There’s a hidden gem in your organization. This person is working right there among your workforce and having a huge impact on your organization’s success. No, it’s not the owner or a top exec — who’s more than likely pretty high-profile in your local market and industry. And, no, we’re not necessarily referring to that hotshot salesperson who “makes it rain.”
The diamond in your midst is none other than your middle manager. That’s right; he or she is the shining hero whom you may inadvertently be undervaluing or simply not recognizing or developing adequately. Unless you keep your middle manager polished and bright through ongoing leadership development, this precious jewel will remain hidden and dulled. He or she may even slip from your grasp.
Indeed, middle managers are fast becoming a key cog in our national economy. According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report released just a couple of years ago, there were about 10.8 million middle managers working in the United States. In a 2013 Wall Street Journal article, middle managers were described as making up “a growing share of the U.S. workforce.”
But this burgeoning population of professionals also faces great challenges. In the current era of “rock star” CEOs, middle managers are often ignored, viewed as easily replaceable or, in worst cases, left to take the blame when upper management’s strategic initiatives fail. And the increased use of specialized project teams has only exacerbated the tendency in many organizations to undervalue their middle managers.
The good news for your organization is that these issues create an opportunity. If you can change your view of middle managers, recognize the contributions of yours and then maximize the value of this underrecognized human asset, you’ll gain a competitive advantage.
For example, according to the 2013 Gallup study State of the American Workplace: Employee Engagement Insights for U.S. Business Leaders, organizations with a 9:1 ratio of engaged employees to disengaged employees reported 147% higher earnings per share than their competition during the study period.
Middle managers have a significant effect on employee turnover as well. In a recent Accenture study, 31% of respondents cited “They don’t like their boss” as their reason for quitting. Another 31% pointed to “a lack of empowerment.” Middle managers have a direct and lasting impact on both of these attitudes.
Research released in May 2014 by Bersin by Deloitte, an HR consultancy, found that leadership development spending rose by 14% in 2013 to an estimated $15.5 billion. Small businesses were, believe it or not, the biggest spenders — investing 23% more in leadership development during 2013 than they did during 2012. And the amount invested on average for middle managers was only $3,900 per person.
Priorities for organizations devoting time and money to leadership development include improving middle managers’ communication skills, of course, as well as enhancing their ability to identify and manage talent. But some of the major focuses of today’s leadership development programs may surprise you.
For instance, a survey of 800 global executives and senior talent development professionals by Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning found that 80% of respondents were targeting “change management capabilities” while developing their middle managers. Moreover, 77% of respondents were working to instill “a leadership mindset” in their middle managers.
One last question for you: What does your organization need to do right now to develop its middle-management leadership? Today’s top performers are already doing it, so you don’t want to get left behind.
We can help. Our LEAP® program was specifically designed to bring Fortune 100 leadership development to small to midsize organizations in an affordable package. LEAP identifies key areas for personal leadership improvement in both middle and upper-level managers — using professional assessment tools, individual coaching, real-world application and small peer-based learning groups.
LEAP® is a practical, fact-based, results-driven program designed for immediate practical application in your organization. We have cohort groups starting throughout the year. Now is the time to find your gems and really polish them so your organization will shine brighter than its competitors. To learn more visit http://www.leadership-acceleration.com/ or join us for an upcoming webinar (register at http://bit.ly/LEAPWebinar)
LEAP for Coaches & Consultants
Are you a coach or consultant who is looking to add a new level of service for your clients? We are actively looking for affiliates to help us expand the reach of the LEAP program. Learn more about what it means to add LEAP to your coaching toolkit.
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.