The Impossible Path Of The Middle Manager
Tuesday, 5th July 2016
The path of the middle manager is never an easy one, positioned between the board and the workers, middle managers are often caught between a rock and a hard place. But, essential for just about everything from increasing productivity to raising engagement levels; we think they deserve better.
Octavious Black recently wrote for Management Today and said “In popular culture, the manager is either a beast or buffoon - what a choice. It isn’t much better in the real world of work, from the lofty altitude of the C-suite, middle managers are seen as the barrier between the CEO’s ingenious vision and its swift implementation by the noble worker. They are disparagingly referred to as permafrost or the sweetner, but only in the literal sense, a marzipan layer. In 25 years of advising CEOs, when I’ve asked what’s best about their company, I’ve been told many things. Indeed sometimes it’s hard to shut them up. But not one has ever said that the great thing about their company is ‘the quality of our managers’. There’s no respite at the other end of the corporate hierarchy. If you overhear someone saying ‘you’ll never guess what my boss did today?’ you can be pretty sure that the answer isn’t going to be entirely positive. Most people say they could do a better job than their manager, even if the passage of time would suggest otherwise.”
These attitudes and perceptions are surprising when you consider the middle manager is vital for the productivity of the businesses. When polled, 68% of managers wish they weren’t stuck in the middle.
The evidence is compelling; the company that supports and develops their managers gain the competitive advantage, and an increase in productivity. A truly supported, empowered manager holds the key to high employee engagement.
The fact is most businesses spend less on the development of their managers than they do on office furniture. The middle manager has been cast aside in the business no man’s land for far too long. It will be the wisest of leaders who will soon realise how much they need them rather the other way round.But how can that change be bought about?
Here some tips to get the most of your managers:
- Appreciate the role of manager and talk about how difficult it is to do even reasonably well, because it is.
- Distinguish between technical specialists who lack the skill and inclination to manage people from those who do - provide career paths for both. If managing people is a skill your business lacks; develop, promote or recruit for it.
- Provide continuous development as you would with any other skill. Keep on training for as long as they are managers, that will really make a difference.
- Get rid of process for process sake. You want managers’ time spent talking, not bogged down by bureaucracy. One of our clients has introduced a monthly, optional dial-in for all managers of people, instead of endless reams of emails that never get read.
- Instigate change, rather than top down or bottom up, start with and focus on the middle. One national bank has turned around customer service in branches by focusing on regional and branch managers. As for the directors, the key was to stop them getting in the way.
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Our programmes combine assessment, with a practical learning experience, together with the benefit from the variety of perspectives and knowledge gained from working with peers from a broad range of organisations.
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