What Is A Line Manager?

A line manager’s primary function is to ensure that their team operates efficiently.

A line manager has direct oversight over a small team and is the first layer of a company’s management structure.

Their responsibilities include all day-to-day management of their team and include task allocation and maintaining quality and safety standards.

Line managers also act as a conduit between the executives at the top of an organisation’s hierarchy and the front line workers. This is a key fundamental we cover in our line manager training.

They are responsible for implementing new procedures and policies within their team as required by more senior managers.

The Roles And Responsibilities Of Line Managers

The duties of a line manager will vary between businesses.

However, in general, a line manager’s responsibilities will include:

1. Planning and organising work

Line managers do a great deal of planning and work allocation.

A line manager allocates work to staff members and plans work rotas to ensure that all daily duties are covered.

This part of the role also involves organising workloads in order of priority to ensure that important matters are dealt with quickly and efficiently.

Planning and organising work is different if you have a remote team! Learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of remote teams here!

2. Communicating and implementing business strategies

Line managers are responsible for ensuring that their team rolls out directives from senior staff.

The role of line manager involves a lot of communication.

For all existing policies and any new policies that they are asked to implement, a line manager will need to explain to their team:

– What the company’s aims are (see management statistics here for more details).

– How this policy fits with those aims.

– What is expected of each person in their team to achieve those aims.

While the organisation’s business strategies will usually be dictated by senior management, line managers play a vital role in implementing those strategies practically in their team.

As a line manager, if you recognise that specific front-line processes won’t work for your team, it is your responsibility to feed this back to the senior management team.

At the same time, you should provide suggestions for an amendment to the proposed process that would be practical for your team to implement and therefore meet the aims of the new policy.

Good presentation skills can be useful for this task. Check out our article on this topic to learn more.

3. Overseeing performance

Line managers are responsible for monitoring and evaluating the performance of their team.

As a line manager, you will collect and analyse performance data. This data will allow you to ensure that targets are hit on an individual and team basis.

As part of this task, you will carry out regular performance reviews with your team. At these reviews, you can ensure that any issues are understood and rectified as quickly as possible.

A good line manager must be able to identify and resolve problems quickly. This may involve offering guidance to an underperforming worker, or in the case of unprofessional behaviour or consistent poor performance may require disciplinary measures.

Line managers also report their team performance to more senior managers. They need to learn how to use the reporting tools that their company uses in order to do pass this information on to the appropriate people.

4. Motivating staff

Line managers need to understand what makes each member of their team tick, as they are responsible for motivating their team.

Different personalities require different approaches to get the best out of them.

One staff member may need support and reassurance to build their confidence, while another may need telling that they should ask more questions when they aren’t sure of the way forward.

Everyone is different and requires a different approach in order to feel supported. These differences can be generated by all sorts of differences between people, from life experiences to the generation they grew up in.

A line manager also sets the standards for their team. They should be a role model and demonstrate the behaviours that they would like to see consistently.

5. Providing advice and guidance

Line managers act as guides and teachers for their teams.

They act as the first point of reference for their team members who need help and use their expertise and experience to guide their team.

If a line manager identifies a gap in one of their team members’ knowledge or skills, they will then be responsible for working with the team member to fix it.

This fix may involve an external training course or just some one-to-one coaching. Each solution will be bespoke to the situation.

6. Managing staff well-being and job satisfaction

Line managers are responsible for the well-being of their teams.

Managing the well-being of their team means that line managers need to monitor their team closely. A meaningful part of the role of line manager involves working with the human resources department.

If they identify that a team member is very stressed or unhappy, they will need to proactively speak to the team member and get to the bottom of the issue.

Once they fully understand the issue, they will then work to adjust the work and/or environment of that team member (often working in conjunction with the HR department) to improve the situation.

Conversely, if a team member feels unchallenged, a line manager will need to allocate them new and more complicated tasks to keep them engaged with their role.

Although this part of the role can appear nebulous, it is vital.

Studies have shown that productivity is linked to job satisfaction. By paying close attention to their team, a line manager can substantially improve its performance.


What Skills Does A Line Manager Need?

Line management requires a broad set of skills and abilities.

1. Leadership

Good line managers motivate and guide their teams.

They set the targets for their team and provide context for those targets. A good line manager will explain how meeting (and hopefully exceeding!) these targets will help their organisation meet its overall goals.

In addition, as leaders of their team, line managers need to demonstrate the behaviours that they want their team to exhibit, like diligence, integrity, and honesty.

A key aspect of leadership is motivation, master how to motivate your team here!

2. Communication

Line managers must be able to communicate clearly with their team.

They are responsible for ensuring that their team members understand what is expected of them.

To communicate effectively, a line manager will need to win the trust of their team. The ability to empathise and show compassion towards your team is essential for gaining their trust.

As the bridge between a company’s executives and front-line workers, a line manager must be good at communicating both up and down the chain of command and ‘translating’ issues into the language that people understand.

3. Organisation & Prioritisation

This responsibility means line managers have to juggle many tasks and responsibilities.

Good organisational skills are essential to ensure all of these tasks are allocated to the correct person and followed up on appropriately.

A good line manager understands how to prioritise work, placing time-sensitive tasks at the top of their to-do list without allowing less urgent tasks to become forgotten.

4. Delegation

Line managers are responsible for ensuring that their team completes all of its allocated tasks.

The role requires good delegation skills.

Line managers must ensure that workloads are clearly allocated and evenly spread. In addition, they know
when a team member is ready for the added responsibility of a new task.

5. Self-confidence

Underpinning all of the skills listed above is self-confidence.

An effective line manager must have confidence in their abilities, this often comes from previous experience of management.

Line managers must be able to make decisions and be proactive in addressing any issues they spot.


Where Are Line Managers Usually Recruited From?

Line managers are often hired from within the company.

It is usually a promotion for talented individuals in a front-line or supervisor role.

Strong performers in a team are often promoted to line manager of that team.

It ensures the position is filled by someone with direct experience of the team and the business and creates a clear career path for junior employees.

If you are interviewing for a line management position consider reading our articles on line management interview questions and on the process of applying for a line management role.

The Differences Between A Line Manager And A Staff Manager

A line manager’s primary responsibility is to monitor and maximise the performance of their team.

A staff manager’s primary responsibility is to provide technical assistance and guidance to line managers. They usually have a specialism, for example, HR or finance.

The critical difference between the two is how involved they are in front line delivery of key performance indicators.

Line managers are responsible for the delivery of key performance indicators. Creating a good environment is part of that role but only part of it.

A staff manager is responsible for creating a high-performance environment but without responsibility for the day-to-day delivery of that high performance.

Every company has a unique hierarchy. However, generally, staff managers are subordinate to line managers. A staff manager may offer advice and suggestions to team members, while a line manager usually has the final say on matters relating to team performance.

Whatever kind of manager you are, time management is key. Learn more about procrastination here!

The Differences Between A Line Manager And A Supervisor

The role of supervisor is often the first step on the management career ladder.

Supervisors are generally subordinate to line managers and only responsible for the performance of people they are physically working alongside.

A supervisor will generally be put in charge of a small team who are doing the same job as them at the same time. They will use their greater experience and expertise to help their colleagues work effectively.

Supervisors will usually report to their line manager and be responsible for some of the day-to-day responsibilities of a line manager, such as motivating employees, monitoring performance and offering advice and guidance.

A supervisor differs from a line manager in the level of responsibility they hold. You can learn more about the different levels of management here!

Usually, a supervisor will not be responsible for the team’s overall performance, nor will they be required to make significant decisions or proactively pursue new strategies.

Final Thoughts

Line management roles require you to manage a wide range of responsibilities every day to ensure that your team performs to a high standard.

Good line managers are the difference between a successful business and a failing business.

Becoming a line manager is a big step. It’s exciting, stretching and a little scary all at the same time, but it is one that all leaders have successfully made at one time or another.

Looking for more management tips? Read our guide to the differences of line managers vs mentors here!

Image Credits: fauxels  ,  Startup Stock Photos

About Ben Richardson

Ben is a director of Acuity Training which he has been running for over 10 years.

He is a Natural Sciences graduate from the University of Cambridge and a qualified accountant with the ICAEW.

He previously worked as a venture capitalist and banker and so had extensive experience with Excel from building financial models before moving to learn SQL, Microsoft Power BI and other technologies more recently.