Frontline employees enjoy a special status within a company. Since they are in direct contact with customers, they shoulder more responsibility than most other employees.

Chris Van Gorder, the CEO of Scripps Health, has experienced this personally. In 2000, Van Gorder took the lead of five hospitals, all of which were in debt. Van Gorder was responsible for ensuring that everything was going to change for the better. The hospitals have since built a $220 million cancer center. The CEO from San Diego has learned a lot and he reveals his top five tips for executives in his book “The Front-Line Leader.”

So what tips might other CEOs and management teams take to heart?

The Front-Line Leader: Building a High-Performance Organization from the Ground Up by Chris Van Gorder
The Front-Line Leader: Building a High-Performance Organization from the Ground Up by Chris Van Gorder (2014)

1. Communication with All Employees Is What Matters Most

Having a vision for one’s own corporate goals is one thing. But this vision has to be successfully communicated and made understandable to employees to assist frontline employees in implementing these goals. Even if employees might not approve of the decisions of their leadership, they can at least implement them more effectively if they understand the reasoning behind them. However, a good internal communication strategy alone are not sufficient.

Furthermore, management should be accessible and take the time to listen to the feedback as well as the needs of their employees. Van Gorder therefore even went on to respond to most emails by employees within less than an hour. This also served to show how valuable their input was to him.

2. Success through a Hands-On Mentality

Executives who are hiding in their office all day often lack the necessary understanding of the different roles and the division of labor within their company that would allow them to really make a difference. Van Gorder therefore recommends a hands-on mentality, in which the executive staff takes the time to experience the individual positions within the company in order to gain better insight into the daily work of its employees.

Herein, Van Gorder once again realized how much he could learn from just watching and monitoring the processes happening in the hospitals that had been entrusted to him. Throughout this process, he came up with some of his best ideas for positive, profitable change.

3. Passionate Leaders

According to Van Gorder, passion is one of the most important qualities that really makes for excellent leaders. They not only lead their employees, but they also love the industry which they are part of. That is what will result in the unconditional will to really make a difference and have an impact.

4. Frontline Management Is the Key to Success

The best CEOs know that the success of a company rests not only on their shoulders, but on that of every other leader who is supporting his or her subordinates so that all employees, including frontline managers and frontline employees, receive the resources and assistance required for the greatest possible business success.

5. Never Too Nice and Yet Humble

Although Van Gorder is in favor of open corporate communication and a corresponding mentality, each employee must still be held accountable. Executives should expect a lot from their employees and make them responsible for their actions. At the same time, one further aim is to provide employees with the tools that they need to be successful. After all, a true leader is humble and knows exactly that it is his or her duty to help others succeed in order for the entire business, including the leader himself, to ultimately benefit.

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