Do middle managers define your organization’s success? Your HR pro might think so. In fact, HR rates middle managers as the most critical level of management. 48% of HR executives rank mid-level managers as the role that needs to be the most up to speed, while only 25% rank senior-level managers as the most important. Why the emphasis on middle management?
“The increasing span of control, massive generational shift, globalization, changing technology, and new strategies to meet changing market dynamics mean there is enormous pressure on your middle. These leaders balance operational needs with a future focus on your business.” - DDIWorld (@DDIworld)
But do they? When middle-managers were asked if they focus on the day-to-day or long-term, they came up short on meeting long-term needs and reported focusing on the day-to-day. Things like being a negotiator, navigator, executor and a resource allocator were their top priorities, but all stem around the daily routine of middle management. So, what about being a change driver, an innovator, global thinker or talent advocate? Those roles cultivate long-term results; however, they also ranked in the bottom half for roles that middle management believes to take on.Only 10% of middle managers feel well-prepared for business challenges.
Can Your Middle Management Hack it?
Only 10% of middle managers feel well-prepared for the challenges your business is facing. That’s right. Only 1 in 10 middle managers are prepared to take on your business challenges. Not good. With 74% of middle managers ranking the ability to make decisions as the highest driver of engagement in their level of management, this may lead us to why 9 in 10 middle managers feel ill-prepared. With an emphasis on making effective decisions, and so many managers feeling inadequate, this needs to be addressed in organizations immediately.
“Organizations need to close the gap between the demands of executive leadership and the readiness of today’s middle managers to lead at the strategic level.” - DDIWorld (@DDIworld)
If organizations believe that 30% of their top executives have world-class leadership skills, but only 7% feel the same way about mid-level managers, then this is a serious skills gap in the organizational management chain. Especially since HR rated the readiness of middle-management as the most important.
What can you do to close this mid-level management skill gap?
A (Little) Less Delegating
The majority of middle managers (19%) stated their main role in the organization is to be a resource allocator, which is pretty much a fancy way of saying delegator. Yes, the art of delegation isn’t an easy one to come by, and many leaders who are on the edge of being micromanagers have a difficult time delegating. However, middle managers feel this is their key role. While delegating tasks, providing resources and allocating the workload is critical in operating a team efficiently and effectively; it’s doing nothing for the middle managers but developing their delegation skills.
A Lot More Developing
Driving change, being innovative, thinking strategically and developing the workforce needs to be top of mind for middle managers, yet these roles hit the lowest on the board. In fact, only 3% of middle managers view their role as a facilitator of talent advocation. Middle management has become transactional and operational which has left the development side of middle management up in the air. Leadership development programs for mid-level leaders impact organizational performance tremendously.
Sprinkle in Some Support
32% of middle managers report that their leaders (executive-level leaders) aren’t doing enough to further develop them as leaders. If this is happening in your organization, look for the reasons why. Is senior leadership overwhelmed? Threatened? Are mid-level managers failing to meet their deadlines? Once you’ve figured out the breakdown, work hard to fix it because...
With developmental needs not being met, performance management is also taking a hit. 49% of managers who were in the process of moving into mid-level roles reported that they received no assessments at all on their progress. So, here lies the problem: HALF of leaders are moving into new roles without any feedback whatsoever. Performance reviews aren’t just for your frontline employees. They aren’t just a meeting that management has with its subordinates, but they are something that needs to be developed across the organization’s board no matter what level an employee is at.
Middle managers need support, development and to delegate less. But to get them to the point where a company can continue to invest in these areas, it’s imperative they understand their current role and can meet the goals set before them. If you haven’t adjusted your managers’ job descriptions, performance review expectations or even laid out a goal plan for them, you are depriving your company of one of its most important pieces.
and Voila You Have a Top Middle Manager
While these may seem like difficult things to tackle all at once, these are important steps to take to strengthen your organization at one of its most crucial points. Middle management should be the perfect place to develop your organization’s future leaders and prevent brain drain. If instead, your company tasks managers with trivial line items and asset allocation, you run the risk of alienating them, just when they are beginning to create true value for the organization.
Andre is the CEO and co-founder of ClearCompany. Prior to ClearCompany, Andre was Global Managing Director at Thomson Reuters, where he ran a 1Bn global business across 90 countries. Prior to Thomson Reuters, Andre was responsible for product development and operations at CCBN, a company he helped grow from a small start-up to number 36 on the INC 500.