t thinking.”

Business leadership is not a democracy, but effective managers welcome contrary opinions. They are secure enough to let their people disagree with them and argue for alternative options, especially when working to solve problems (the “O” stage of the GROW model). They let everyone speak and make sure they feel heard. They allow people to debate the options and play devils’ advocate to explore the options from all sides. Then, the manager makes a clear decision and runs disciplined meetings to ensure their decisions get implemented.

4. Support others.

According to the research, by showing authenticity and a sincere interest in their people, effective managers build trust. This foundation of trust enables them to coach their team members more effectively, manage internal conflicts, and promote organizational efficiency.

For sure, different business situations and contexts will require different leadership styles, but the research points to these 4 skills as being foundational for the success of frontline managers. I suggest these skills apply to all managers, not just the frontline supervisors.

Which of these skills do you need to enhance in your organization?


Until next time…