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Andrew Arkley|February 9, 2024

How To Be A Good Line Manager: Our Guide

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There’s an art to it, so in this detailed guide we’ll explore how to be a good line manager at work.

Line management can be very rewarding in several ways. By demonstrating that you can manage line reports and help them develop at the company, you boost your own career prospects too.

It’s a great way of proving your people management skills. It’s also rewarding to see staff you manage improve their performance over time under your guidance.

Line managers wear several of the 6 thinking hats – mixing practical expertise with interpersonal skills and leadership qualities.

Shortly we’ll dive into how to be a good line manager. But first things first, what is a line manager exactly?

Line manager definition

A line manager is the career supervisor of one or more employees, responsible for their performance, motivation and progression.

They can act as a bridge between employees and upper management, helping to translate company strategy into tactical tasks for their team.

They often play an important role by:

  • Setting goals, providing feedback and coaching individuals
  • Creating a positive work environment and developing team spirit
  • Keeping employees informed, listening to their concerns and communicating expectations clearly
  • Finding the right talent and integrating them into the team

The role of a line manager is essential for optimising team performance, helping to create a positive work environment and achieving company objectives.

It’s common to have a weekly or monthly check-in between managers and their line reports to check how their work is going.

Often, line managers also conduct employee performance reviews and make the case for promotions or pay rises.

There may also be some minor administrative tasks, such as approving their requests for annual leave or time off in lieu (TOIL).

Line manager responsibilities

Common line management duties can include:

  1. Performance management: Setting goals, performance tracking, providing 360 feedback performance reviews and implementing development plans
  2. Motivation: Recognizing achievements and encouraging professional growth as part of a positive work environment
  3. Mediating disputes: Addressing misunderstandings, ensuring conflict resolution and ensuring fair treatment for their team members
  4. Coaching and mentoring: Providing guidance and support to help staff reach their full potential
  5. Disciplinary action: Addressing performance issues and any employee misconduct according to company policy
  6. Planning and goal setting: Defining team objectives, aligning them with company goals
  7. Clear and consistent communication: Providing regular updates, transparently explaining decisions and actively listening to staff concerns
  8. Work allocation and delegation: Assigning tasks based on skills and capacity, then empowering team members to take ownership of them
  9. Onboarding: Recruiting and interviewing potential candidates, then guiding them through their early experiences in the company

However, day-to-day line management responsibilities vary by company.

Line manager skills

Line management is a great opportunity to demonstrate your soft skills. Common line management skills include:

  • Interpersonal skills
  • Communication skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Coaching and mentoring
  • Analytical skills
  • Time management skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Conflict resolution skills
  • Empathy and EQ
  • Compliance awareness

What makes a good line manager?

Knowing how to be a good line manager is, to some extent, a subjective exercise. Bear in mind that different employees may respond better to a certain style than others.

As an overall approach, we recommend leading by example. Act in a way that matches your expectations for the wider team.

Be approachable and open-minded. Try to create a comfortable environment where team members feel comfortable coming to you with their questions, concerns and ideas.

And be willing to adjust your approach based on the needs of your team and the situation. In other words, be flexible and adaptable.

Focus on continuous improvement, not just in terms of your team but also for your performance as a line manager.

Aim to motivate, problem-solve and communicate effectively and it’s likely you’ll be ready to thrive in most situations as a line manager:

Motivation and Engagement

  • Set clear and achievable goals: Work with your line reports to define objectives that are challenging but attainable – in other words, SMART – break down large goals into smaller, manageable steps
  • Recognise and appreciate achievements: Celebrate successes, big and small – acknowledge their contributions publicly and offer sincere praise
  • Delegate tasks and empower your team: Assign work based on strengths and interests – give team members ownership over projects and tasks
  • Offer opportunities for professional development: Encourage learning and personal growth by providing training, mentoring and access to resources

Problem-solving and Conflict Resolution

  • Identify and address issues: Be proactive and don’t wait for problems to escalate – also be open to feedback yourself
  • Focus on solutions, not blame: Work collaboratively to find mutually agreeable solutions that address the root cause of the problem
  • Be fair and impartial: Treat everyone involved in a conflict with respect and consideration

Communication

  • Talk to team members regularly: Have one-on-one meetings to discuss goals, progress and any concerns – actively listen and provide constructive feedback
  • Be transparent and clear in your communication: Explain decisions, changes and expectations clearly – give updates on projects and company developments
  • Encourage open dialogue: Create a safe space for team members to raise queries, share ideas and raise concerns
  • Be a good listener: Pay attention to both words and body language – ask follow-up questions and show genuine interest in what your team members have to say

In this spirit, it’s often a good idea to encourage line reports to try managing upwards. Just because you have more experience in the role or at the company than your line reports, doesn’t mean that they can’t give you feedback, instructions or deadlines when needed. 

Final thoughts: How to be a good line manager

We hope this guide has shed light on the role of a line manager. By embracing line management responsibilities, you can boost your career development as well as the progression opportunities of other employees.

Line management looks great on a CV. Similar to managing a team, or projects, it shows employers that you have what it takes to lead staff and support employees to benefit the company.

We are CV writing experts and know how to make your line management experience stand out. So if you need help putting one together, don’t hesitate to get in touch with PurpleCV!

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