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Line Managers - are you responsible for change?

Calling all line managers – we have two questions for you:

1) What do you think your role is?

There are many day-to-day operational activities that a line manager undertakes, from one-to-one line management, prioritising and managing the workload of their team to working with their departmental peers to achieve common objectives in a strong performing environment. But how many would list ‘delivering change’ on their role profile? If they don’t they’re missing a vital element of their responsibilities.

2) When was the last time you had training? There are many roles that a line manager needs to undertake but have you ever been trained to do it? And if you have, how recently? As the dynamics of the workplace and the workforce continue to change it’s essential that line managers – often cited as an employee’s most trusted source of communication – have the skills needed to do their job effectively.

Line Managers are often called upon by change teams to support them through organisational change in a variety of ways. But when they’re busy delivering their day-to-day operational tasks and their ‘standard’ line manager duties they don’t often have the time and space to think about the responsibility of delivering change, let alone developing the right skills or knowledge to do it successfully.

We explore some of these activities to explain a line manager’s role in delivering change.

Positioning the change for your employees

Change can arise in several ways. It could be a restructure, the introduction of a new process or policy or the implementation of new technology or ways of working. It’s a line manager’s role to help employees understand why the change is important and any potential impact to their role. They’ll also need to help that employee get ready for the change which can often mean identifying the impacts of the change and pre-empting their reactions.

It’s also important to acknowledge that as a line manager you will need to accept the change even if you may not agree with it and as such will need to process any emotional reaction you may have to what is being implemented.

Help the change team manage change

Line managers are often the first port of call for change teams to help them understand any potential impact to implementation and to share feedback as the programme progresses.

They’ll need to know the answers to questions such as:

  • How will the change impact your team?

  • Will there be any resistance?

  • How are you getting your people ready for the change?

While some change can be positive, others can be disruptive or uncomfortable. It’s a line manager’s role to understand the sentiment within their team, identify any potential challenges (and opportunities) and to have a clear plan of action to communicate and listen to their teams and capture the feedback.

Communicating change

It can be difficult to communicate change to direct reports, particularly if you’re still working through the change yourself. Delivering an over-enthusiastic speech on why the change is ‘so great’ won’t be authentic if you’re not feeling it – your team will know. Conversely, while saying “I don’t know why they’re doing this either,” may be your true feeling but that won’t be beneficial to the organisation, nor will it help employees start the change journey or help them through it.

There’s a balance between holding the party line and being ‘too’ authentic.

Having difficult conversations

It’s important to frame the change in the right way and keep focused on why the change needs to happen. But not everyone may react positively, and you will need to be prepared for any behavioural changes by individuals. You may need to have a difficult performance management conversation with that team member, but it will help them to think about their behaviours when dealing with the change.

Prepare yourself for the change

Line managers have a dual-facing role – an operational day job and leaders of change. It’s a big ask. You need to ask yourselves how you’re going to lead, manage performance conversations and ensure your direct reports are prepared for and settle into the change while managing your own workload and wellbeing.

How Marlowe can help

We have years of experience helping organisations to think beyond traditional line management training. We can help them to understand culture, mindset and behaviours as well as provide the know-how, tools and techniques to manage performance through change, have difficult conversations and communicate effectively.

We offer a variety of approaches to help line managers take that next step. As well as individual coaching and mentoring we can offer group sessions for Line Managers to support a specific change programme or as ‘new to role’ training.

If you would like support on helping and developing your line managers why not contact us?


About Marlowe

At Marlowe we partner with you and your organisation to deliver large scale, complex transformation and change. We deliver business change solutions, change capability, assurance, training, leadership effectiveness and cultural change.

Our focus is on your people to ensure your change is delivered practically, successfully and sustainably.

Please contact us if you would like to know more about delivering exceptional business change.

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