Middle managers don’t get enough credit. They’re sandwiched between the requests of their teams and scolded by their superiors to produce more. It seems impossible.
Middle management is a critical part of the organization. It is a liaison between their teams and their bosses despite the conflict. They’re advocates, problem solvers, and peace-keepers if done correctly.
I have a soft spot for middle managers. As a platoon leader, my job fell between my platoon and company commander, and I needed to often balance the requirements from higher with the needs of the soldiers under my charge.
Middle managers make sure their subordinates are successful.
Provide training and resources
Your job as the line worker is over. Now, put that experience you had as a worker bee to assist your team. The best way you can help your organization is to find high-quality training to improve functions and to provide resource shortfalls.
You might think that as a middle manager that you’re unable to find time to train. But, it needs to be near the top of your to-do list. When you train your people, they feel fulfilled when they are well-trained. When you were working on the line, what did you want to know, but no one told you how to do it? Once you solve that question (many times over), then explore the available options. These answers become training opportunities for your teams.
Reach across departments at work. Who says you’re not allowed to talk to anyone else except for those within your section? Networking within your company enables you to build relationships with people who can help you solve problems. Go to the departments where you think don’t have anything to do with yours. You’ll be surprised at what you find out.
Aside from training, resources are your second-most prized asset behind your personnel. What are your people missing from their jobs? Help them find answers with their available resources. Middle managers have enough clout within their organizations to make requests and find ways to get what they need.
Providing ways for personal development through training and resources is the best gift you can give your team. They’ll appreciate the way you work for them.
Network, network, network
Remember all of those company parties you’ve been skipping? It’s time to start attending those. People are emotional by nature, which means that we want to put names to faces when conducting business. Company off-sites, get-togethers, lunches, and casual meetings are critical to networking.
You enable your team when you build a network. I worked operations for a military police battalion as my first job. I managed a small section of people who dealt with training and resourcing for our companies. I knew I needed to network to be an asset to the team. Your work circles become assets as far as you’re willing to put forth an effort. That happened because I made time to contact my social and work circles often. I felt more comfortable when I went to social gatherings as well because I had many people to contact.
For example, I had a sergeant in charge of law enforcement training. We needed to coordinate for a few civilian trainers to come and train our military police officers on a new weapons qualification. My sergeant would tell me what he needed, and I used my network to get it for him. It was a symbiotic relationship that helped facilitate the training. Overall, the training was successful because my network helped the team.
Ensure you have phone rosters of people in your organization. If you don’t have any made up, start small by writing down your frequently-called numbers. Afterward, write down others that come through emails, papers, or meetings. Maintain appropriate contact and gauge how you can help each other. Your most valuable skill to the team is the ability to network within a complex environment to enable your team to do their jobs.
Listen to the Worker on the Ground
I read a book called The Mission, the Men, and Me by Pete Blaber, who emphasized this point. He argues that the guy on the ground provides valuable information to complete any mission. Front-line workers experience issues their bosses don’t see or understand. However, these same line workers also get ignored because their grievances are perceived as complaints.
That’s where middle managers become effective. A good manager will listen to their team and prioritize the issues they’re having. The entire team is responsible for solving these issues, but the manager is critical to enabling the success of the group. It’ll depend on the training and resources the manager gets for the team.
There are things the team cannot do by themselves. That’s where the manager fills their role. Managers enable their organizations by hearing issues, collaborating with their teams for viable solutions, and providing resources to solve those problems.
The middle manager doesn’t have an ivory tower to sit in while the worker bees toil away. Instead, managers should place the team on their backs. Even though the team is doing the labor, the manager should advocate for their team.
The question we all need to ask is, how do I know what the issues are if I don’t talk to my team? Don’t hide out in your office. Be available. Be open. Take responsibility for the problems you have in your team.
Middle managers are the most critical parts of leadership within an organization. Without middle management, there is no direction for line workers, there is no direction given from above, and there is no production.
If you’re a middle manager, do your best to contribute to the success of your team. If you feel like your leadership is lacking, find ways around it. Use your network. Leverage your assets. Track things that are important rather than numbers. If you do these things, your team will appreciate you.
What do you think? What are the most critical things middle managers need to do? Thanks for reading!