Approaches to Developing Leadership Skills in Frontline Supervisors and Managers

Developing leadership skills in frontline supervisors and managers holds immense organizational possibilities and opportunities. Companies can easily create a more effective and engaged work environment by investing in developing leadership skills. This process includes training and opportunities for employees to reach beyond their current abilities to further their communication, decision-making, and problem-solving skills. Organizations that succeed in this area are more likely to cultivate a friendly and inclusive work culture for the entire organization.


Our Customer Service Peer Group meeting on August 10th discussed this topic in-depth, where participants heard field experts share their thoughts on this important topic. Participants learned how to explore the power of developing leadership skills in frontline supervisors for organizational success and enhanced team performance. The meeting was led by UWEBC’s Customer Service Practice Director Matthew Cone, with featured presentations from jIQ People Solutions, Northwestern Mutual, and Mason Companies.

Participants first heard from Jiquanda Nelson, CEO of Diversity Window. Jiquanda focused on diversity as a filter for development. She started her presentation by explaining how Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion have distinct differences and knowing these differences is essential. She noted that inclusion requires intentionality, which though important is ineffective unless tied to action. She then discussed five important aspects of inclusive leadership: critical thinking, collaboration, awareness, curiosity, and courage. It’s crucial each leader has and encourages each of these aspects to promote a more inclusive environment. Jiquanda then talked about self-awareness and how, by knowing your strengths, you can show up better. She emphasized that everyone is different, and it is vital to be more conscious of any biases you may have. Jiquanda finished her presentation by explaining how leaders are the heart of modeling DEI initiatives and creating a culture of belonging within an organization. In reality, some barriers exist, but we have the power to break them down. She noted that breaking these barriers requires intentionality, courage, and the willingness to learn and grow, not always to get it right.

Following Jiquanda’s presentation, participants heard from Jill Baake, Assistant Director of Coaching Enablement at Northwestern Mutual. Jill started her presentation by explaining that self-awareness and personal responsibility are the root of all growth and learning; both are essential to leadership. “Coaching is a noun and a verb, it is both who you are and what you do” Jill explained. At Northwestern Mutual, coaching is a thread that runs throughout an employee’s career from day one, and supports their growth to leadership. Jill layed out a three-part formula that Northwestern Mutual teaches coaches. First, positive preparation or as Jill says, “Get yourself right; get the relationship right.” Second is insights and self-discovery, or getting the relationship right using active listening, acknowledgement and powerful questions. Jill notes that relationships are the foundation of everything. The final part of their three-part coaching formula is a practice plan where they determine next steps, align on responsibilities and establish accountability. Northwestern Mutual has many programs aligned with coaching to help employees, at all levels, focus on self-awareness, continuous learning, and intentional progress. Jill closed her presentation with a video from a colleague who shared the personal impacts coaches have experienced. They have found that having these programs in place has helped empower employees to grow and build the skills necessary to develop themselves as leaders.

After Jill’s presentation, participants heard from Nicole Darby, Director of Customer Care at Mason Companies. She explained how leadership development needs to be a priority. It is a must for companies to make the time for it, and in her words and experience, it is an investment. Nicole talked about one of the best ways to establish employee connections is through team-building activities. Doing this is an excellent technique for setting trust, dropping corporate armor, and creating meaningful relationships. She then talked about how to take action in leadership development. Nicole stated that it is important to remove obstacles to ensure leaders have the tools to perform their jobs, expose frontline leaders to greater levels of leadership, and provide them with an opportunity to do bigger things. Nicole ended her presentation by stating, “Wouldn’t it be great if you could buy a leadership guide and it just worked.” However, she exclaimed that you have to put in the work. You have to believe in it. You have to take the time for it, and make the investment because the return is greater, and yields continuous rewards.

As an important staple in UWEBC sessions, meeting participants split into small groups to learn from each other by discussing the ideas they just heard about and how they could incorporate them into their organizations. They shared their key takeaways with the broader audience so everyone could benefit from these peer learning sessions. This discussion shed light on the power of enhancing leadership skills in supervisors and managers to improve team performance and organizational success. Ultimately, cultivating a space for employees to understand and develop leadership skills allows an organization to shine a light on unique perspectives, thoughts, and experiences, and will make that organization all the stronger for it.

Published September 6, 2023
Dylan Kopf, Marketing Student Assistant