The Strategic Middle: Empowering Middle Managers for Success

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Middle managers play a crucial and often overlooked role in any organisation. Often considered the linchpin between top-level executives and front-line employees, it is the middle managers who act as a bridge between the levels of ideation and implementation. In today’s fast-paced business environment, when agility and adaptability are essential ingredients for success, the role of middle management is more important than ever.

Research shows that 70% of change initiatives fail to meet their objectives due to employee resistance. This can happen due to several reasons – fear of the unknown, lack of trust in management, lack of awareness about the change initiative, unwillingness to take on additional responsibilities, and being comfortable with the status-quo. This resistance, if not properly addressed, can jeopardize the very foundation of organizational growth.

It is here that the role of the middle management becomes critical as they are the ones who are responsible for effectively executing the strategic initiatives of the upper management and ensuring it is smoothly integrated into the day-to-day functioning. Middle managers thus act as conduits, helping employees get aligned to the larger vision of the organization and feel engaged in everything they do.

Despite the pivotal role they play in organisational success, most middle managers are not adequately equipped to fulfil their roles successfully. A survey conducted by Grovo revealed that staggering 87% of middle managers express a desire for more comprehensive management training, highlighting a significant gap that needs urgent attention.

Based on our research and extensive experience, we have identified the following areas as crucial for the success of middle managers.

Emotional Intelligence

In the world of machine learning and AI, while technical training equips individuals with specialized skills and knowledge required to perform a particular role, training leaders on soft skills like emotional intelligence is being given increasing importance. In fact, Deloitte also reported that “soft skill-intensive occupations will account for two-thirds of all jobs by 2030” and that hiring employees with more soft skills could increase revenue by more than $90,000. Teaching middle managers the how to be aware of and regulate their own emotions and how to lead with empathy can lead to more collaborative working in their teams.

Delegation & Accountability

Delegating effectively involves getting to know your team members and understanding their areas of strength and weakness. It not only allows leaders to focus on more strategic tasks but empowers team members by providing them with an opportunity to develop their skills. To ensure effective delegation, leaders must also set up mechanisms to review the tasks done by their team members, thus creating a sense of ownership and accountability for themselves and their team members.

Inclusivity

Making the managers aware of inclusivity equips them with the ability to become more aware of their own unconscious biases, develop sensitivity to social inequities, create a culture of psychological safety and treat others with respect and dignity. A Deloitte study revealed that feelings of inclusions translated into a 17% increase in perceived team performance, a 20% increase in decision-making quality, and a 29% increase in team collaboration.

Developing Others

In an age in which “job-hopping” has become a norm, it is important for organisations to engage in strategic efforts to retain talent. One way of doing this is by providing existing employees with opportunities to grow and develop their skills. According to a study by Udemy, 46% of employees cited a lack of opportunity to learn new skills as the top culprit of workplace boredom and lack of engagement, which makes them twice as likely to leave a company. Equipping middle managers with the skills required to conduct effective performance conversations and coach their team members, reduces the risk of attrition.

Relationship Building & Communication

In this VUCA world, leadership training must be centred on people. This includes relationship-building, managing stakeholder expectations, communicating effectively, and influencing skills. Since middle managers act as the link between front-line workers and senior leaders, it is imperative for them to be able to strategically communicate and influence their stakeholders.

At InspireOne, we understand the critical role middle managers play in the success of any organization. Our Manager Development Program – IGNite Inspire, Guide, Nurture to unlock team potential – is designed to harness and enhance the capabilities of middle managers, ensuring they are well-equipped to navigate the challenges of their roles effectively. A result of more than 25 years of practical experience and research, our offering empowers middle managers to lead with emotional intelligence, foster a culture of inclusion and psychological safety, and adapt their leadership styles. It further equips them with crucial skills like delegation, feedback, coaching, change management and inspiring engagement.

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