Text bubbles with 'Q' and 'A' in them. Q: Who are the people in your company who make the biggest difference between success and failure?

A: Your first-line supervisors!

Surprised?  You shouldn’t be.

Far too often this level of your company is completely overlooked when it comes to driving and sustaining sales, and therefore, is an important concept for effective leaders to embrace.

Unfortunately it is one that rarely receives any dialog on the agenda of executive teams.

Why is this?

Perhaps because an organization’s first level of supervision is right under their noses so to speak.

Much like common everyday things we encounter in life – say a light switch for example – we know they are there, but we really don’t “see them.”

In addition, the “leadership press” doesn’t focus much on this level of the leadership tree – I guess it’s not sexy enough.

After all, there is more interest and money on topics and development workshops they can run that have the word “Strategic” in them, not the word “Supervisory”.

But, if you’re interested in creating a thriving and sustainable business, you better start paying attention to this first level of interaction that is directly responsible for the happiness of your customers and thus, your bottom line!

Time to Re-Frame:

Who Are Your Organization’s Most Important Assets?

Hint:  It’s not who you think!

One of the key reasons first line supervision falls off the radar screen for most executive agendas is because they simply need to be reminded from time to time the correct answer to the following question:

Let’s see if you get it right.

“Who are your organization’s most valuable and important assets?”

If you said it’s your people, congratulations,you are incorrect!!

The correct answer is this:

The most valuable and important asset of any organizations is its Customers!

Think about that for a second.

Without customers you do not have a business!!  It’s that plain and simple.

So what then are your employees?

Answer: They are the organization’s  “Assets Managers”.

They are entrusted with the responsibility to service your most important and valuable assets – your customers!

The Link to Strategic Advantage – Financially It’s Very Direct!

Years and years of academic and workplace research (too numerous to list here) point time after time that:

Chalkboard with "I Quit" written on it.

The #1 Cause of employee dissatisfaction (read it now as Asset Manager dissatisfaction) is dependent on the quality of the 1st Line Supervisor.

Given this, it makes sense that those who supervise your “Assets Managers” are critically important.

Why? Because it clearly affects a firm’s financial performance to have highly satisfied Asset Managers.

Think this logic stream through for a second:

  • Highly satisfied Asset Managers treat your Customer (your most valuable & important assets) better
  • This makes the Customer highly satisfied as well.  They like your organization. They refer your organization to others. Your “Net Promoter Score” goes up!
  • More revenues flow in through referrals
  • Highly satisfied Customers pay their invoices quicker
  • The organization’s Accounts Receivable (Days outstanding) go down and this means…
  • Better use of assets resulting in improved EBIT/EBITDA/ROCA etc. leading to…
  • Outperforming the competition!

Simple and strategically powerful concept, right?

When laid out like this, one would think it a “no brainer” but apparently very few executive leaders consider this perspective.

The good news is that when they are exposed to this concept from this “top down” level, they are quick to re-frame and embrace this powerful and strategic mindset.

Strategic Questions to Ensure Strategic Advantage

Given this reframed strategic viewpoint, here are some key questions about your First Line Supervisors to ensure your firm’s strategic advantage:

  • Who gets these jobs in your organization?  What’s the criteria for selection/promotion?
  • What are their biggest training & development needs?  What do they need to better supervise your “Asset Managers?
  • How satisfied are they?  How engaged are they?  How do you know?
  • What do you know about them? What’s on their minds as it relates to your business, services/products, competitors vendors/suppliers, and their own careers?
  • When was the last time you had a dialog with them?  When will you have your next one?

Knowing the answers to these questions is critical because executive teams that do have a clear strategic advantage over those that do not.


In our experience having assessed hundreds of First-Line Supervisors for selection/promotion and in providing leadership coaching, here are the top four competencies that most often contribute to effective performance at this level:

Flow chart with "planning" written in the middle.

  • Planning And Organizing: Effectively organizes and plans work by defining objectives and anticipating needs and priorities.
  • Managing Others: Directs and leads others to accomplish organizational goals and objectives.
  • Motivates Others: Inspires others to perform well by actively conveying enthusiasm and a passion for meeting the needs of the Customer
  • Coaches And Develops Others: Advises, assists, mentors and provides feedback to others to encourage and inspire the development of work-related competencies and long-term professional growth.

For more information on competencies and how your organization can hire and retain the best talent to reflect your most vital competencies like the ones mentioned above, please click here and watch a short video that explains these concepts in more detail.

image of Q and A: EricFortuneart.blogspot.com
image of flowchart: Flowtown.com
image of text on chalkboard: snagajob.com