Front line managers have a tremendous impact on the performance of companies. They often times find themselves in complex situations with high expectations placed upon them by company executives. Regardless of how a manager is chosen or promoted, their choices on how to spend their time will have the biggest impact on the performance of the staff that report to them. Let’s explore seven of the most important focus areas.

They know and care about their team.

We all know managers who are stretched thin because of increasing demands placed on them. Companies are asking them to do more with the same or less support. Even in this kind of working conditions it’s important for managers to know the people who work for them. They must take the time to understand each person on their team as an individual. What are their personal and professional goals and struggles? What things in their life are helping and hurting their performance? Retention is one of the most important skills of a good manager and when people feel like their boss doesn’t take time to get to know them, you can bet they are job shopping on the side.

They make strategic investments in their people.

We just discussed how little time managers have in some cases, so it’s important for them to be strategic when they spend time with their direct reports. Clearly, they have a responsibility to make sure people are doing their work and sales people are selling, but what else do they accomplish when they talk or meet with their team? It’s important to have a consistent agenda when you co-travel with sales people. What things are you looking for? How can you help? What kinds of deals and customers are you calling on together? So many times I hear from managers that they give instructions to their salespeople about setting up calls for their co-travel. When they arrive in town they find out 1 or 2 calls are set up. It’s frustrating for the manager, but they are there now so they go ahead with the day. It would be much more strategic to have a system in place where the manager could actually see what calls their salesperson has booked in advance. Then they could make the choice to keep their planned co-travel or rebook for a time that makes better sense for both of them.

They spend time building their teams.

The importance of team building cannot be over stated. It can be a very influential part of retention and professional growth and development. Great managers have a prescribed method and flow to their team building activities. They keep them professional and avoid situations that put their or their team member’s professional integrity at risk. It’s important to involve all members of the team in group meetings, by assigning tasks and sharing experiences. Even when they have bad news to share with their teams, great managers find a way to focus on the solution and path to success rather than what’s broken.

They find the right balance between helping and rescuing.

Sometimes it is faster to do things yourself, rather than coach or teach someone else. We all know this is true whether you are a manager or not. Unfortunately, many managers think they are helping their team out when they ride in on a white horse and save the day. They get praise from their employee, and the executives may be happy that things turned out successful. What did the manager potentially teach their direct report? Many things possibly, but we know they didn’t teach their direct report how to succeed on their own. The manager could have reinforced their employee’s lack of confidence. Make sure the management team is teaching and coaching as often as they can before they jump in and save the day.

They avoid the squeaky wheel syndrome.

Ah yes, the squeaky wheel gets all the grease, or time, focus, and attention. All three of these things are limited commodities for each manager. Some employees are very good at getting their bosses attention and recruiting their engagement. Other team members are getting attention because of professional missteps or lack of performance. All of which are important for a great manager to focus on and address. All of this is carried out within a paradigm of too much to do and not enough time to get it all done, right? Then what happens to the great sales people or employees that keep their heads down and get their work done? All too often they get very little attention and focus, which makes them vulnerable for poaching by recruiters. How you work with these hard workers needs to look different than other staff, but your top performers need your time and focus.

They are always hunting for new talent.

Whether a sales person quits or is fired, an open territory is guaranteed to bring down your team’s performance over all. Putting in the energy to retain the best team members is one part of the solution, which we’ve discussed already. Working on filling an open position must start well in advance of even having one. Great mangers are always looking for good talent and trying to build their team by upgrading the roster as often as they can. It’s important to have several channels already established before an open territory needs to be filled. This way, managers can make strategic choices to fill the position rather than scramble and rush, or worse yet wait for months and months for the right person to come along.

They keep their own skills sharp.

In a world where they are stretched and stressed most days, today’s managers rarely have the time or energy to focus on themselves. It’s important nonetheless, and more and more companies are starting to understand this. Great managers need to build their own skills and establish good professional habits. This includes product and services training, selling skills, management skills, interpersonal communication skills, and legal and human resource awareness. These areas are just the tip of the iceberg, and great managers make their own personal and professional development a priority.