The 5 most important ways to improve the leadership competence of middle managers are:
- Develop their ability to interpret the meaning of events (give them opportunity to sharpen judgment and practice strategic thinking, give them tools to champion change and evaluate initiatives)
- Develop their ability to create alignment on objectives and strategies through all layers of the organization (teach them to drive results and foster open communication, and challenge them to improve systems/processes and tactics that facilitate communication and achievement of results)
- Increase their commitment and optimism (this will help them to build confidence to influence others and lead courageously)
- Build mutual trust and cooperation, strengthen collective identity (foster enthusiasm and teamwork as a management team)
- Develop their ability to organize and coordinate activities (improve systems and processes, manage execution, build relationships, stretch personal ability to adapt and develop)
The combination of LCI assessments and workshops provide invaluable support for managing change by:
- Giving individual managers insight into how their behaviors and attributes are relevant to the organization's mission and culture
- Providing a group setting that reinforce and demonstrate how learning from the assessments can be applied to both personal development and implementing the organization's goals
“Middle managers account for 22% of revenue variation, after controlling for other factors.” (Mollick, 2012)
Middle managers play a critical role in the organization, especially as implementers of change.
Middle managers are the "ears and eyes" of upper management because they are closer to day-to-day operations, customers and front-line employees. At the same time they are far away enough from the front lines to allow them to keep in mind the "big picture."
Middle managers also act as communicators for upper management, delivering information about organizational change initiatives and strategies to those in lower levels of the organization. The tone in which these messages are delivered can influence whether initiatives succeed or fail. Because messages can be colored by an individual's emotions about them, it's important that middle managers are trained to interpret the meaning of events and sharpen their judgment so they communicate in a way that ensures success.
Change can cause distress throughout the organization, which upper management may be too far removed from to address. Through their personal relationships with employees, middle managers can uncover resistance and barriers to implementing change, and provide employees with a "safe" environment so they can carry on with their everyday responsibilities.
Because most middle managers begin their careers as specialists and often rotate through a variety of jobs, they develop strong social networks. They understand how to communicate across functional areas and know who can get what done.
And because they are uniquely positioned to understand the consequences of change, middle managers act as pace-setters for implementing change, ensuring that there is a balance between change that happens so fast it upends the organization's structure, and change that happens so slowly that it has too little effect.
More information on the critical role of middle managers can be found in the following references.
M. du Preez. 2015. Integrating Affective Decision-Making Competence Into Leadership Development. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the International Personal Assessment Council, Atlanta, GA, July.
M. du Preez and E. Buccini. 2004. Strategies for Being Seen and Heard at the Executive Table. White paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Human Resource Management, Alexandria, VA, March.
M. du Preez and R. Noe. 2011. Coaching for Employee Development. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of Society of I O Professionals, Ohio State University,
L. Grensing-Pophal. 2000. "Getting a Seat at the Table"--What Does It Really Take? White paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Human Resource Management, Alexandria, VA, August.
Q. N. Huy. 2011. How Middle Managers' Group-focus Emotions and Social Identities Influence Strategy Implementation. Strategic Management Journal 32 (13): 1387-1410.
E. Mollick. 2012. People and Process, Suits and Innovators: The Role of Individuals in Firm Performance. Strategic Management Journal 33 (9): 1001-1015.
E. Ogbonna and B. Wilkinson. 2003. The False Promise of Organizational Culture Change: A Case Study of Milddle Managers in Grocery Retailing. Journal of Management Studies 40 (5): 1151-1178.
Society for Human Resource Management. 2006. The Essentials of Power, Influence, and Persuasion. Harvard Business School Press, Cambridge, MA.
S. J. Wells. 2003. From HR to the Top. HR Magazine, June.
G. Yukl. editor. 2012. Leadership in Organizations. New York: Prentice Hall.