Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What is the biggest Leadership Obstacle to Middle Management?

I am starting to realize that the biggest obstacle to middle management is without question, senior management. Most managers today show a greater loyalty to their department while the loyalty and respect for senior management is waning. The result becomes a real disconnect between upper and middle management. This disconnect is directly related to employee engagement.

Upper management is responsible for providing the direction of the company. This strategic responsibility is quite a task but senior management expects total commitment to the vision, mission, and strategic business objectives from their middle management and all employees and it is unreal. This lack of commitment is demonstrated in most employee surveys or employee engagement data. It is well documented that the American worker tends to trust their immediate supervisor as opposed to the company’s senior leaders.

How to Provide Direction to Middle Management:
  1. Senior officers, you need get out of your office and be with your day to day decision makers - In a previous article, I noted that observation and open discussion with managers and staff are competencies or skills that senior managers tend to avoid. Senior management must eliminate the lack of trust and to do that they must inspire their management team and staff to believe in the direction, etc. Getting buy in from your middle management team is imperative for sustained growth.
  2. Mentor middle management - The middle managers must feel appreciated and the best way to do that is to be mentored by a senior manager, which moves the mid-level manger toward the strategy side of the equation. The middle management of any organization must comprehend the business strategy for them to be able translate the direction that is easily understood by the entire work force. If this cascading flow of communication gets interrupted, then it becomes impossible for anyone within any organization to connect the dots resulting in employee disengagement.
  3. Develop middle management - It is well documented what skills and competencies are needed for managers to be high achievers; but when I talk to most middle managers, they tell me that they have had little or no formal training. We are entrusting the success of our companies to people who do not know what it takes to provide positive feedback, cascading communication channels, an engaging work environment and everything else it takes to make a successful company. We assume that exemplary performance at a lower level or specific role will automatically make them highly productive managers.

I hate to tell you but leaders and great managers are made not born. In most employee surveys and/or engagement data, we find that most concerns of employees focus on their immediate supervisor not doing what they should be doing….communicating the business strategy while translating it to define the full value of everyone’s role, responsibility, and actions needed to create a successful company.

With the rapid departing of the baby boomers and disengagement still hovering around 30 percent, isn’t it time to focus on developing your future leaders. This leadership must be developed in the middle of the company and mentored upward so that the strategy and implantation will always do exactly what it is intended to do……bring the desired results.

Now is the time for senior management to act and gain success in their company through developing their management and then the middle management’s individual productivity results in organizational effectiveness. It’s not magic but it is a necessity.

Article written by Richard J. Hohmann Jr., Lead Coach for Innovative Leadership, a strategic partner with Fitzpatrick, Bongiovanni, & Kelly, PC, and also a member of the Collaboration Team for Leadership Management International. Richard can also speak at your next organization’s meeting, to invite him to speak call 609-390-2830. For Management Training Solutions click here: http://www.innovativeleadershipdv.com/training_overview.asp

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Managers: Ask for Bad News

Don't allow bad news to blindside you. If you do, you'll have to shift priorities ina hurry to handle any promlems that arise unexpectedly.

Here are some tips to ensure you get the bad news in time to do something about it:

  • Develop Independent sources of information. Cultivate informal contacts elsewhere in your organization. Take customer calls at the call center. Talk to your front-line staff.
  • Push for depth. Does one element of a report seem a little off? Search for the reason why. That "off" fact or figure could alert you to a major problem.
  • Create a "truth-telling" culture. Assign a "worse-case scenario" team to every analysis. Get everyone used to "facing the truth." Caution: Truth telling doesn't mean shooting down less than perfect ideas.
  • Take action. If what your staff tell you just languishes, they won't come forward. Mobilize your resources and tackle the problem immediately.
Adapted from "How to Get Bad News to the Top" by Scott Kirsner