Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Care and Feeding of Middle Management

It worked really well. Having monthly lunches for the supervisors allowed them to compare notes to be consistent, seek support for troublesome issues and have access to upper management. The access gave them a chance to share their view and what their hearing from their various departments. It also gave them early information on key strategies. They were a sounding board for proposed changes.

They weren't quite a part of the "in crowd" but they were part of the "almost in crowd". They had access that no one else had. They had information that few others had. They were viewed as important and vital to the performance of the organization.

Too often, middle management is ignored. Strategy, re-organization and policy is decided at the top, and then communicated to the rest of the organization at the same time--including middle management and supervision. They have no early indications, no extra knowledge and left to face the troops interpreting what "it" means with their own wits, values and hopes. It's no surprise then that upper management's intent for communicating direction is lost in the translation, and ends up looking nothing like they wanted, and taking numerous, differing shapes when executed.

Those organizational layers in the middle have their own needs and wants. They are supposed to be the face of management to the troops underneath--translating and enforcing dicta and directions. Likewise, they're supposed to be the face of the troops to the hierarchical tiers above--expressing the level of engagement and enthusiasm that exists. If they aren't cared for, and treated as having an important role and important, they will flounder and be ineffective.

Recently, Fred Hassan's article in Harvard Business Review caught up with this need--that's been self-evident to many of us, who could only say, "Duh! Of course!" when the article appeared.

Ignoring middle management is like ignoring your core muscles--abs and back. Pretty soon you won't be able to stand up straight and you won't have much leverage to access your strengths.

Maybe you don't need to meet with them monthly, but you should understand what they need and want in your organization.

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