Publicly available


70:20:10 and the Role of Managers in L&D: 70:20:10 Focus Series

This webinar (64:00 min) and written summary explores key roles and responsibilities of senior leaders and people managers (line leaders) in implementing 70:20:10 and enabling a culture of continuous learning. The session will be useful to those considering how they can best engage, enrol and equip leaders as part of the learning strategy.

The session drew on a number of 70:20:10 Forum and other resources you can use to explore further and assist in your approach. The primary resource referred to in the session was the publicly available 70:20:10 From Strategy to Action White Paper. Other resources referred to in the session are listed throughout the summary.

By adopting 70:20:10 organisations seek to achieve a range of cultural and performance outcomes. 70:20:10 Forum recognises three key roles and responsibilities for supporting the implementation of 70:20:10 and developing a workforce that is empowered to take responsibility for its learning and supported to learn continuously.

This session explores the roles of senior and line leaders specifically. Although it does not speak directly to the role of the learning function, the session explores the implications for L&D in enabling and enrolling leaders.


The Line Leader Role

The Manager Performance Model (see below) was used as a simple reference for the role of the line leader or people manager. The model shows that developing team members is a core responsibility of the line leader and has a direct impact on task execution.

The audience was asked to consider whether the responsibility for developing others was a clearly defined and tracked expectation in their organisation.

Adapted from Davenport, T.O. & Harding, S.O. 2010, ‘Manager Redefined’, Jossey-Bass

Practitioners with 70:20:10 Forum access can use the following toolkit to assist in conducting performance analysis on the line leader role in developing others. This post includes further information on the Manager Performance Model.

Line Leader Behaviour Success Cases

The audience was asked to share their views on good line leader practice – listing the key activities they see from the best leaders; those leaders who have the most effective teams. The audience responses fell into a number of themes and have been listed below:

1. What do the best leaders you know do to enable their teams to develop and perform?

Build Trust

  • authentic  strategic and respectful
  • spend time building trust
  • Enable visible responsibility
  • trust their team and delegate
  • Delegate with trust 
  • Let people use their strengths and bring it to the team to create something bigger than just individual performance

Develop their teams

  • shadow them on tasks
  • scaffold new tasks
  • coach/mentor
  • Allow employees to try, make mistakes and learn to improve performance and innovate
  • sincere interest in how can they help to develop
  • Spending time/effort, invest in helping each other
  • coaches, empowers and mentors team members to truly develop their capabilities
  • Give feedback
  • They allow to make mistakes
  • recommend most appropriate development activities
  • give people ownership for what they are doing
  • Encourage staff to extend beyond their perceived 'reach'
  • Mentor and coach their teams

Build relationships and networks

  • they are connectors
  • they actively create networks and relationships
  • they are visible in communities
  • best line leaders are in constant communication with senior management/directors to stay on strategy or move agilely with change required
  • communicate with people not at people
  • open and communicative
  • Open to new ideas
  • listen to team members
  • Enablers - Empower and allow for Democratisation
  • aim to collaborate and work in partnerships

Provide clarity and direction

  • Able to easily communicate the big picture
  • clarify expectations and provide adequate support to achieve them
  • They give clear direction
  • understand and communicate organisation goals clearly
  • Share the "Why" behind all the daily tasks and how they contribute to the business strategy
  • have clear vision and can articulate that and bring people along with them
  • focus on what's important

The audience were then asked to list the behaviours they see from leaders who do not have effective teams. The responses have been themed and listed below:

2. What behaviours are displayed by leaders who are not enabling their teams?

Self Interest

  • Hide their good employees so other departments don't "steal" them
  • Promote themselves rather than the team
  • Take credits for what the team has done
  • seem pre-occupied with own tasks and achievement
  • Minimizing your staff because you feel insecure around them. Leaders who are afraid to hire people that are smarter and better then themselves
  • turf protective
  • not confident in their own abilities- selfish
  • withhold information

Dictate the way

  • Micromanagement and unwillingness to delegate - they want to be seen as the achievers, not the team
  • Dictate not only what they want their employees to do, but also how
  • micromanaging
  • micro-managing and not following through on promises
  • Only manage on output
  • DO NOT Listen to their team
  • micro manage with objective to take up the deliverables as their own
  • Annual performance review that punishes behaviors & failures to meet KPIs that were never articulated or supported throughout the year

Do not value learning (lack of development mindset)

  • treat each of their team members the same
  • Not backing up your staff if they have made a mistake. They will never try again and so not learn!
  • ignoring completely, misunderstanding, it's all about training
  • relying on the formal training 10% share as the only level of training
  • don't develop their staff
  • Do not provide staff the ability to try, learn and develop from those experiences - good or bad
  • no time for their teams to try new things and take part in development activities
  • poor leaders don’t treat every individual's strengths as a worthwhile contribution to a team
  • blanket approach to development through work opportunities, i.e. not tailored to the individual
  • don't give their team room to make mistakes
  • don't ask for reflection on learning - so team just ends up 'doing'

Lack role clarity or capacity

  • Leaders that adopt the victim mentality, making excuses, as opposed to being a part of the solution
  • Not responsive, don't care
  • poor communicators
  • Given up
  • not taking responsibility
  • Not given any development. Stuck...
  • Unclear roles and objectives, not aligning team efforts and enabling the individuals working together
  • "But that's how it's always been done"
  • Pretend they understand what's going on and apply band-aid solutions
  • Stay at a very high level and don’t get involved and not understand the real challenges

Leader Behaviour – A Knowing versus Doing Gap

The audience confirmed that there were no surprises in the responses that were listed. Most leaders know what good leadership looks like. They know what good leaders do, but for a variety of reasons, there is a disconnect between what the line leader knows and does. The session posed some questions for the audience to consider in responding to the Knowing-Doing gap:

  • What are the blockers to line leaders developing and enabling their teams?
  • Do leaders need new skills to develop others or can they be supported to better apply current skills?
  • Will more leadership development programs fill the gap?
  • What motivational and environmental factors will support performance?
  • Is there an opportunity to demystify the development mindset and the role of line leaders in developing others? 

A Success Case approach can be useful in understanding good practice – that can then be replicated, and drivers of poor practice – that can then be removed or mitigated. Organisations need their line leaders to lead consistently, efficiently and effectively. We can no longer afford to rely on a few good leaders, doing what they have always done. 

The other question posed to the audience was whether every manager needs to be a coach? Does the language used by L&D to describe line leaders role as coaches work against them taking up their role, due to line leader perceptions of coaching and the role of a coach?

Key Leader Behaviours

If we summarise the key behaviours of leaders who are effective at developing their teams, we get a clear understanding of activities that define the line leader role. Effective leaders help workers to:

  • Solve problems (remove obstacles)
  • Make sense
  • Provide opportunities (experience, practice)
  • Clarify expectations
  • Confirm priorities
  • Improve performance through effective feedback

There are many ways above activities can be achieved, but the session explored the importance of a development mindset – every line leader must have a common view on the importance of enabling, supporting and developing their teams to perform and improve. Will leaders be more responsive to achieving the above than to the idea of developing others or being a coach?

Two case study examples were used to show how different organisations were supporting their line leaders to take up their role and perform consistently, efficiently and effectively.

The first was Lion, who have placed a strong emphasis on the importance of one-on-one discussions between line leaders and their reports. You can explore this case study further here:

The second was the Warehouse Group, who use development guides to support management development in the workplace. The approach makes the expectations of line leaders clear and supports them to perform their role. You can explore this case study further here:

Both of these case studies demonstrate the impact of line leaders on engagement and stakeholder expectations. The session also referred to research demonstrating the impact of line leader developing others:

People reporting to managers who are effective at developing their teams outperform their ineffective counterparts by around 25%

Breakdown of results:

  • Employee Retention (39.7%)
  • Employee Satisfaction (37.2%)
  • Organisational Commitment (29.4%)
  • Employee Adaptability (8.3%)

More recent research was also referred to, including: 

  • The Towers Watson 2014 Global Workforce Study. This study of over 32,000 employees across a range of industries in 26 markets, is part of a larger research initiative designed to capture employee and employer perspectives on the emerging trends and issues shaping the global workplace
  • Harvard Business review article, ‘Reinventing Performance Management’. This article explores the replacement of traditional 'performance appraisal' with an approach that genuinely enables, supports and recognises performance, including a strong focus on regular one-on-one meetings or check ins. 'These check-ins are not in addition to the work of a team leader; they are the work of a team leader'.

The below results from the Corporate Executive Board (@CEB_Challenger tweet accessed 30 March 2015) also demonstrate the impact of line leaders who are effective at developing their teams. This sales managers example shows significant impact on a range of performance outcomes:

The Senior Leader Role

The session then turned to the role of senior leaders in supporting strategy development and sponsoring strategy execution. Participants were asked:

  • Do you have a clear documented learning strategy that is shared across all parts of the organisation?
  • Is it used to ensure you are resourced and supported to do the right work?
  • Does it assign accountability and support decision making?

The point made was that L&D cannot implement 70:20:10 by itself. Organisations must own learning and business leaders at all levels must actively support the learning strategy if it is to be successfully implemented and outcomes achieved.

You can explore the displayed strategy model further, reflect on the status of your current strategy and download action plans to assist you in scoping your strategy here

Business-led governance and oversight of strategy was discussed as a means for supporting this in practice. Effective Governance:

  • Assigns Accountability
  • Aligns and Defines Priorities
  • Allocates Budget & Resources
  • Drives Actionable Decision-Making
  • Facilitates Transformation

Practitioners with 70:20:10 Forum access can explore the following governance case study and practical toolkit to support the development of a business-led governance approach. A further toolkit resource is designed to support the effective conduct of governance meetings.

Comments from recent 70:20:10 Forum Community of Practice events were shared with the audience. These demonstrated how organisations in different sectors and with different structures are working to develop effective business-led oversight and support for their strategies:

UK organisation - ‘We had a successful (first) steering group meeting following the sign off with the sponsor. We identified a number of actions the senior management team could instigate to embed the 70 and 20. We signed off on key metrics for the success of the programme’

Global Business Unit - ‘We have a senior representative from each function attend a monthly meeting to discuss and explore how they can facilitate and support learning in their area. We discuss the learning agenda to make sure we all agree it supports the business strategy and challenges made to any areas that might not support this. We also get their buy-in and support for the L&D spend’

A DNV case study example was also used to show how the team were engaging regional leadership teams (stakeholders) to align 70:20:10 with business unit, regional and organisational capability requirements and to support the adoption of development mindsets. You can explore this case study further here:


The final part of the session shared some of the considerations for the learning function in seeking to engage, enrol and equip leaders to support the learning strategy. This was not an exhaustive list, but aimed to highlight some of the key implications:

The learning function can guide, support and enable learning, but it cannot own learning or culture change. Support for the development and implementation of learning strategy is a key role for an organisation’s leaders.


Use the 70:20:10 Forum’s resources to explore further and to consider your own approach to engaging stakeholders and supporting leaders to bring your strategy to life.


Come back and share

  • Are the expectations of line leaders developing others clearly defined in your organisation? Are they tracked?
  • What success and worst cases can you draw upon to improve the consistency, efficiency and effectiveness of leaders?
  • Have a conversation with your team about your learning strategy:
  • Is it sponsored by the business, for the business?
  • Do you have a business-led governance approach, or is L&D self-governing (within a silo)?

What are your next steps?

Continue the conversation by sharing your ideas, experiences and questions with the community.

Copyright © 70:20:10 Forum 2016. We encourage you to share our freely accessibly Content, however we do not allow extraction, unauthorised use and/or duplication of this Content without express written permission from 70:20:10 Forum. See our terms and conditions


I viewed 70:20:10 and the role of Managers in L&D webinar on 2 December 2015.

This was another inspiring webinar that presents many ideas to build L&D solutions and refine what organisations are currently implementing. At North Coast TAFE, we are offering a “Line Manager Development Suite” of L&D sessions for building capability aligned to our organisation’s purpose and values. We’re focussing on Line Leaders for them to then role model our changing L&D approach and support the notion of development as part of everyday work.

I loved the notion of broadening our definition for developing their team member’s capability. Ie helping solve problems. This language makes sense to staff members as a major part of our work is to solve problems.

The diagram showing sustained advantage with Authenticity and trust as central and having the four areas of Task Executing, Developing Workers, Shared Inspiration and Energised Change was thought provoking. The last two areas of inspiration and change is paramount, but only recently being discussed and harder to gauge success for. We are currently developing measurements for professional development plan key accountabilities and action plans. I’ll now focus on measurable for these two areas as they are still “under the radar”.

Lion’s example of “quality conversations” with 1:1 discussions completely aligning with the organisational value proposition is impressive. It’s a great way of promoting how 1:1 benefits the staff member, Line Leader and the organisation. We are asking staff to have 1:1 conversations with staff as part of the performance development plan process, and have built Line Leader capability but we haven’t promoted 1:1 discussions throughout the organisation well. We are just beginning to use online courses and videos to support our Line Leaders to be able to have quality conversations with their staff.

In our L&D planning for 2016 we will continue to align our L&D for Line Managers to our charter, and to also include key alignment to key policies and procedures. After viewing this webinar, I’ll focus on removing barriers to break down the knowing/doing gap and re-emphasise the importance of trust as the key relationship for a good leader.

Hi Andrew,

I enjoyed listening to your webinar on the role of the manager.

Recently, IP Australia launched our inaugural L&D strategy which was supported by our senior executive.  Two of the six key operating principles included is about assigning accountability of the role of the manager: ‘Shared responsibility for learning and developing our people, including managers and leaders’ and ‘Senior leaders and managers champion learning and development and actively role model the embedding of learning in the workplace.’

In our design of key learning programs we ensure there is a focus on the role of the manager.  One example of this is designing in ‘Warm up’ sessions with both leaners and their supervisors to discuss what they can expect going through this learning journey and what it will look like back at the workplace, for both of them, and what each of their responsibilities are.


In addition to this, in high value programs, we attempt to seek a sponsor at the senior executive level , particularly for the leadership programs.  In other learning priority programs, we seek to allocate a champion that promotes this learning back at the workplace.  These people are purposely within the business segments. 

Another practical way we promote the role of the manager is in a template ‘Learning action plan’ for the business line, where it is articulated the need to for managers provide support before, during and after to learners.

Some challenges we experience is the tension for manages to meet performance requirements (targets) and resulting bonuses, so sometimes developing workers is put to the side as an afterthought.  For change to happen, a new focus needs to occur that balances these priorities.  Maybe a measure on leadership and developing others at the manager level.  Some of the best leaders here take their role seriously in developing others and appreciate that results are not just target based.  Another challenge we experience is the missing core capability of coaching and developing others simply due to people being promoted based on their technical knowledge.

Some leaders here get confused with ‘One on Ones’ and the ‘work in progress’ meetings.  Our line leaders are likely to use ‘one on ones’ as a check in on work progress. 

In one of our major competency based training programs, we designed a ‘workplace learning guide’ for both learners and coaches (managers) to help progress through learners the program.  There is prompts at intervals for coaches to ask questions to the learner depending on what stage of learning they are up to and suggestions of activities for ‘learning while working’  to practice on the job, and go to key people to help them solve problems and learn from.

When I think about line managers’ roles and responsibility roles in implementing 70:20:10 and enabling a culture of continuous learning, the words “we already have a lot of responsibility, this is just another thing to add to the long list of tasks we have to do” comes to mind.

I believe the reason for this thinking is two-fold, 1) line leaders don’t understand how to engage and equip staff, and 2) line leaders do have a lot of responsibility and some have been placed in the line leader position because they have good business savvy and not necessarily management capability.

The department has very specialised roles, some of which involve running Courthouses with many different responsibilities to the public.  The knowledge of the use of forms, processes and protocols is paramount and in the past some people were employed for their knowledge of how the Courthouse runs not necessarily focussing on management experience and capability.  Also there are line leaders that lead teams, where the roles are valued at a low level classification, due to agency structural limitations in the Courthouse. These line leaders have had very little experience and find they could be managing a team of up to 20 staff.

The department has recognised the need for our line leaders to upskill and have been running a Practical HR for Managers course to assist managers be effective in the workplace, help them to develop others and give guidance and support.  This program includes blended and experiential learning (70, 10).

The department provides line leaders guidance on mentoring and coaching and access to specialist HR coordinators available through the internet (20).

There are also external training programs available for public service capability (10) to ensure line leaders reach their full potential and there is a consistency of capabilities across the public service. Online resources are being reviewed to embed learning and coaching into the workflow ‘steps’ e.g. tips and tricks; that are sometimes complemented with online ‘e-briefings’ to provide context and support.

I liked the Warehouse Groups’ Development Guides and will be looking to provide to our line managers these kind of tools to help them develop others.  I also think that adding guides or check lists to our performance management tools to ensure experiential learning is recognised will go a long way to help managers have better one-on-one conversations with staff and help alleviate some of the workload they carry.