The Importance of Middle Management

I cannot emphasize the importance of middle management enough. 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 balance the requirements from higher with the soldiers’ needs under my care.

Overall, middle managers make sure their subordinates are successful.

Provide Training and Resources

Your role changes when you get promoted. You go from doing the grunt work to managing resources and training. The best way you can help your organization is to find high-quality training to improve functions and reduce 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.

As a guideline on what training to provide, answer this question: what did you want to know, but no one told you how to do it? Explore the available options when you answer that question. Also, consider the needs of the team.

Reach across departments at work. Networking within your company enables you to build relationships with other people who can help you solve problems. Include building relationships with others who may not pertain to your line of work. You’ll be surprised at what you find.

Aside from training, resources are your second-most prized asset behind your personnel. What are your people missing from their jobs? Help your team find answers with their available resources.

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 in operations as my first Army 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. My network came in handy during my time in that job.

Your work circles become assets. The more you connect with people, the more you’ll leverage them in the future. Don’t forget; this goes both ways. Do small favors for people, and they’ll help you out. It’s part of the reciprocity rule described by Robert Cialdini in his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.

You’re in the people business as a middle manager. Treat others well, and they’ll support you, too.

One tip I use is to have phone rosters of people in your organization. If your organization does not have one, 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.

The Importance of Middle Management

Photo by Ono Kosuki

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. Blaber argues that the guy on the ground provides valuable information to complete any mission. I would have to agree with Blaber.

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 group’s success. 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 workers toil away. Instead, managers should be the hardest working individuals on the team.

We all need to ask, 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.

Conclusion

Middle managers are the most critical parts of leadership within an organization. Without middle management, workers will aimlessly wander and complete tasks that do not fulfill organizational goals.

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, ask for improvement. Use your network. Track important tasks that contribute to the organization. If you do these things, your team will appreciate you.

What do you think? What makes a middle manager successful? Thanks for reading!

Books Mentioned

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini.

The Mission, the Men, and Me by Pete Blaber. Read a review here.

Photo Credit

Featured Image: Photo by La Miko

Image 1: Photo by Sora Shimazaki

Image 2: Photo by Ono Kosuki

Image 3: Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

8 thoughts on “The Importance of Middle Management”

  1. Great content and very much on point. Your Listen To The Worker On The Ground is great and more employers should heed that.

    1. Robert says:

      Richard,
      I agree with that! I hope that middle managers know how important they are, and that their people are their most important asset. Thanks for your comment!
      Robert

  2. Imelda says:

    Thank you so much

    I completely agree with this article and oddly enough I do not think that companies really apply enough attention to their Middle Managers.

    I know when I was moving up in my managerial career I wanted to learn and network as much as possible because I always wanted to be in the right place at the right time for any promotion. I always looked after my teams and really got them involved through good strong leadership and development which is exactly what you mention in your article.

    I hope people read this and make the necessary changes to be better and have a better business. Middle Managers out there work hard to get to that next level and always look after those people around you.

    1. Robert says:

      Imelda,

      Thank you for sharing your experience as a middle manager. You’re right. It’s a tough position, and there are a lot of middle managers out there. With leadership, it starts with the individual. I appreciate your comment!

      Robert

  3. Richard Brennan says:

    Hi Robert

    I can certainly identify with what you say here and like you, I’m also from a military background and I reached middle management level (Sergeant) in the British Army. When I returned to civilian life I found the difference between the Leadership we learn in the military to be quite different from management practices in the corporate sector.

    You make a great point about getting to know your colleagues outside the workplace in order to have a better relationship with them inside. In the corporate World it’s not always so easy though, as a lot of people commute long distances between home and office nowadays. Again, that sort of thing was much easier in the military because you all live and work in the same place by and large.

    Middle Managers are certainly caught between a rock and a hard place, having to juggle the interests of their employer with the well being of their shop floor staff. It’s not an easy place to be, but it’s very rewarding when it can be made to work.

    They’re definitely the unsung heroes and heroines of the workplace!

    I don’t know if you’d agree with me here, but what I’ve found to be very bad for workplace relations – and often customer relations for that matter – is the relatively modern concept of taking kids in from college and putting them straight into management positions simply by virtue of their educational qualifications. 

    They’ve always done that in the military, but those kids always have experienced NCOs to hold their hands and tell them where they’re going wrong.

    Graduate ‘managers’ seem to be in ‘company mode’ only and are often incapable of making decisions without worrying about how it will affect their careers and are often only capable of adhering to and enforcing policies and procedures rather than doing the actual thinking that you’d assume their education would make them capable of.

    Experience, it seems, counts for little these days and can even be an obstacle if someone with experience gives a few ‘home truths’ to a graduate managers who think they know it all. That’s the big difference between ‘being qualified’ and ‘having qualifications’ that seems to be lost on those who make the decisions unfortunately.

    What are your thoughts on that?

    Middle Managers are the back bone of any workplace and companies who don’t value them are sowing the seeds of their own demise.

    1. Robert says:

      Richard,

      You raise a good point about graduate managers that walk into a managerial position fresh out of college. Experience does count, and it should be worth more. I think it raises a few questions about the company. Is the company willing to hire from outside to fill a managerial position? Maybe, this college graduate interned with the company and is now walking into management. 

      Like you said, the Army has done this for a while now. Having a strong NCO to mold the new LT is a good method for learning. Perhaps in corporate it’s different. I’ll caveat and say I don’t have corporate experience. I’ll make a comparison.

      Great college athletes don’t always make it in the pros. I think about football and basketball specifically. Similarly, not every 4.0 Harvard graduate will make it in the corporate world. I think it depends on the person. If the person is humble enough to listen to his team, then hopefully they’ll make it. If not, then good luck.

      I think our system relies too heavily on education at the expense of experience. Sure, most degrees require an internship, but how was that internship? Experience does matter in managerial positions, and I hope that companies develop from within to make good middle managers.

      Have you seen the majority of middle managers who just came out of college succeed or fail? I think it’s an interesting topic. Thank you for your question!

      Robert

  4. edahnewton1 says:

    Hey nice managerial article you have there, your thoughts are indeed invaluable. The importance of effective middle manager on workers productivity cannot be overemphasize. A middle manager that is empathy and always seeks the general welfare of its team members. When workers knew that they are cared for and loved by their boss, their morale will definitely increase and they will put in more effort to produce quality products and brings in idea of that can transform the company

    1. Robert says:

      You’re absolutely right! The attitude of the manager does affect the morale of the team. And if the middle manager is good, then the team will be productive. I appreciate your comment!

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