Stuck in the Middle with You Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right
“Stuck in the Middle with You” is a song by Steelers Wheel, for those of you younger readers. Stuck in the middle is often how middle managers feel. They are stuck between edicts coming down from on high – and higher – and gleaning action on these edicts from those they manage. Some years ago, there was a movement afoot to obliterate middle management. Fortunately organiztions came to their senses and now middle managers are seen as the key to change and moving organizations forward. Who knew? On another note, they cannot performs these feats without guidance and support.
First Things First: How do you build leaders for the future? First realize that middle managers do have the capacity and are in the position to be leaders. Now, provide the training, the coaching, and mentoring they need to carry them through to their next step on the organizational ladder. IN short, middle managers need role models. Performing these vital tasks lays a solid foundation for the future.
A Little Empathy Please: Understand that today’s middle managers, according to Brian Kropp for CEB, Inc., have 50% more reports than in previous years. Further, they are often caught in the crunch between their boss and their reports. Is there where clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, comes from? I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’. Moreover, a study by Columbia University suggests that middle management has the highest rate of depression and anxiety.
Recognize Their Power: Aside from and beyond recognition programs, middle managers have real power that is often not perceived. For example, according to a study by Behnam Tabrizi with Stanford University, that over 30% of successful change initiatives happened due to the involvement of middle managers, “two or more levels below the CEO.”
Middle managers are indeed stuck in the middle and have a difficult job. The job is not impossible, but obviously they cannot and should not do the job alone. Give these valuable people the tools they need to carry out the goals of the organization and you will be well rewarded and singing all the way to the bank.