The renaissance of the middle manager – What difference does a good middle manager make in a company?

The renaissance of the middle manager – What difference does a good middle manager make in a company?

June 2, 2024 IPI 0

Defamed in the past. “Specialists” in administrative activities, preparing a huge amount of reports and presentations as well as conducting countless meetings. It turns out that nowadays middle managers play a key role in the performance of an organization because it is this group that is closest to the teams and this means that they directly, every day, translate the leader’s idea – vision into operational activities as well as influence and motivate colleagues.

Often it is for them that lower-level employees stay in the organization despite professional burnout or difficult economic situation in the market as well as it is because of them that they leave the organization. It is worth looking with a favorable eye at those who, as Prof. K. Obłój calls them, play a “dramatic” role in the organization because they try to combine the needs of the teams with the requirements of the management. Moreover, according to McKinsey & The company: middle managers now create a distinct competitive advantage for the best organizations and play a key role they may have in the future of work.

The art of moving up to the “next level”

An equally common practice in organizations is the promotion of experts or specialists to middle management positions. However, it happens that specialists, by virtue of their previous work, have little or no management competence, and managing people themselves may not be in their field of interest either. Thus, companies remove “superstars” from their teams, undermining the results of the department or area. Expert managers get different or additional management responsibilities, but often no longer do what they were passionate about, committed to or very good at doing.

What is the reason why professionals choose to move into a management position? To a large extent, still money. Managerial positions tend to be better paid and packed with more favorable and varied benefits. Expert careers may have a limited path for advancement and development within the organization, because how do you develop someone who has greater and more specialized knowledge in a particular area than I do? Supervisors may ask. For the organization itself, promotions of experts to middle management positions are often the last resort against many social trends: “professional burnout”; “great resignation”; “quiet quitting” or senior-level turnover. However, managers still fall into the trap of optimism and assume that if a specialist is great at his or her job then surely he or she will be equally great at teaching it to others, effectively managing the work of the team and developing colleagues at the same time. Unfortunately, management competence and specialist competence are two different disciplines.

Organization development through employee development

One solution is a conscious strategy in the development of middle management, which starts with identifying the goals of individual employees on the career path both vertically and horizontally. In the next step, linking them to the organization’s goals and only in the third step equipping professionals with management competencies. To arm just managers with broad management skills requires a training process of several months, during which participants acquire skills and tools with which to inspire and motivate others more effectively, build accountability and make team decisions, resolve conflicts and reduce turnover, and ask pertinent questions that open up opportunities and generate solutions for the recipients. This only makes them versatile leaders, managers who can combine opposites, where on the one hand they support teams and on the other hand they demand and enforce, and are firm in their actions.

Communication rank

Middle managers also perform best when they have the power to direct and influence. The best of them, however, are those who respond sensibly and flexibly to the realities of the people they manage, but also have high communication skills. One of the key communication skills in management is to give feedback effectively, but also to implement it into operational activities. Giving feedback is first and foremost a dialogue. After the conversation, the recipient of feedback needs to have clear instructions on what specifically to change and from what to what. He also needs tools to implement the change. You can train managers on how to communicate feedback so that they develop rather than close off opportunities for people, e.g. how to listen to responses and how to implement the feedback with the employee and see if he or she applies, for example, new habits in action. However, if you don’t do this in a repetitive cycle people simply can’t develop.

Difference between average and outstanding managers

“A CFO once asked a CEO the question – What if we train people and they leave? What if we don’t train them and they stay,” replied the CEO.” Well-managed managers definitely work faster and more effectively because they build unity in teams much more precisely, reduce conflicts and inspire others to action. The advantage of outstanding managers is also high emotional maturity, an assertive attitude and managing the work of people through the elects of the organization’s culture.

It is good that companies are now beginning to recognize the need to develop the managerial competence of middle managers, although it is still so difficult sometimes to convince the board of directors to train middle, senior and top managers. This is so much more crucial for the organization because it is these groups that have the greatest impact on the development of the company and thus increasing its profits.

Today, team management is all about highly developed soft skills, communication skills, the ability to recognize the mechanisms that drive people’s behavior and the way they motivate themselves to act, and a great deal of human knowledge. A good manager knows very well the people in his team, their personal value, as well as their mechanisms of action. He knows how they react to different messages and can adapt his language to each recipient. He knows the motivational mechanisms of his employees – whether an employee is motivated by “escaping punishment” or “moving toward reward,” and here, too, he is proficient in using communication appropriate to the mechanism.

Author Anna Modrzewska

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