Middle managers. Salt of the earth. Engines for action. Guardians of delivery. Middle managers need love and attention if they are to do what needs to be done to make things happen. Coaching, nudging, counselling and direction.
The leadership deficit affects middle managers. Unsure of above they can’t shine for below. Looking sideways they find solace in colleagues so they often look like a gang, projecting a tribal confidence. Sometimes they struggle because they are over promoted. Sometimes they struggle because they are too talented but locked in. Sometimes they just long to get on with it. Deliver and excel. Glow.
So here’s some helpful wisdom and tips for the much-needed tribe of middle managers
1. Keep looking above you – understand your boss and their needs and challenges. If you fail they fail. Help them.
2. Keep learning. You must grow. It’s your duty to yourself, so keep learning and improving
3. Build space for yourself. Room to think and reflect. Space to resolve and perspective to get it right
4. Be self-aware and open. Ask for feedback. Every now and then only, or you will look needy rather than open. Be aware of how you behave, why and when and correct where you need to
5. Know yourself. What are your strengths? Do them every day. Don’t worry about your weaknesses except if you are doing a job that is your weakness. If so move.
6. Define success – Be clear on what success looks like. You, them, everybody.
7. Focus on next but never forget what’s gone – Have a view on whats next but also what’s past – goals and KPIs, a to do list yes but more important a rolling done list
8. Build your portfolio – Your marketing brochure for you, your personal brand and offer and evidence
9. Listen to your people – They are smart. Not always right but that’s irrelevant. Listen to facts, emotion, feelings, fears and hopes. Then act.
10. Focus everyone on the external – Heres the order to where you need to look – the world, the donor, the cause, the work, the organisation, the team. Everyone works better when they focus on what really matters
Rise up middle managers. Lead from the middle. More power than anyone – so use it wisely and for the right reasons.