Middle management can be a thankless and frustrating position. It is almost similar to the game of “Monkey-in-the-Middle”. Being successful at it is a lost cause and they are the ones responsible for the productivity and success of the junior level employees. In other words, they are the shepherds that work day in and day out to rear your sheep and cattle.
In a survey of 15,725 employees by a leadership development consultancy, it was noted that the job satisfaction levels of such managers fall below 5%. So what can a senior manager do to help ensure that middle managers are satisfied, engaged, and performing at their best? Here are 3 ways you can adopt.
Give them a Bird’s Eye View of the Big Picture
Every employee in an organization has to understand your company's vision, mission, values, and goals, middle managers more so because they are the critical link that nails down those principles with the employees reporting to them. Furthermore, they should also be aware of how exactly do they fit into the company’s future, and hence they should be included in the loop from the beginning. Including them, especially if you let them sit in senior manager meetings, will help you with employee perspectives and customer insights. You can also provide them with talking points and content to incorporate in their presentations for their teams. Such a hands-on approach will increase their understanding of the business and confidence in their ability to communicate the big picture.
Make Continuous Investments in Onboarding and Developing Managers
Middle-managers are gold mines in terms of investment opportunities for the development of a future leader. Identify key competencies that are required for the future growth of the company. Then build a leadership development strategy that is aligned with those competencies. Plan them in three phases: Before they are promoted to a leadership role, during their first year after promotion, and then ongoing management and leadership training sessions.
Most organizations promote strong individuals into leadership positions without any prior preparation. The reason most individuals need to be groomed for a leadership role is that leadership is a skill that is either possessed or is developed. The fact that they excel in their fields does not directly translate into good leaders. Their grooming or training sessions will have to expose them to the ins and outs of management and the essential skills required.
Recognize their Achievements
Evaluate your employee recognition programs. See if you have formal ways to evaluate and appraise the performance of your managers in a way that identifies and encourages budding leadership talents. Celebrate small achievements and completion of training camps and make a huge deal out of presentation ceremonies. Highlight managers who display exceptional leadership qualities and find opportunities to reward based on the performance of their teams. For example, those with very low turnover or those who have consistent high-performance teams, or the highest engagement scores. Furthermore, consider letting the individual teams nominate their managers for awards.
Middle-managers are criminally under-rated while they have a very significant day-to-day impact on organization performance and talent retention. They should not be neglected and ignored or you risk losing them out to your competition who can recognize their significance appropriately and out-manoeuvre you. More robust approaches to developing and engaging them will offer great dividends to your organization