As I travel around the midwest and the country, I am continually amazed by the evolving role of middle management. What years ago was the sole work of senior executives is now becoming the normal work of middle management as senior managers become more and more focused on external stakeholder engagement and management.
Whenever I consult with an organization with lack of role clarity issues at the middle management level, I always start with the four pillars of any successful organization, namely people, structure, systems and culture. Before we dive into mission, vision and core values or the development or implementation of strategy, I always ask what is a person’s role when it comes to maintaining or building clarity or alignment among the four pillars. It is a valuable exercise and always generates a higher degree of insight and perspective.
Right now, I believe more and more middle managers need to improve their ability to do the following four things very well.
First, they need to clearly define the internal priorities and goals of the company, and be highly competent in cascading the external big picture.
Second, effective middle managers need to focus on making the customer the center of all that they do, and at the exact same time build win-win partnerships with internal partners, other departments or divisions, and suppliers.
Third, they must have the capacity to balance present challenges and future expectations. As we all know, the short, middle and long game are always in play. They key is setting realistic goals and then implementing flexible budgeting in order to capitalize on the right kinds of opportunities that appear in the market place.
Fourth, effective middle managers need to continually shape the values and standards of the company, and hold people accountable to them. This will make a tremendous difference in making sure the right decisions are being made, and implemented.
While defining roles is not easy work, it is very important work as we move through the coming months. When we have this degree of clarity, many current problems will fall by the wayside. And this will allow each and every employee to engage at a deeper level.