Supporting line managers

When businesses grow, leaders at the top must learn how to delegate jobs to members of their team. Eleanor Deem explains why supporting line managers is so critical when it comes to running a successful business.

Part of any growing small business is appointing new managers. You are delegating part of the running of your business to other people, but have you really understood the significance of providing the right kind of support to people taking on line management responsibilities? Do you appreciate how much of a positive impact on your small business a skilled line manager can have? 
Here are five reasons why getting line management right in even the smallest business is so crucial, and five ways you can support new line managers and help them achieve those benefits in your organisation.

Why it’s important


Line managers have direct contact with more employees than anyone else, therefore have the biggest impact on productivity and effectiveness of the people who actually do what your small business does, who actually fulfil its purpose on a day-to-day basis. A good, well-trained manager knows and understands exactly how to motivate people, as well as having the ability to effectively organise and prioritise tasks and responsibilities, all of which lead to vastly improved team performance.
The factor with the biggest impact on employee engagement in your business is team members’ relationships with the person who supervises them day-to-day. If that relationship is negative, it will be virtually impossible to engage staff with your business and with their job. 
In many, many surveys, the main reason cited by employees for leaving a job is their direct line manager. Develop effective, supportive managers, and morale will go up and retention should improve significantly.

Good communication within an organisation is absolutely critical to employee engagement, staff satisfaction and organisational performance. This communication comes to a large extent from line managers, so they need to know how to do it.

Poor people management leads to disruptive staff issues such as poor performance, high absence rates, conflict within teams and complaints against managers. All of these take up huge amounts of valuable time and are enormously detrimental to morale and performance across the team or the whole business, particularly in very small organisations.
As well as being disruptive and time-consuming, clearly poor people management also leads to a risk of litigation. Tribunal claims for discrimination or unfair dismissal will be very expensive, regardless of the result, as you will need legal advice, will spend lots of management time dealing with it, and may or may not end up paying damages or a settlement as a result.
It can be seen that getting line management right can have a huge impact on your business, but how do you actually do that?

Ways you can support line managers

Pick the right people
It can be enormously tempting to appoint people to line management because they’ve been there the longest or are perhaps the best at what they currently do. You know them, and trust them. But managing a team who are performing a certain set of responsibilities requires completely different skills from those who are actually performing those responsibilities. 
Appointing someone who is a high performer to manage the team is obviously very common, but the fact that a whole new skill set is required is frequently overlooked. Pick the right person for the right reasons. 
Prioritise training
The layer of people within a business who are direct line managers of teams is frequently overlooked when it comes to allocating funds for training. But the benefits of good line management – productivity, engagement, cost-saving, staff retention, high performance, reduced absence – can only be achieved if your line managers have the skills necessary to manage effectively. Without providing any management training, it is unlikely you’ll see any of these benefits.
Don’t leave them to sink or swim
Remain involved with your new manager. They still need regular catch ups, feedback and support, the same as any other team member, and if they are not an experienced manager, they’ll probably need more help and involvement than previously.
Clarity and consistency
Be clear with your new manager what leadership approach you want them to take. This will help them feel comfortable that they are doing things in the right way, and will also help ensure consistency of approach and decision-making across the organisation. A consistent approach to how things are run in your business is critical to good morale, both within a team and across the organisation as a whole.
Lead by example
Think about what kind of values you want to see in your organisation and lead by example on these, in terms of how you treat people, the decisions you make, the priorities you set. Employees will have increased respect for decisions their line manager takes if they can see it comes from the top, and can identify a consistent approach.

Author: Eleanor Deem is the founder of face2faceHR and is an experienced HR professional with a background working in the private and not-for-profit sectors.

Explore related resources

These areas of the People Skills Hub will help you to address some of the issues covered in this blog:

  • Team building: learn how to develop your team to ensure ongoing high performance
  • Performance management: learn how to improve and develop your employees' performance and how to align their goals with your business objectives
  • Learning and development: find out how to plan learning and development opportunities to improve your employees' capabilities, skills and competencies