Help your line managers build successful teams

Help your line managers build successful teams

Managers who feel ownership of their area of the business will take initiative to make things happen

In a rapidly changing world, line managers are critical to workforce upskilling and reskilling. But they may need upskilling and reskilling themselves.

Line managers have always been essential in building their teams’ skills. Improving how effectively they contribute to this should be on every organisation’s radar amid the uncertainty and change we all face now.

Recruitment and development have always been sensitive, given the costs to hire and train an employee. Not adjusting for the new reality is not an option. Maintaining ineffective practices that do not fit the new hybrid world will harm a business.

In my own company during the pandemic, I noticed something interesting. The speed and effectiveness of reskilling at speed were often (not always) influenced by how well line managers supported them. Even when staff was given the freedom to explore and develop the skills they needed to succeed, line managers’ ability to contextualise those skills and help their people to make sense of their application was noticeable. Doing this was challenging when meetings and interactions were almost entirely online.

I believe there is a business case that cannot be ignored, now more than ever. Focusing line managers to spend more time cultivating the talented people they lead to develop the capabilities the organisation needs is essential.

Line managers’ efforts need to complement rather than replace the self-directed learning required by all. Getting new people quickly up to speed is a pivotal factor for Best-in-Class organisations. Line manager support in the first few months of a new person’s experience of the organisation is also critical to their retention, performance and long-term success.

A line manager who feels ownership for their area of the business is a critical ingredient. A line manager who believes it is their accountability to make things happen will approach the future with a genuinely entrepreneurial mindset.

These line managers will see that their success depends on their team’s ability to better contribute and transform. They will put their efforts into building people up. They will help them move beyond the old playbook and flex to make things happen. They will understand their people as individuals. They will use this understanding to help identify the capabilities their people need and show them how to develop them quickly. They will introduce the advisers, coaches and resources available, and not wait for HR.

However, switching up in today’s high-pressure conditions is not easy for line managers. Given all the changes we have been facing, I would recommend they cultivate a Beginner’s Mindset. They should accept that now they have a lot of new things to learn and apply. Team members and new staff with large development gaps may need to be micro-managed more than ever before in the virtual environment.

The line manager may need to commit to providing constant coaching, direction, advice and checking to understand. They may need to more than ever focus on team performance rather than individual performance. The thought of lots of one-on-one coaching, monitoring and feedback, and heart-to-heart conversations may not be pleasant for line managers who have traditionally taken a more hands-off approach. But the organisation’s need to rapidly develop new capabilities is more important.

I have talked about the importance of line managers before. We must remember that lots of staff (even new hires) are drained and disheartened at present. They have been through nearly two years of change and turmoil, and some may have lost their way. The challenge has been long and grinding, and line managers can rally staff around building the capabilities for the future if they can provide them with a sense of purpose, a sense of working together and contributing to shared goals. They must shift from only putting their people under pressure to produce, and instead support them to achieve and become more.

Where can a line manager start if they seriously want to contribute to improving the capabilities of their people and team? And how can HR and leadership help them?

Line managers need to take ownership and know their people. Understand their profile, style and current capabilities. Know what they bring and need and commit to developing them, focus conversations on their growth more than ever before.

HR may need to provide the managers with additional support and training. Doing this is especially important when recruiting and onboarding new staff. They may need to help managers ease into these new demands and show them how to create collaborative development partnerships with their team members.

Leaders may need to contribute clear development goals and expectations. Tell line managers what needs to be done to improve performance. They may need to remind line managers they are a valued member of the community and support them in any areas they might be struggling with.

Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC — Southeast Asia’s Lifelong Learning Center. She can be reached by email at or Talk to us about how SEAC can help your business during times of uncertainty at

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