Front-Line Leaders: 3 Capabilities for Improving Productivity

At Kineo we’ve recently been talking with a number of organizations about how to develop new Front-Line Leaders. A new Front-Line Leader is someone who has recently made a transition from the role of individual contributor to now being a leader of people. This transition from individual contributor to team leader represents quite the challenge because it requires so many new competencies.

The Importance of Focus

Not surprisingly, the leadership development managers we spoke with emphasized the need to set a clear and business-aligned focus. How do we target the few “most critical” competencies that can best drive the specific business outcomes our organization seeks?

To develop our perspective, we have reached out to a group that can be underrepresented in the thought process: line employees themselves. We reached out to over 300 line employees across industries to ask: If your team leader were to take one action to achieve this outcome, what action would that be?

Last week, we looked at three actions to improve quality. This week, let’s look at productivity.

Surprise Yourself!

Before we share our results, take a minute to imagine for yourself what three actions you might target in order to improve productivity.

To make it concrete, imagine, for example, that you have taken a new role as the leader of a team of bank tellers. You’ve been asked to improve productivity: how many transactions does each participant complete per day?  What capabilities will your tellers need?

Or, stepping back, imagine that you are responsible for developing all of the Front-Line Leaders in your bank, which has chosen to focus on improving labor productivity as its key strategic goal this year. What capabilities will all of your Front-Line Leaders require?

One Action to Improve Productivity

Here’s what our recent survey revealed:



In our last post, we looked at quality. What jumped out was that the individual contributors who responded to our survey selected actions to improve the environment more frequently than actions that directly addressed the individual.

For productivity, this pattern is even more extreme. Each of the top three items is about helping the team function better, not about working with an individual team member or building individual skills. In fact, by our count, four of the possible actions fit into the category of “helping the team function better” and they all landed within the top five. Wow!

It’s also interesting to see that the key actions to improve productivity and quality are actually not as different as you might expect. “Ensure you have resources” and “create a better team environment” both show up in the top three for each. Are productivity and quality key goals for your company this year? How much focus do you put on these in your Front-Line Leadership development program? Do you have clear capabilities you plan to require of your team members?

Stay tuned for our next installment: One action to improve retention.

Interested in learning more about leadership development? Check out our Blended Learning Guide.

Download Blended Leadership Guide


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