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Stuck in the Middle


Over-worked, under-rated and so often berated, is it any wonder that middle managers get over-looked in the development stakes? Mark Mercer, a training consultant at learning and development consultancy MaST International, suggests this hard-working backbone of UK plc deserves a bit more attention from the training and development team.

Middle managers play a central role in the core activities and success of any organisation. Often in their first managerial role, these are the individuals who must have experience, a sense of self-worth, savvy and skill to balance on these rungs.

Their roles require great resilience; answering to senior managers whilst maintaining a strong team. However, according to recent research, middle managers are also the most likely to have their development needs overlooked, suffer from stress and work longer hours than anyone else in the organisation.

Employers who get it wrong risk underdeveloped, disengaged middle managers doing massive damage to an organisation. Those who get it right however can expect engaged middle managers who can inspire, motivate, get the best results and ultimately sustain an organisation.

Actions for maximising middle manager potential need to focus on:

1. Engagement
Ensure that your middle managers fully grasp your organisation’s aims, strategy and agenda. Remember that they need to be your frontline advocates.

2. Role clarification
It is crucial that middle managers understand their role within an organisation in order to recognise how to optimise their performance.

3. Development needs
Middle manager learning needs are frequently overlooked in favour of senior management coaching initiatives and graduate training schemes. Look closely at the core skills needed to succeed as a middle manager such as leadership and influencing.

4. Mentoring
An effective way to combat the isolation middle managers can experience. Mentoring schemes can provide the adequate support that such individuals often require.

5. Goals
Goal and objective setting for middle managers should increase their motivation and ability to focus on the job in hand.

6. Stress
As a key symptom of middle management, stress can seriously affect an individual’s ability to effectively fulfil a role. Encouraging energy management, effective time management and smart delegation should reduce some of the most common causes associated with workplace stress.

7. Time management
Encourage middle managers to follow the 80:20 rule. Of the things you do during your day, only 20 percent really matter. Those 20 percent produce 80 percent of your results. Identify and focus on those things.

8. Prioritising and delegating effectively
As a central part of being a middle manager, it is crucial that individuals are equipped with the skills to manage projects and delegate to others effectively.

9. Internal mobility
Some middle managers may become disengaged from an organisation simply because they are disengaged from their role. If a valued individual’s skill set matches an alternative middle manager role, consider enabling them to move roles as a means to retaining their talent.

10. Work/Life balance
Middle managers are renowned for working the longest hours in an organisation. However, to maintain a healthy, happy middle manager, it is imperative to encourage life beyond work.

* Related article: £220bn Cost of Not Training Middle Managers.


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