Communicate with frontline managers to help them know how to be effective.
Frontline managers are often asked to turn grand strategies into practical initiatives. Yet frontline management training is often slight or nonexistent. And managers too often are treated as simply an extension of the broader workforce instead of given the information, tools and training they need.
This can be a mistake. Employees often turn to their immediate supervisor to understand: is this important? Should I make it a priority? Will it work? These questions only intensify as greater challenges come up. By incorporating frontline management training, you can enhance leadership and communication skills at your organization.
Here are four important elements to help managers be more effective:
1. Treat Frontline Managers Like Management
Avoid communicating to frontline managers and employees at the same time. Managers often need time to assimilate information and think about how best to present it to their teams. A few days is helpful, but even a few hours can help compared to surprising managers with mission-critical information.
2. Exercise Management Muscles Before the Big Change
Organizations often wait for a major change effort to put communication responsibilities on frontline managers. Those that do should expect higher fail rates. No one runs a marathon without training at shorter distances. Start using managers now so they can practice important communication skills on initiatives that carry less risk.
3. Ask Managers to Consult
Organizations don't have to engage every frontline manager with every change effort. But it can be wise to get feedback from at least a small pilot group. Use managers to test for how messages will play out among employees. Is the message clear? Is it credible? What is its tone? Doing so can ensure messages are better attuned to employee realities and clear enough for managers to rely with confidence.
4. Be Explicit About Tone
Reading bullet points off a cue card is not "mission accomplished." Tone is often the biggest takeaway for employees when frontline managers communicate. If a manager announces a cost-cutting initiative, few employees will remember the detailed talking points for more than a day. What they will remember is their general impressions as to whether the effort is important to their boss, likely to be successful and worthy of their prioritized effort.
Frontline managers can greatly impact effective change because they have the greatest visibility into what makes your employees' tick. Prepare them to be effective in this essential role, and they should reward you with a streamlined and less disruptive transition.
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