Investing in Middle Managers

middle managers
January 24, 2023


Melinta Case Study


Preparing Your High Potentials to Emerge as Leaders

Organizations across all industries are facing complex challenges that require leadership. Emerging leaders are needed more than ever to rapidly learn leadership skills, gain a strategic perspective, and grow their professional network. With more millennials entering the management realms, it is critical to prepare middle managers for not only day-to-day activities but how to show up and be seen as effective future leaders in the organization.

There is a criticality for middle managers in an organization as it grows to over 100 employees. The distance between employees and executives is spread out and there must be people in the middle. Investment in middle managers can increase productivity and profit margins, as well as reduce the error rate and improve efficiency.

Middle managers drive the culture and talent development of an organization. These hardworking individuals serve as the backbone of the company, responsible for implementing strategic plans and ensuring that day-to-day tasks are completed efficiently. They are the glue that holds the organization together and deserves just as much attention and support as top executives. Unfortunately, middle managers are often neglected when it comes to leadership development and training opportunities. This is a missed opportunity, as investing in the development of middle managers can have a ripple effect on the entire organization. Our CEO, Dave Fechtman recently had the opportunity to sit down with Jim Schleckser, CEO of The CEO Project, and host of The Lazy CEO Project to discuss the topic of middle management and the importance of developing leaders.

Why is Middle Management So Important?

Middle managers play a crucial role in the workforce. They are in the middle between C-suite and junior-level employees. Since their role is intertwined with both levels of colleagues, they have a complex role in the company. It is their job to ensure that the day-to-day operations of the business run smoothly and at a high level of performance. They provide stability for the organization. Their deep understanding of each department allows them to identify problems quickly, sometimes even before they happen. Middle managers foster collaboration within the organization and make sure that company culture is aligned with the goals of the upper management.

Middle Managers work systematically and see the big picture. They put plans into action while securing strategy buy-in with the rest of the employees. It is important to utilize their knowledge and skills in order to stay competitive in today’s market and ensure a successful future for a business.

Communication is the Crux of a Successful Organization

Middle managers are often responsible for communicating the vision and goals of the organization to their teams, and effective communication is essential for success. One of the things that middle managers must do is make sure they’re not using the word they when they’re referring to your company. It needs to be we. They have more responsibility and are now part of something bigger. This creates more self-accountability, but it also prevents driving a wedge between executives and front-line workers.

One of the things middle managers struggle with is holding others accountable and delegating. The level of delegation should be proportionate to the amount of risk and the capacity that you’re looking for. The more freedom is given, the more risk the leader is taking on. Middle managers need to understand that delegation is not one-size-fits-all.

At Velocity, we prepare middle management with the DONE system of accountability:

4 Ingredients Needed for Accountability (DONE)

  • Define the Goal

I have clearly defined the goal and outcomes

My employee clearly demonstrated an understanding of the goal and outcomes (i.e. repeated back)

Responsibility – There must be a person responsible.  Who is responsible for the outcome?

  • Organize Responsibility

I clearly identified the level of delegation

I verified with the employee they are comfortable at this level of delegation

We have agreed to the level of responsibility

  • Need to be completed by

I clearly explained when I need updates by

I clearly explained when it needs to be completed by

We have agreed to a timeline and checkpoints

  • Establish the Outcome (the Why)

I clearly explained what impacts (payout or fall-back) there are to the business if this is not completed on time

I clearly explained what the impacts to the team are if this is not completed on time

Preparing Your High-Potential Middle Management to Lead

There are two ways that talent can be developed. The first is technical expertise through certifications, conferences, and job training. The second is leadership development. Organizations that empower employees to grow their capabilities enjoy greater productivity and retain top talent. Through a culture of empowerment, leaders can activate the greatness in others, optimize their resources, and create more emerging leaders. Training teams, managers, and leaders to develop a true competitive advantage provides them with higher levels of self-awareness.

If you’re going to do your leadership development yourself, nothing beats one-on-one interactions. CEOs or small business owners should skip levels and spend time with people two levels below themselves that way they are not hearing anecdotally what somebody’s good or not good at, but they’re experiencing it themselves. It is important to make sure that the high-potential leaders are spending time at least once a month meeting with them.

A critical role of middle managers is to implement change. Every organization, department, and individual employee experiences change at an increasing rate in today’s world. Through middle managers’ personal relationships with employees, they can uncover resistance and barriers to this change. A strong training program can guide people through the change journey and provide tactical tools and insights on how to effectively lead change.

Did you know that as many as up to 60 percent of new managers underperform or fail within their first two years? Plus, according to Gartner, 44% of HR leaders believe their organizations do not have compelling career paths. To empower middle management as strategic partners, you need to equip them with tools, training, and resources that provide a base level of knowledge and allow them to put their people skills into action.

Velocity Advisory Group’s Emerging Leaders Program

The workplace is rapidly evolving, bringing new opportunities to reexamine strategic direction and reinvigorate leadership. Velocity Advisory Group has been passionate about executive coaching and its long-standing impact on leaders since our inception 12 years ago.

Velocity’s emerging leaders program focuses on providing the best tools and frameworks that deliver greater contributions to the organization, creating a clear path for professional growth. With Velocity’s unique approach to developing leaders, training is only part of the learning experience.  Following the 70/20/10 framework, Velocity’s Leadership Programs combine real-life examples with breakthrough research.  Participants are encouraged to objectively think about ways to integrate learning through compelling cohort sessions and real-life implementation. We know that only 10% of learning happens in the classroom.  That’s why our programs are designed to encourage learning through peer-to-peer interactions and on the job.

When leadership is aligned and employees are empowered, the path becomes clear, and teams have the tools they need to create a high-performing culture. For more information or to schedule a complimentary review of your development plan with one of our experts, visit our website.