I’m sitting with our new SVP of Sales in the lobby of a Courtyard Marriott 25 minutes outside of downtown Boston. It’s around 5:30 PM, and we had only met a few hours beforehand. I was in town working on an internal IT project. He was in town to transform our sales organization.
I wanted to order a Mich Ultra, but I asked for a Sam Adams Boston Lager to fit in. Then he ordered a Vodka Soda.
This guy had all the qualifications. Ran $1B business unit. 1,000+ people in his org. Decads of dominance at IBM.
“Do you know what the most important role in any company is?” he asked, staring me in the eye.
It was just the two of us at a high-top table, but the bar felt full.
“The CEO?” I said. Nope.
I figured he’s in sales. “The sales rep?” Wrong again shaking his head.
At this point, I’m scrambling. So I went a different direction…comical.
“IT Helpdesk?” I said. My response bounced off him like a tic-tac. Completely unphased.
I’m wondering, is this guy seriously like this?
Tipping back his glass to chew the leftover ice, “the front-line manager,” he said.
Instantly I Knew He Was Right
Think about it, and you’ll see the front-line manager is the unsung hero in any organization.
- Who has the most significant cultural impact on employees?
- Who hires and develops the entry-level talent in the organization?
- Who is the closest decision-maker to the customer?
- Who can directly impact a company’s growth or profitability targets by running a better team?
When team members on the front-line see how their manager loves their job, they want that role too. All of a sudden, they see their current position as a career. Good people stay instead of leave. Turnover is lower. Talent is developed and promoted from within.
Why I Knew He Was Right
Early in my career, I became the General Manager of a branch that had recently scored the lowest employee engagement score in the entire company. Meaning last place out of 400 branches.
In my first few weeks on the job, our corporate HR team cased the business, terrified we would be unionized.
2 years later, I’m on stage accepting a plaque for “Outstanding Achievement.” An annual award given to the highest performing branches in the company. Meaning first place out of 400 branches.
The front-line managers changed. 4 out of 5, to be exact. We replaced them with hungry leaders that lived our culture. From there, if I’m honest, they did the rest.
The Secret of Well-Run Companies
The secret of well-run companies is they continuously develop and invest in the front-line manager. They know this role is the connective tissue between the customer, the team, and senior levels.
Great strategies get iced without this core fully bought in. Success is inevitable when they are.
Are you a front-line manager? Do you want to be? Are you in charge of some?
The higher skilled your front-line manager core, the better your business performs. They are the ultimate get out of jail free card.
Back in the Courtyard Marriott lobby, “the front line manager is the most important role in any company” he said looking right at me.
Do you think he was right?