7 Line Management Skills Essential for Your Career

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The United Kingdom has over 10 million line managers, and the demand for the same keeps increasing.

While the UK has no shortage of line managers, only 2% of them are considered to have “excellent” line management skills by their HRs. At the same time, 73% doubt their line manager’s capability to take the organisation forward.

This highlights how much the country currently requires highly skilled and capable line managers. In this blog, we’ll discuss the what and how of line management and the seven skills that every recruiter looks for.

TL;DR – 7 Line Management Skills

A line manager acts as an anchor between their team and the company. 

To ensure productivity in their company, here are the following seven skills they require: 

  1. Ability to recognise strengths and weaknesses
  2. Impeccable communication capabilities
  3. Extremely focused leadership
  4. Ability to treat people with empathy and care
  5. Highly approachable attitude 
  6. Mentorship and coaching 
  7. Keen organisational thinking

Developing these skills under the professional guidance of TSW Training can bolster your chances of success. Book a seat for our Management Skills 101 course and learn how to become a great line manager.

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What is a Line Manager?

Currently present in almost every industry, a line manager is an individual who oversees the work of a team of employees under them. They are responsible for their team’s performance and development. 

A line manager also acts as a point of contact between employees and upper management. They are considered a crucial part of the company as their work can greatly affect the company’s overall workflow. 

People Management states that, as per a study, employees are three times more engaged when supported by their managers. Gemma McCall, chief executive and founder of Culture Shift, added to this by stating that it is – 

“Important not to forget that line managers are in a unique position to listen to colleagues and implement real change for the whole team to benefit from.”

Before diving deep into the skills you require, let’s understand the key responsibilities of a line manager.

What are the Responsibilities of a Line Manager?

The primary responsibilities of a line manager are:

  • Managing a specific team of employees (the size may vary based on the company and industry)
  • Ensuring the team successfully meets its targets
  • Mentoring, coaching, training, and working towards the development of their juniors 
  • Managing the budget allocated for the team
  • Guiding junior employees through disciplinaries 
  • Leading team meetings and appraisals 
  • Conducting back-to-work interviews and managing holidays and leave approvals. 
  • Interviewing, hiring, and inducting new members into the team 
  • Reporting team and individual performances to the senior leaders 
  • Communicating and implementing business changes 

Apart from these, there might be other specific responsibilities depending on your industry or company.

While there is no shortage of managers in the UK, the CMI BMB GoodManagement Report found that 82% have become managers without proper training. These individuals are termed “accidental managers” and often lack confidence in their work due to a lack of quality leadership and management training.

Enrol in our accredited Management Skills 101 course at TSW Training and hone your skills as a line manager.

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Different Levels of Line Management

The number of line management levels can vary depending on the size of an organisation. However, primarily, there are three management levels between the several managerial positions in a company.

They are:

1. Top-Level

This level includes the managerial positions of the board of directors, CEO, and other managing directors. Individuals in this level of line management possess the ultimate authority and power. 

They must oversee their company’s procedures, policies, and goals. 

As someone from the top-level of line management, Richard Branson states –

Business isn’t about wearing suits or pleasing stockholders. It’s about being true to yourself and your ideas and focusing on the essentials.”

Hence, top-level managers cannot lose sight of their primary goal and ensure the business operates efficiently.

2. Mid-Level

According to CIPD, about 33% of all line managers are from the mid-level, also known as the executive level, which includes departmental and branch managers. 

They directly report to the top management and look over the functioning of their respective departments. These individuals ensure the goals and policies of the company are executed properly and send performance reports for the same. 

While there can be many layers of mid-level line managers, smaller companies usually tend to have only one. 

3. Low-Level

According to the same CIPD report, 40% of line managers hold low-level positions such as supervisor, operator, team leader, and lower. 

They are responsible for executing the day-to-day activities of their assigned team, ensuring proper coordination. Their work is monitored by HR and the mid-level manager.

These are the roles of managers from different levels. However, there is way too much between the “lines” that separates one line manager from the other. 

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What Makes a Great Line Manager?

As quoted by a mid-level manager from the UK’s public sector, 

“A good manager creates a culture where people feel autonomous, empowered, committed to the task, able to take risks, committed to each other and the team, and driven to deliver.“

In other words, they should:

  1. Know when and how to delegate their work 
  2. Avoid micromanaging and trust those they manage
  3. Always find ways to improve the skill set of the team
  4. Adequately praise and reward good performance

While these might seem nominal, many line managers struggle to implement them. This is because most have not received the adequate training required for their jobs. 

Hence, about 18% of the aforementioned “accidental managers” do not feel confident in their leadership abilities.

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7 Line Management Skills

To start your career as a line manager, you must have the following seven skills. 

1. Ability to Recognise Strengths and Weaknesses

No employees in the same field will have identical strengths and weaknesses. To ensure utmost efficiency, a line manager must allocate tasks to their employees that best utilise one’s abilities. 

While assessing an employee, do not just consider their technical skills and also factor in other factors such as:

  • Character strength
  • Foundational skills 
  • Relationship with co-workers 
  • Knowledge and understanding 

Aloting work as per one’s capabilities would also lead to you trusting your team more, resulting in less micromanagement. 

2. Impeccable Communication Capabilities

As a line manager, you play the role of a bridge between higher management and your team. Hence, you will often find yourself conveying feedback, difficult decisions, and praise from your reporting manager to the employees. 

Proper communication skills allow you to relay hard feedback without lowering your team’s morale. They will also ensure your team understands their tasks better, resulting in better team performance.

Strong communication also means hearing your team’s issues and motivating them with the right words.

3. Extremely Focused Leadership 

Leadership skills are a must for line managers operating at every level. From allocating regular tasks to resolving recurring queries, all are required to ensure your team is operating at its full potential. 

While you must listen to your employees, you cannot let their thoughts and inputs sway your decisions. You need to be assertive, professional, and fair when making any decision. 

It is best to acquire leadership skills before or right after you start working as a line manager. 

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4. Ability to Treat People with Empathy and Care

As a line manager, you will often receive personal requests from your employees. You need to handle them with the utmost professionalism and empathy. 

You need to identify such situations and prioritise the well-being of your team members within the bounds of professionalism. 

Your team members often might not express their issues to you. Instead of assuming everything is fine, you must create an environment where they feel safe to express themselves. 

5. Highly Approachable Attitude 

You are not a good line manager if your team feels uncomfortable approaching you. In a survey done by TUC in 2019, it was found that almost 1/3rd of employees do not feel comfortable approaching their line manager. 

While the numbers have improved over time, you need to work hard to ensure your team does not hesitate to come to you. 

Additionally, an approachable and friendly nature will help you build a good rapport with your team, which will, in turn, positively affect your work output.

Note that being approachable also means proactively working towards the development of your employees. 

6. Mentorship and Coaching 

A great way of connecting with your employees is to mentor them regularly. They would already look up to you as their leader, but you will gain their true respect by guiding them properly. 

Richard Branson once said, “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”

With regular mentoring and coaching sessions, you will build a strong bond with your team. Moreover, with proper coaching, you will help your employees reach their full potential and even climb the corporate ladder.

A logical approach to this would be to conduct a workplace training needs analysis. This will allow you to provide accurate training to your team and achieve your desired output.

7. Keen Organisational Thinking 

Organisational skills are extremely important for a manager. You must plan ahead of time to properly direct your team and guarantee ideal productivity.

You must know how to delegate and complete your work in due time. While being empathetic to one’s problems is necessary, you must be stern at certain times. As a line manager, you must make tough decisions and cannot make any mistakes.

Another aspect of organisational thinking is conducting regular review sessions, training plans, and reporting sessions. These keep the team in check while improving their hands-on skills.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are answers to some of the frequently asked questions from you. 

What are the Responsibilities of First-line Managers?

First-line managers, also known as low-level managers, have roles like supervisor, team leader, etc. Their primary responsibilities are assigning tasks and supervising the daily activities of non-management employees. 

As entry-level managers, they are often non-management employees newly promoted to a managerial role. Hence, you often find them doing the same tasks as their team.

Are Line Managers Different From Other Managers?

Yes, a line manager is responsible for managing, organising and liaising with employees. They directly affect an organisation’s output and focus on achieving its primary goals. 

On the contrary, other managers usually play a supporting role and often have several line managers reporting to them. 

Which Managerial Skillset is Particularly Important for First-line Managers?

With millions of line managers at work, the UK still lacks trained individuals who understand the depth of their work.

There is no rule of thumb regarding being a capable line manager. However, with the right skillset, you can create a strong foundation to begin your career.

Give your career a kickstart with our Management Skills 101 course at TSW Training, and become a confident line manager with all the skills required for the job.

Conclusion

With millions of line managers at work, the UK still lacks trained individuals who understand the depth of their work.

There is no rule of thumb regarding being a capable line manager. However, with the right skillset, you can create a strong foundation to begin your career.

Give your career a kickstart with our Management Skills 101 course at TSW Training, and become a confident line manager with all the skills required for the job.

Picture of Matthew Channell
Matthew Channell
Matthew is TSW Training’s Commercial Director. He writes about performance focussed learning, leadership, and management approaches that have real-world, sustainable impact.
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