The toughest job in corporate America is middle management, yet it’s often the most overlooked. In many companies, middle managers are an afterthought, thankless positions, simply cogs in the machine.
Caught between the pressures of senior executives and the will of the employee, the middle manager is between the proverbial rock and a hard place. The positions generally don’t have the authority to set strategy and direction for the whole, but they are expected to buy in and sell the strategy to their people, even when the on-the-ground realities don’t match with the strategy put into motion.
Middle management is not always included in the process of setting strategy, leading to a fundamental flaw in the way organizations operate. We’re asking these leaders to pitch the strategy and sell it to their employees, yet we don’t always give them the information necessary to fully understand and grasp the intricacies of the strategy.
We don’t allow them to offer early solutions that would make execution and implementation more seamless, transparent and cost effective. We don’t give them the time they need to think through the application part of the strategy. In today’s world, it’s an ever present mindset of get it done, now.
As a result, we put middle managers into an awkward position. The pressure to implement the strategy or any change initiative is immediate. They don’t have the same time that the executives have to come to terms with the shift.
They are asked to get their workforce into position as soon as possible and are left to figure out how the strategy plays on the ground. It’s not an easy task, it’s hard to move change in an organization, it’s even harder to do it in a way that keeps people compelled and excited about the work they do.
Too often we leave these leaders to the mercy of the day to day grind. We don’t support them with the right level of coaching, guidance or training needed to effectively manage their groups or themselves. It’s time to rethink the true importance of these critical positions, and how we can better manage their expectations.
In the same way a sandwich only works with something of substance in the middle, so too does every successful organization.