How Can We Get Better Line Managers?

How can we get better line managers

We are asked at Metis HR for advice on how can we get better line managers?

The CIPD and Simply-health’s 2019 Health and Wellbeing at Work report found that one of the major causes of absence due to stress was because of work management style. 43 per cent of employees blamed their line managers lack of empathy and support as the main stress factor.

Skills, Knowledge, Behaviour

The findings can show how detrimental to people’s health and wellbeing it is if managers aren’t equipped with the right level of skills, confidence and behaviour. There is much more to managing a team than just doing annual appraisals and approving holiday requests. A good manager is like a team leader, coach, trainer and psychiatrist all wrapped up into one.

If managers do not possess the delicate balance of empathy, communication and leadership skills required, it’s not necessarily their fault. There appears to be a growing gap between the expectations placed on line-managers and the amount invested in their development. Not only do companies need to train managers in people management skills, the organisation’s policies and processes, we need to look at their own behaviour and competencies too.

Investment in Development

Management is something you need to invest in and develop. When they’re effective, line managers play a key role in organisational success; providing the vital link between leaders and employees, and the huge impact they can have on employee behaviour.

However, part of the reason some line managers are ill-equipped for the role is that some methods of management training, as well as the way organisations implement them, are not fit for purpose. Learning to manage should be an ongoing project. The best managers are those who continually refresh their skill sets. Just like doctors need to update their skills as medical practice changes, so should managers.

Bridging The Gap

A long-term approach to manager training is perhaps to create an aspiring leaders’ programme. This aims to bridge the gap between being a front-line employee and becoming a manager. By creating a bespoke training programme for each trainee manager, you can take into account their level of experience and skills. This can include relationship building, performance management and having difficult conversations.

There is also a need for training in ‘softer’ skills. Such as, emotional intelligence, communication and critical thinking in line management capabilities. The importance of these softer competencies may be increasing. However, for managers who may lack natural empathy, it could take them longer to learn. It will require a certain amount of conscious effort from the line manager to learn new behaviours. They must learn to understand that not everyone perceives the world around them like they do. Each member of staff is unique and different, so it is vital to be able to communicate more effectively.

Alternative Management Styles

At times, people are promoted into management roles because they’re good at their day job, but they’re not given any support or training in how to manage. One company has put in place a radically different ‘lattice’ management structure, where employees’ technical competency and emotional needs are separated and looked after by two different managers.

It has been found in the past, if you have people skills, intelligence, curiosity and integrity then potentially you will be a good manager. But what exactly does having good people skills mean? It can be fostering psychological safety among your teams, so employees feel they can be themselves and are comfortable raising any issues and share any difficulties they are having. The manager’s level of self-awareness is key, but also how they manage their own emotions and that they understand how their behaviour impacts on other people.

Organisational Culture and Senior Management

However, it’s not all down to the individual manager to ensure they’re up to the job. The nature of the organisation’s culture and its senior leaders attitudes toward employee engagement depend on the support they offer and the examples they set which have a significant impact. Middle managers’ relationships with their own bosses have a direct association with happiness levels and turnover rates among their teams.

Therefore, line Managers require the same support from their senior manager as they would be expected to give the team they manage. Senior leaders need to be role-modelling the right behaviour with the same coaching and mentoring expected of line managers. Otherwise, the line manager training is likely to fail.

Coaching and Mentoring

For coaching to work though, those being coached have to already have a certain level of competence and self-awareness. Unfortunately, it works most for people who need it the least, because the people that get better are the people who were good to begin with. Therefore, the people who really need coaching are in the main, uncoachable. In these situations, senior leaders and line managers alike need to be having those difficult conversations with their team members to explain their areas of weakness and discuss how changes can be made.

As well as support, obtaining feedback from the line managers’ own teams is important. This fosters good self-awareness, by understanding their own style, strengths, weaknesses and impact on other people. This can be the best indicator of manager performance. If you want to know how good your line managers are, listen to what your employees have to say. Therefore, Line managers who have the human touch and an ability to motivate and command respect from their team have a winning formula.

Contact Us

If you think you may need advice how to get better line managers then please call us on 01706 565332 or email

Metis HR is a professional HR Consultancy based in the North West of England supporting clients across the country. We specialise in providing outsourced HR services to small and medium-sized businesses. Call us now on 01706 565332 to discuss how we may help you.

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