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The Importance of Frontline Leadership Development

In today’s busy business environment, preparing frontline leaders via a formal succession planning program is less common than it should be. Employee development, at all levels, takes planning, resources, and effort. It is a real gap in many organizations.

To dig a little deeper, who is responsible for succession planning? The organization or the employee? Some of the gaps we have noticed working with clients is:

  • Lack of clear expectations (always inspect what you expect)
  • A decline in employee engagement (how would the culture be described)
  • Communication break downs (is it formal and planned or ad hoc)
  • High turnover rates, so priorities are to fill the vacancies quickly and overlook frontline leadership training
  • Inconsistent performance (as a direct result of mediocre training and development)
  • Minimal delegation and follow up (therefore a lack of accountability at all levels)

The result is a lack of skilled leaders for the future. If Succession Planning is not a Strategic Priority, that could be the challenge.


Succession Planning

To evaluate an organization’s succession planning program, one must ask what does it currently look like? If one could wave a wand, what should it look like in the future. Consider current challenges (i.e., resources) and opportunities (i.e., lack of interest). How can these be addressed for future success? Frontline leadership is crucial for the success of any organization. Developing a training program and other initiatives that focus on leadership skills is important.


Employee Performance

Are performance expectations clear and does follow up occur regularly and consistently to review progress and emphasize accountability. Has consideration been given to a leadership coaching program that offers training, mentoring and professional development.

Although employees mutually share the responsibility of consistent performance, organizational leaders often care more. They have the bird’s eye view of what the outcome should and could look like, and why it is important to the organization to develop future leaders.


Employee Engagement

Employee turnover could be a sign of disengagement, and it often stems from an organizational culture that is less than ideal. Perhaps it has stayed the same for years, and not accounted for generational differences, employee and leadership growth, and consumer demands. Regardless, an organization is only as strong as its culture.

With the reality of workplace disruptions, including remote work, hybrid work and virtual work, employees may resent being mandated to a particular standard, likely decided by leadership without consulting the teams. Feeling resentful can be draining for employees, and that in turn contributes to less engagement.

Recognition and appreciation, both formally and informally, is a gap we often see when working with leaders. The intent is there, but the time to do it is not. Or it is perceived not to exist; it is more about habits than time. Often leaders in senior and decision-making roles feel since they don’t get recognized or appreciated (“it is lonely at the top”), they assume no one else needs it either. Receiving recognition is energizing and inspiring and shows someone cares enough to take the time and notice one’s valuable contributions.

There are many other factors that contribute to employee engagement, including effective communication, training and development, promotion of teamwork, employee wellness programs, leadership vulnerability, and setting clear expectations at all levels within the organization.


Communication is Key

Transparent and consistent communication, to all levels of the organization, promotes a culture of clarity and shared purpose. Ensuring employees are informed of the organization’s current, and future, reality is important, as well as opportunities to ask questions and learn more.

Technology can be leveraged for integrated internal communications that allows employees at all levels to learn more, ensuring communication is consistent and avoiding the internal “water cooler” flow of information that may not be accurate.

Leaders must ensure they are good listeners, and provide explanations when questions are asked, and show interest when suggestions are made. Leaders can host small forums with future frontline leaders, who will benefit from learning more front a direct source.

Communication benefits that lead to enhanced accountability include:

  • Delegation
  • Empowerment
  • Engagement
  • Commitment

In summary, leaders should ask themselves, “What’s The ONE THING I can do to improve”:

  • Culture
  • Employee Engagement

The ONE THING – THE SURPRISINGLY SIMPLE TRUTH BEHIND EXTRAORDINARY RESULTS (Gary Keller with Jay Papasan), is a highly recommended #1 bestseller book and a concept that teaches how to have fewer distractions and less on your plate by going small and starting with one thing.

View an introductory video



Micromanagement is demotivating and has negative effects on frontline leaders, including stifling their creativity. Leadership must foster a culture of trust, autonomy, and empowerment. This allows frontline leaders to make decisions within their scope and develop their confidence.

Micromanagement also has a negative effect on the teams, who are confused when the reporting structure is unclear. This creates animosity, gossip, and harmful emotions.

Showing trust in the team is a powerful leadership behavior and leads to a more motivated team who can easily speak up when there are issues or conflict and buy-in when decisions must be made.


Leading Practices

To develop frontline managers who are ready to accept new challenges and take on more responsibility, an investment must be made by the organization. This cannot be left to chance. An investment should not be considered a cost or an expense; ultimately it is an investment in the organization’s future growth and sustainability.

The investment should include:

  • Mentorship
  • Coaching
  • Training
  • Delegation opportunities

A frontline leadership program should be well-planned, and reviewed often, not only for effectiveness, but also for suitable participants. It should be a well-promoted and communicated internal program so the organization’s employees know how they can advance their careers, and those wanting to advance feel privileged if they are selected to participate.

Soft skills training should be included in frontline leadership training such as communication skills, problem solving skills, team building, adaptability, emotional intelligence, and conflict resolution. One challenging discipline often noted is time management skills; also critical in a leadership role.


The importance of continuous learning should be emphasized at every opportunity, and particularly as a business landscape evolves and industry trends change. Celebrating successes and recognizing achievements will boost morale and motivate frontline leaders to continue excelling in their roles.


To learn more about the tools, practices, and recommendations we have at X5 Management to help organizations with their frontline leadership development programs, be sure to let us know. We would be pleased to help you elevate your business and send you a complimentary digital copy of our new book entitled “How to Stop the Revolving Door – 5 Strategies That Will Positively Impact your Employees and Business Results”.

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X5 Management offers an extensive list of communication, team development, leadership, sales, and service-related programs that can support any businesses training and coaching needs in any industry.

If your business wants to take advantage of the Canada-Alberta Job Grant so that you can expand on your sales and service-related training for your employees, let’s discuss your organization’s training needs in a complimentary Discovery Meeting.

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