You wouldn’t call someone handy if they only knew how to fix one thing. When you hire a handyman, you expect the service provider to be able to fix the loose railing and the leaky kitchen tap, replace the light fixture, and maybe also give you some advice on how to make your computer run faster.
Middle managers are like the handyman; they need to be able to do it all. They tend to take on the role of the “jack-of-all-trades” because they are required to exhibit great leadership qualities, understand their team dynamic, motivate their team, make strategic decisions, and develop talent. What’s perhaps more remarkable is that managers balance all of these skills with fewer resources and more people than most senior leaders. So how does a manager accomplish this successfully? By being simultaneously strategic, tactical, and operational.
Managers as Strategic Leaders
Managers are the link between senior leaders and employees. They understand high-level business objectives, which are usually set by executives, and they guide employees to achieve these goals. In order to be successful strategic leaders, managers must be able to convey how every employee’s contribution impacts business results. Without this strategic leadership, employees will begin to feel detached from the organization, which leads to disengagement. Middle managers need to be informed about the nuances of the business every day and they must be able to provide in-the-moment information to their employees to align them with the company’s goals.
Managers as Tacticians
Timing is everything … sort of. Quality matters too. Managers understand this, and they must be able to balance tactical requirements in order to achieve company goals. The need for speed, quality, planning, and agility may change depending on the situation, and managers need to understand what is necessary and how they can motivate their team to accomplish these goals. A good coach will balance every player’s varying skills to complete a play. Give your managers the freedom to think like coaches, utilize the skills on their team and plan out specific actions to achieve a goal. Ensure that your managers are able to provide timely feedback to their employees to help guide them.
Managers as Consistently Operational
Managers are the cogs in the company machine; they move all the little parts in order to produce the product. Managers need to be operational in many different ways. They need to understand the business and what is required to make operations run more efficiently, and they also need to be available to help train, develop, and guide their team of people. Empower managers by providing resources and training that allow them to develop the skills and business acumen to improve operations and their team dynamic.
You’ve likely had good and bad experiences with hiring people to fix things around your house. Just like your experience with the handyman, your managers can have varying results too. However, if you can motivate and empower your managers, you can harness their skills to create a strong competitive advantage.
What is your greatest challenge when trying to empower middle management? Leave a comment and let us know.