Why Middle Managers Deserve Development

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Your middle managers are the key to your bottom line. Middle managers are the "pipeline" -- or the "dam" -- of your organization's strategy and implementation. Too often, middle managers do not get the big picture. It helps to explain why, from the executive team to the front line, the understanding of and passion for the organization’s mission drops by nearly 50 percent. Lack of understanding and passion translates into low engagement, errors, lost productivity, angry customers inside and outside the organization, and overall poor performance. It all hits your bottom line. Organizations that want different outcomes in 2017 will have to adopt different manager development approaches.

The low engagement levels of managers overall - only 35 percent are engaged according to the Gallup organization - explains the even lower engagement levels of employees overall: less than one-third of employees are engaged. If high engagement translates to high performance and high profits, then...

Your managers model and communicate what they know - or don't know. If they do not model your organization’s values, or share your organization’s strategy or your industry’s best practices and efficiencies, and if they do not make time to actually lead their staffs, how can their team members do their jobs to the fullest?

An article in Harvard Business Review shared research that the average age of first-time managers is 30 years old (Millennial generation), while the average age of those in leadership training is 42 (Gen X generation). This could easily explain why 71 percent of Millennials are not engaged or are actively disengaged, and 60 percent of the same generation is open to a new job opportunity. Without training, they will not be considered to move up in the organization, so their only choice is to change jobs in order to get training and career movement.

Disengagement and interest in pursuing other job options can be reversed several ways.

Clarify your organization’s strategy and implementation plans. Strategic plans do no one any good setting on a shelf. Share copies and engage managers at all levels in determining their role in achieving this year’s goals. How do they plan to do it? By when? Who else is responsible? Engage all managers in the successful future of the organization. Managers should know how their individual performance makes an impact.

Develop and communicate the competencies (skills and behaviors) that are needed to achieve your organization’s goals. Train every level of employee in your organization in the core competencies that apply to all, as well as the competencies expected of their specific level or position.

Add competencies to your performance management expectations. Particularly when competencies are new, consider making competencies half of the points to be achieved annually. Organizations that do not care about how the job gets done (using competencies), just that it gets done, soon learn that negative headlines are bottom line killers (read: Volkswagen, Turing Pharmaceuticals, FIFA, and Valeant).

Focus on emerging leaders at all levels, but especially at the middle management level, to receive additional training and coaching. These are the individuals who make up your future "talent pool" from which to hire.

Managers at all levels are your organization’s walking, talking culture. And since your culture determines your organization’s bottom line (Is taking responsibility rewarded? Are employees held accountable? Are competencies being discussed, trained and expected?), it is critical to have the right people in management positions, give them as much training as is feasible, and find every way possible to encourage them to operate at their optimum all day, every day.

Nancy S. Ahlrichs is business development consultant for FlashPoint, a global leadership development firm based in Indianapolis. 

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