Empowering Team Leaders to be the Ushers of your Organization’s Strategy
Your team leaders have to play an important role in the implementation and execution of your organization’s strategy. Make sure they’re an active part of the conversation and that they have the tools they need to drive successful outcomes.
Frontline managers have one of the most difficult jobs in any company. “No man can serve two masters” they say – yet team leads are accountable to 1) The clients they serve personally 2) their employees’ performance and 3) The company’s overall business strategy, as laid out by the executive team.
Some might say the 3rd is the most important master of all. A team leader’s role, at its core, is to mediate between managements’ goals and the frontline – not to be an enforcer of some tactical set of arbitrary KPIs.
A successful supervisor should be the usher of your organizational strategy. They should coach employees to adopt the behaviors that will drive it, understand and remove blockers for employee success, and focus their team on the right targets to ensure strategy turns into execution on the frontline. Here’s how to set them up for success.
Give Team Leaders Visibility Into Individual Employees’ Performance
In many cases, the data for managers to know how an employee is doing presides in multiple reports and systems – if available at all. They might have access to a team level dashboard on adherence to SLAs (e.g. average wait times, calls on queue, or handle times), but finding out which employee is struggling with what, often requires them to conduct deep research and cross-reference information, or rely on anecdotal insights from listening in on random calls.
Managers already have a lot on their hands, so finding this information becomes yet another task that is pushed off their to-do list each day. This can lead to managing by instinct instead of insight – made even more difficult in a partially remote work environment. It should be clear how that would make the task of guiding employees to adopt behaviors fitting the organizations’ strategy difficult.
To resolve this, companies need to provide frontline managers with tools to understand how each employee is doing – compared to the desired benchmark, to their past performance, or to their personal goals (which might be different between different profile or tenure employees).
Taking it a step further, managers should be able to see how each employee is contributing to (or detracting from) the teams’ ability to reach its goal – e.g. how is a specific employee doing compared to the target, are they pulling the team up or down, and if so, on what KPI – an employee, for example, can be doing great on handle time, but pulling the team down by being far below the benchmark on how many repeat calls come in from the clients they serve.
Lastly, team leaders should have easy tools with which to act on this information and help the individual employee better understand the goal, learn to improve their performance, and be motivated to focus on the right things.
Give Team Leaders Tools to Address Skill or Knowledge Gaps
Once tools are in place to identify employee performance gaps or deviations from the organizational strategy, the next stage is empowering managers to address them.
A simple approach managers often take is focusing only on top or bottom performers. The exceptional performers, struggling ones, or the managers’ personal bias. That’s because these are usually both easy to identify and get improvement on. However, taking the “outlier” approach misses an opportunity to bring the entire team towards better results. Performance management tools that will help guide the manager on each employees’ specific performance or knowledge gaps and offer up suggestions on how to address those gaps can enable that. By leveraging the abundance of data about the employee (their performance metrics, their knowledge level based on assessment, their engagement), these tools can either automatically treat simple issues – for example by offering automated feedback or showing recognition to employees, or, they can surface suggestions to the manager, such as, schedule a coaching session on objection handling with this employee, or assign the refresher training module about after call procedures to that one.
This level of individual guidance and behavior modification wouldn’t be possible without technology collecting the data to drive those decisions. Advancement in AI makes these tools and process easier, more effective, and allows team leaders to be able to coach employees so they have the skills required to deliver on company goals and update their behaviors if they don’t.
One word of caution here, frontline managers will be most successful when they use technology as a tool – not a crutch, and we’d be remiss not to highlight the importance of the face-to-face element of team management. Particularly now that teams are working remotely, group and individual meetings, personal coaching and mentoring, and frequent check-ins are critical for driving success.
Meetings allow the team to strengthen team culture and comradery and share progress, concerns, and feedback. The technology is there to optimize the manager’s time, not to replace them.
Relentlessly Communicate, and Give Team Leaders A Voice
Even before you start thinking about tools to help team leaders drive adoption of the company strategy in the frontline, you must first ask yourself – are they even aware of it.
It’s important to communicate the organizational strategy to frontline managers, and ensure that they are bought into it, understand it, and are onboard. Otherwise, managers will always favor the quantitative KPI on the qualitative strategy.
Once they are aware, empower team leaders to make choices. Team leaders want to have a say in how corporate strategy gets executed by their team, so give them agency to direct how their teams will reach corporate goals. Team leaders not only need to know the goals and KPIs of the strategy, but also need to understand it and how to effectively pass the information on to their team.
It makes sense – they’re in the trenches with employees, and are therefore the drivers of the positive business outcomes the company hopes to achieve.
Team leaders are the gatekeepers for fulfilling your company’s goals. Make sure they’re an active part of the conversation and that they have the tools they need to drive successful outcomes.
For more on this topic, watch our webinar, “Keeping your frontline managers in control of their remote teams”.