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Summary of Front-line Management Practices

Literature Review: Best Management Practices

What are the best front-line management practices? Here’s what I found from looking over fifty current management books and numerous articles.  --Jay

 “What do top-performing leaders do?”

We found that exemplary leaders:

·       excel in times of dramatic change

·       are good role models for followers

·       build and coach enthusiastic teams

·          leverage the power of people

·          continuously improve performance

·       feel personally empowered

Excel in times of dramatic change

Front-line leaders thrive on change. They open people’s eyes to marketplace realities and convert higher-level objectives into actionable priorities for everyone in the organization. They do whatever works, based on the situation.

Outstanding leaders:

·   inspire others with the power and excitement of their vision

·   give people a sense of purpose and pride in their work

·   focus on results, not activities

·   redefine the bottom line to include developing people

·   replace one-time events with ongoing processes

·   assume they have authority until told otherwise

·      differentiate good failures from shoddy work

·   see opportunity where others see trouble

·   hire fantastic people.

The greater the change, the more change agents you’ll need.

Model exemplary sales and service behavior

Front-line leaders complete the same sales and service training as followers so they can serve as role models by “walking the talk.”

They seek to build lasting, profitable relationships with customers. They understand that today’s customer is seeking value, not lowest price. They realize that customers don’t buy products; they buy expectations of how the product will make them feel. Effective leaders can tell a potentially profitable relationship from a losing one.

Exemplary sales people build relationships around customers’ life events. They manage local customer opportunities one-by-one. They don’t dehumanize customers by thinking of them as “local markets.”

Build and coach enthusiastic teams

Great coaches expect more of their people than they think they can possibly achieve. If the coach believes that people can do more, their people expect more from themselves.

Effective sales coaches:

·   listen more than they talk

·   celebrate progress

·   manage by getting out of the way

·   identify and measure what counts

·   focus on outcomes

·   quantify in profit language

·   continually raise the bar

Leverage the power of people

The performance of followers rises or falls to meet leaders’ expectations. People aspire to excel, love to learn, are intrinsically motivated, and respond to challenge. Leaders motivate by giving ownership of processes and their outcomes. They liberate people to do what is required of them. [1]

Successful leaders:

·   tap into their people’s innate desire to excel

·   engage their people’s hearts and minds

·   help people believe in the importance of their work

·   build commitment by showing how each person’s work links directly to the delivery of value to the customer.

·   share information (because “An individual without information cannot take responsibility; an individual with information cannot help but take responsibility.” [2] )

·   get everyone to perform above expectations

·   give others the gift of space, space to be what one can be

·   trust their followers to do what it right

·   promote constructive controversy to reach better decisions

·   help followers manage stress

·   motivate followers with achievement, recognition, responsibility, and growth for advancement

·   create an environment of appreciation and learning

Successful leaders take responsibility for developing the skills of followers. They train every day. They structure on-job learning and feedback because people remember 90% of what they do, 75% percent of what they say, and 10% of what they hear.

Continuously improve performance

Front-line leaders run their team as if it were a business unto itself. Through “local reengineering,” they reinvent the branch or sales office.

The true change agent:

·   does whatever it takes to keep the customer coming back

·   makes the sales task clear

·      transforms the way business is done

·   uses the 80/20 rule and cuts the inconsequential

·   ruthlessly cuts costs

·   provides great service

·   competes on value.

Exemplary sales leaders focus on profit, not revenue. They know that 60% of all retail customers cost the bank more than they bring in and focus their efforts identifying, selling to, and serving the lucrative top 20%.

Personal empowerment

So far, we’ve detailed a daunting list of competencies for sales leaders. Many bank executives will doubtless shake their heads, not believing their managers will make the grade.

To assume the mantle of leadership, bank managers must not only work on skills; they must work on themselves. To maintain the energy and courage to lead a team into uncharted territory requires  confidence and self knowledge.

Successful leaders:

·   know who they are, what their strengths and weaknesses are

·   choose a leadership style that works for them

·   recognize their level of stress

·   are mindfully aware of what’s going on around them

·   lead balanced lives

·   manage time wisely

·   use informal networks to get things done

·   negotiate by inventing options for mutual gain

·   express themselves fully and well

·   accept responsibility, blame no one

·   reflect on their experience

·   have confidence they can get the job done


They lead their teams as if it were all that matters.

Developing  leaders

The best front-line leaders: 

·   think like top management and take action accordingly.

·   believe in themselves, their ability to inspire others and bring about a better future.

·   take at least 15 minutes a day to kick back and consider the big picture.

·   are known for what they do, not what they say. 

·   have a passion for their jobs and enjoy their work. Life’s too short to miss out on having fun.

Top leaders possess the ability to inspire, judgment, character, intelligence, empathy, charisma, and toughness. Their work entails vision, trust, listening, authenticity, integrity, hope, and, especially, the true needs of followers.

Whew! This is not something one learns at a three-day retreat. It’s a process that takes years and we’ve yet to meet a leader anywhere who couldn’t benefit from a little fine-tuning. [3]

“To build a successful leadership training program in your organization you need to get support from the top; shun one-shot, quick-fix training efforts; involve mentors to coach the students; work to spread a leadership culture throughout the entire organization;  and involve as many managers as possible in the leadership training.  Finally, you need to be very patient, because training is a long-term investment, if you have a short-term attitude you'll never do it or you'll never do it right!” [4]


Asked how non-leaders can learn to lead, six respected CEOs and management consultants [5] suggested:

·   Coach and counsel them, give them the opportunity and power to lead. Encourage their ideas.

·      Leadership is learned by doing.

·   Being skilled at understanding and articulating your vision...selling ideas...imparting enthusiasm to others...fully understanding external factors affecting the successful execution of your ideas.

·   A mix of conceptual learning, simulation experience and testing in real work settings....

·   By reaching out and trying new things to build self-confidence and improve your batting average.

Clearly, leader development is a process, not an event. The real world is the laboratory. Regional managers must inspire their reports to innovate, to try new things, to experiment, to become more confident. Most of the progress will come from coaching and mentoring over time, not from traditional training. Omega can be the catalyst by providing performance contracts for regional managers to execute with sales leaders. It’s time for manager-driven leader development.

Best practices of managers of top performing front-line leaders

Tom Brown identifies four areas where new management skills are required:

·   ability to embrace change

·      willingness to take risk

·      developed focused, flexible strategies

·   retailing orientation


The best regional managers develop the front line leaders who report to them by:

·      delegating projects with tangible results and the authority to carry them out

·   executing specific performance contracts for projects and activities that build sales leadership experience

·      questioning common wisdom [6]

·   getting personal. Systems, no matter how sophisticated, can never replace the richness of close personal communication and contact between top-level and front-line managers.

Best organizational practices

Top-performing sales organizations:

·   Benefit from change rather than being victimized by it

·   Select optimistic, outgoing, competent, energetic, happy people through a rigorous selection (and deselection!) process

·   Provide information and authority to empower all staff to think like owners. Every employee is a businessperson.

·   Trust their people to do what is right and inspire them to give their best (“You can’t release the brainpower of any organization by using whips and chains. You get the best out of people by empowering them, supporting them, by getting out of their way.” [7] )

·   Build spirited internal teams, especially for sales and customer service

·   Organize themselves around the needs of their customers.

·   Reinforce and shape worthy behavior through continuous coaching

·   Reward new ideas and encourage creativity

·   Profit by providing great service (because it differentiates the bank from its competitors, stimulates favorable word-of-mouth, and encourages customers to shed mediocre financial providers. The results are fewer lost customers, lower turnover, higher productivity, fewer service mistakes, and, more than likely, higher prices because of higher value. [8] )

·   Borrow lessons from successful general retailers, supplementing stores with 24/7 telephone centers, direct marketing, catalogs, database marketing, infomercials, the Internet, and more.

·   Apply properly timed life-event selling to increase customer satisfaction and “share of wallet” 

[1] The average branch banker is talented, loyal, thoughtful, caring, dynamic, energetic, and creative--except for the eight hours they work for the bank

[2] Jan Carlson

[3] Let’s not look at this as a problem--that we have more potential content than we can deal with at the present time. Rather, think of it as an opportunity to generate license revenues for five to ten years as sales leaders take part in continuing education.

[4] Jay Conger, "Can We Really Train Leadership?"  Business & Strategy Winter 96 p52

[5] See Forbes ASAP, April 8, 1996.

[6] “Strategies are okayed in boardrooms that even a child would say are bound to fail. The problem is, there’s never a child in the boardroom.” --Victor Palmeri (The emperor has no clothes.)

[7] Bennis & Townsend

[8] Len Berry, On Great Service

Written 5/96

Caution: More than five years old. The world has changed.

An update will appear in LineZine in late 2001.

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