Middle Managers and Other Endangered Species

Middle managers are currently receiving more notice from a leadership/management standpoint. Their role in organizations is changing and many believe it’s becoming more important. Middle managers are like the bridge between the big bosses and the folks on the frontline. They have a real impact on how communication happens and how decisions are made. And with companies going for flatter structures and more flexibility, these middle managers need to be adaptable and have some serious leadership skills in their tool belt.

But it’s not just about being a bridge; they’re also like the glue that holds things together. They’re responsible for making sure employees are doing okay, encouraging new ideas, and keeping everyone connected — whether the team is working from home, in the office, or in a mix of both. They’re the unsung heroes behind the scenes, making sure the company’s culture is strong, people are working well, and the organization is operating as smoothly as possible.

Middle managers aren’t just cogs in the wheel; they’re the heartbeat of the organization, shaping how things run, boosting productivity, and making sure communication from and to leadership is effectively conveyed. Their role is evolving, and it’s becoming clear that they’re a key piece of the solution when it comes to making a company successful in today’s ever-changing business landscape.

What is a Middle Manager?

Middle managers are like the bridges between the executives and the folks on the frontline. Metaphors aside, middle managers play a critical role in translating the strategic decisions and objectives set by upper management into actionable plans and tasks for their team members. They manage the staff who act on the assigned tasks and then report progress to leadership, all while ensuring that the day-to-day operations of the organization run smoothly.

Middle Managers as People Developers

The pivotal role of middle managers in today’s organizations include a multitude of tasks that require a special skill set: managing people while also following the leaders who are steering the trajectory of the business. But sometimes they find themselves knee deep in the quagmire of bureaucracy. They don’t want to become or be perceived as micromanagers, but that can occasionally be what is required of them until team members are on board with the task at hand.

The significance of equipping teams with the essential skills needed for success should not be overlooked. Middle managers are responsible for such lessons, and the potential for middle managers to drive a culture of growth, mentorship, and empowerment is great. This could be considered a call to action for organizations to increase their investment in middle management development.

The Changing Landscape of Middle Management

Sometimes, the need for intentional development and support for middle managers remains unaddressed, as does the accountability of senior leaders in fostering middle management growth. Leaders may view middle managers as just good enough to get the job done, but not “good enough to promote.” Transitioning from daily task-oriented roles to overseeing team leadership responsibilities can incentivize middle managers in a way that encourages them to motivate their workers. Middle management positions can be designed in a way that gives people in those roles the best chance for success. For the level below them to advance as well, you also give them the ability to coach and mentor a variety of people. The better job a middle manager does, the greater the impact on both developing good frontline workers and attracting them to work for the organization in the first place.

Leaders’ Role in Supporting Middle Managers

Without leadership support, middle managers are more susceptible to burnout. It’s one of the biggest challenges they face because they often have to work long hours – often under a lot of pressure. This immense stress can lead to a profound weariness, which can impact their performance and their health – both mental and physical. How leaders can better support middle managers is something we’ll be detailing in future articles.

Middle managers sometimes struggle with how to successfully navigate their important position. Comment on LinkedIn about what it’ll take to work on keeping you taking care of business – even if you’re in the middle.

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