Three Key Insights for Frontline Managers 

group of business people talking around a table

By Steve King 

In the first season of Conversation with a Manager: Stories from the Frontline, we spoke with 10 managers who provided compelling stories highlighting factors that are key to success – for both new and experienced managers. 

Here are three key insights I learned over the course of season one. 

1. Go Find Mentors for Your Staff 

Managers are expected to be coaches for their team. But no manager has all the answers to every question a team member may pose. So, managers should be prepared to source mentors for their staff. Mentors provide unique perspectives and can expand a team member’s understanding of their role, their career, the organization, and a host of other things.  

In the spirit of “two heads are better than one,” Michele Kaiser, with John Deere, in episode one, recommends managers partner with mentors on behalf of their team members to accelerate team development and productivity.   

2. Ask Your Team for Help in Becoming a Better Manager 

In episode two, John Stefanik, VP of Bakery and Strategic Accounts, argues that new managers should come right out and ask for their team to help in their development as a manager. His logic was simple and straightforward. Managers are expected to play a role in the development of their staff. Managers will often ask team members to help other team members with their development. Why shouldn’t the manager expect the same in return?  

No new managers get it right from the start. Who better to give feedback to a new manager than those that work for them? Swallow any pride and ask for the help. 

3. Know the Work 

Ivy Mantua, with Grant Thornton, in episode eight, is a proponent of what she calls “gradual” development, which simply means parsing out work in a sequence that builds confidence. Most jobs are made up of tasks. Some tasks are easier to execute than others. Let a new team member ease into the job by mastering the easier tasks first, then layering in more difficult tasks over time.   

The key success factor? A manager’s deep understanding of the work that makes up the job. Only by knowing the ins and outs of the work can the manager evaluate the developmental sequence best suited for their team members.   

These kinds of insights and more are told in every episode of the podcast. You can listen to the entire season one of the Conversation with a Manager: Stories from the Frontline podcast on several podcast platforms including: 

If you are looking for more advice or training to help you as you transition into a managerial position or looking to brush up and advance your management skills, Manager Boot Camp is a week-long professional development program designed just for that.  

Individuals who attend Manager Boot Camp will gain a deeper understanding of their role, improve communication skills, learn effective feedback methods, improve conflict resolution, and build the skills needed to manage effectively during times of change.   

Enroll in Manager Boot Camp

Steve King is adjunct faculty for the Wisconsin School of Business Center for Professional & Executive Development. Prior to this role, Steve served as the president and executive director of the Center for five years. Formerly, Steve was chief learning officer and vice president of talent management for Baxter. Prior to this position, Steve was the senior vice president of human resources at Hewitt Associates for seven years, with responsibility for all aspects of human resources for the international consulting and outsourcing firm, and he was Hewitt’s chief learning officer for three years. Steve has an M.A. from the University of Wisconsin and a B.A. from the University of Iowa, both in economics.