"Understanding The Middle Manager: Convert Their Plight to Power" originally appeared on Forbes.com.
Middle managers are essentially the “hub” of everything your organization seeks to accomplish. It is the middle manager who must take the broad strategic initiatives handed down from the C-suite and execute these plans in real life. It is also the job of the middle manager to inform, interact with and inspire the employees in the departments under them. In other words, they’re handed the mission-critical task of keeping your workforce engaged.
This is a tremendous amount of potential for any organization and can drive positive or negative results. Often unrecognized for yielding such potential, mid-level managers face several challenges:
We see it in just about every industry: a graphic designer becomes an art director, a land surveyor becomes a project manager, an architect becomes a partner. In their entry role, they do a standout job and are quickly promoted up the ranks, eventually finding themselves in management roles where they are expected to delegate work, communicate across teams, bring in business, and coach and mentor others. They act as a bridge between top-level management and first-line employees.
Yet, they have no training or support on how to manage and lead others. They have their own portfolio of work to do in addition to managing people, managing budgets, planning and preparing for organizational performance. And, they are tasked with the very big job of moving organizational strategies forward, often without the tools or authority to do it.
According to Deloitte, “56% of surveyed executives report their companies are not ready to meet leadership needs.”
Companies that recognize the potential of high-performing individuals will try to service the needs of this mid-level by investing in “leadership training." However, not all leadership training is created equal, nor do all leadership programs provide results. Too often, we see organizations and teams invest merely to check a box versus making an investment in an employee that will result in a significant difference — for the individual and the organization.
For example, many leadership training programs consist of three to five days of formal training (or a series of online webinars). In this scenario, participants face a fire hose of information, then return to work with the expectation that they will implement the tools, skills and concepts. The company or department has checked the box on development training, but is the manager suddenly a leader? Are they more effective? Generally, the individual returns to their day-to-day charged up and ready to make a change, but when faced with their ever-growing list of to-dos, they are quickly absorbed back into the status quo.
Real learning cannot be one-size-fits-all. It requires time for personal planning, 1:1 coaching, skill building, feedback, application and accountability. Otherwise, the application of what is learned doesn’t materialize in the real-world environment.
Leadership development must be undertaken in the form of a journey rather than a quick-fix training approach. Longer term, integrated learning solutions may seem like a bigger investment in time and resources, but more time spent up front will accelerate learning and drive results. Integrated leadership development includes:
And, just as CEOs and executives find benefit in belonging to peer cohorts and forums, managers who participate in cohort-based learning solutions benefit from trusted peer relationships, collaborative problem-solving and being held accountable for making progress. Additionally, this type of longer-term, integrated development can be measurable; not only showing participants how they are growing and changing but showing companies how their investment is making a difference.
My company has been developing leaders through an integrated methodology since 2002, and we track the changes in leadership confidence and competence across a spectrum of 20 key indicators at three points in time throughout the development journey. Participants self-report on these measures of confidence and competence, and we can measure change from the start to finish of the leadership journey. The results are significant and range from 15% to 70% positive change on key indicators.
High-quality leadership development programs are powerful, not only because they create better leaders, but they improve company culture and performance of individuals and teams. Employees have more clarity and feel empowered and confident. And the C-level executives sponsoring their people during the leadership journey report major increases in innovation, better problem-solving, more effective leadership and closed gaps in succession.
POST WRITTEN BY
Founder of the Alliance for Leadership Acceleration and Member of the Forbes Coaches Council
In October, I had the opportunity to attend and speak at the 2019 NHRMA conference. The conference was well attended with 850+ attendees discussing how HR and business will need to adapt to the future. A future that is changing at a rapid pace!
My presentation, titled "Lost in the Middle: How Middle Managers Lead to Organizational Success", focused on how organizations achieve sustainable success when they build strong leadership bench strength. This requires selecting and preparing the best possible leaders for the future. If this is true, why are so few organizations investing in their middle managers?
We assume that after sending first-time managers to 'supervisor school' they have all the tools they need when they take the next step into middle-management. And there they languish, and so does your organization, because the leadership pipeline is blocked due to the lack of attention.
What does your organization's leadership bench strength look like? How will your organization focus on developing middle managers into leaders in 2020? Read my authored Forbes article titled "Understanding the Middle Manager: Convert Their Plight to Power" for more information on this topic or let's schedule a 30-minute conversation to discuss your 2020 plans!
Lynda Silsbee | Owner & Founder
The Alliance for Leadership Acceleration
Imagine the impact your mid-level managers could have if they could be more effective at leading change, executing strategy and motivating their team to be more productive. The LEAP®-Leadership Acceleration program combines world-class leadership and management development practices with highly skilled facilitators and coaches to transform your mid-level managers into leaders.
Interested in developing stronger and better leaders in your organization? We're happy to help you create a leadership plan specifically for your organization. Let's schedule a 30 minute 1:1 conversation to discuss your plans.
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It's very rewarding to see our clients on their journey to developing strong, confident leaders in their communities! Want to learn more? Register for a live informational webinar on December 11 or January 22 at 9am (PST) and find out how and why LEAP works and which track is right for you or your business. Questions? Let's book a 1:1 conversation.
Lynda Silsbee | Owner & Founder
The Alliance for Leadership Acceleration
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The LEAP Masters Forum brings the best practices from the monthly LEAP-Leadership Acceleration Program experience, combined with the best from monthly C-level forum groups like CEO Masters Forum and Vistage to offer an opportunity for exponential professional growth. Peer forums like CEO Masters Forum and Vistage have proven to be an invaluable tool for business leaders for over 60 years. The consistent benefits of peer forum participation are substantial in terms of professional effectiveness, personal growth and financial outcomes.
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Lynda Silsbee is Founder and President of the Alliance for Leadership Acceleration. She has spent more than 30 years creating and leading high performance teams. Along with the other LEAP Certified Coaches, she reports that helping managers make the LEAP to leader is one of the most fulfilling aspects of her work.