Do you know who can make the biggest difference between the success and failure of your company? At my firm, we answer the question this way: First-Line Supervisors. Surprised? You shouldn’t be.
We base this answer on experience working with many companies over the past 15 years, including several Fortune 500 firms and research with close to 100 companies around the world, including many considered high performers within their respective industries.
Far too often the First-Line Supervisor level of a company is completely overlooked when it comes to driving and sustaining sales. Yet this is an important concept for effective leaders to embrace.
Unfortunately, a company overlooks this because it rarely receives any dialog on the agenda of executive teams. Why is this? It may be because an organization’s first level of supervision is right under executive noses so to speak.
Much like common everyday things we encounter in life — say a light switch for example — we know they are there, but we really don’t “see them.” What’s more, attention is often focused on leadership issues on higher rungs of the “leadership tree.” Additionally, there is usually more interest and money directed at topics and development workshops when the word “strategic,” not “supervisory” is mentioned.
If you’re interested in creating a thriving and sustainable business, you better start paying attention to this first level of interaction that is directly responsible for the happiness of your customers and consequently, your bottom line.
The Link to Strategic Advantage — Financially, It’s Very Direct!
Years and years of academic and workplace research point to this, time after time: The No. 1 cause of employee dissatisfaction (Asset Manager Dissatisfaction) is dependent on the quality of your First Line Supervisor. Given this, it makes sense that those who supervise your Asset Managers have critically important roles. Why? Because it clearly affects a firm’s financial performance when you have highly satisfied Asset Managers.
Think Through This Logic Stream
- Highly satisfied Asset Managers treat your customers (your most valuable and important assets) better
- This makes a highly satisfied customer as well. That leads to liking your organization
- They refer your organization to others
- Your “Net Promoter Score” goes up
- More revenues flow in through referrals
- Highly satisfied customers pay their invoices quicker
- The organization’s Accounts Receivables (days outstanding) go down and this means…
- Better use of assets resulting in improved EBIT/EBITDA/ROCA and that leads to
- Outperforming the competition!
That’s a simple and strategically powerful concept, right? When laid out like this you would think it a “no brainer,” but apparently very few executive leaders consider this perspective.
Ask These Strategic Questions to Ensure Strategic Advantage
Given this reframed, strategic viewpoint, here are some key questions about your First Line Supervisors to ensure your firm’s strategic advantage:
- Who gets these jobs in your organization? What’s the criteria for selection/promotion?
- What are their biggest training & development needs? What do they need to better supervise your Asset Managers?
- How satisfied are they? How engaged are they? How do you know?
- What do you know about them? What’s on their minds as it relates to your business, services/products, competitors vendors/suppliers, and their own careers?
- When was the last time you had a dialog with them? When will you have your next one?
Knowing the answers to these questions is critical because executive teams that do have a clear strategic advantage over those that do not.
The good news is that when executives are exposed to this concept from the “top down” level, they are quick to re-frame and embrace this powerful and strategic mindset.
Effective First-Line Supervisors are Skilled at:
- Planning and Organizing: They effectively organize and plan work by defining objectives and anticipating needs and priorities.
- Managing Others: They direct and lead others to accomplish organizational goals and objectives.
- Motivating Others: They inspire others to perform well by actively conveying enthusiasm and a passion for meeting the needs of the customer
- Coaching and Developing Others: They advise, assist, mentor and provide feedback to others to encourage and inspire the development of work-related competencies and long-term professional growth.
Robert Denker, PhD. is the Managing Principal of rd&partners.com, Chicago, Illinois.