Monday, 17 june 2019 | Redacción CEU
You're always in the way! This is a commonly expression used by someone who blames someone else for their gift of ubiquity. When someone is bringing dishes to the table and trying not to lose balance, these people just happen to be in their way. When you want to go to work and have just enough time in between to take the bus, you run into them at your doorstep. "Being in the way" is often interpreted as something negative, but this is only a matter of perspective. What if those people, who initially disturbe you, also help you carry the dishes to the table? What if those people do not just let them pass, but offer to drive them to the office? At work, middle managers are those professionals who stay constantly in the middle. As a consequence, they are subject to pressures in different directions. Their role is not easy, but it is very important.
Middle managers are not only a bridge between top executives and employees but are also in charge of making things happen. They are the ones that translate the strategies, goals and values of the companies into actions. They are also responsible for ensuring that everything works according to what was planned in their control area. They distribute tasks, organize work, set the pace, supervise and evaluate employees, communicate strategies and manage possible conflicts. Although for a person who has a top managerial position setting the course and designing the strategy is a complex task, it is also complex for someone who occupies the difficult role of "being always in the middle" to get the team involved and to put into practice what is planned.
Although many firms do not take it into account, a company is measured largely by the value and success that their middle managers have, as they also have the mission to make the existing talent in the company shine and motivate the team to move in the right direction. Many times, managers tend to focus more on the definition of the strategy than on its proper implementation, by giving little importance to the work of these intermediate professionals. However, companies should not only be in charge of finding the right people to play this role, they must also know how to accompany and support middle managers in their mission. How can they do it?
Middle managers are characterized as having a deep knowledge of their area of activity, either due to their experience, which has led them to achieve this position, or because they have a profile that has enabled them to access this position in the company. However, this knowledge does not always have to be linked to great leadership skills or other competencies which are necessary for this job. Companies have to assess whether the person is ready or is the right one to occupy this position. They can also choose to train these professionals. If that's the case, it is worth mentioning that when a company bets on training, it is making an investment with which it generally obtains high profitability.
Finding the midpoint is difficult, but not impossible. Middle managers are usually exposed to a higher level of stress than the rest of the employees because of their peculiar position. It is usual for professionals to take this position when they excel in the performance of their work. In this case, they go from being coworkers to bosses and that change may not always be well accepted. These professionals are not one of them any more and become authority figures (it is a scenario in which situations of down-up mobbing might even occur). It is a difficult transition to which professionals must pay close attention in order to find balance.
Both the professionals who have been promoted as well as those who have just taken a new position should not fall into the error of trying to prove their value with an excessive workload that, in turn, can compensate former colleagues and subordinates’ reservations. Middle managers should develop the necessary organizational and leadership skills and be willing to delegate. If they want to play a good role, they cannot go to the other extreme and become a kind of tyrants. This formula is only effective for generating fear and an apparent control. In the long run, it will only bring about negative consequences: conflicts, the lack of commitment, the disintegration of the team and the failure to fulfill the objectives.
The secret to finding a happy medium in an intermediate manager position is hidden in good soft skills. The development and promotion of abilities such as empathy, active listening, responsibility, ethics, adaptation to change, the capacity of solving problems, positive attitude, assertiveness, tolerance to pressure or conflict management are indispensable to do a good job and to find that exact position in the middle of everything.
The CEU IAM Business School offers a Master´s Degree in Human Resources, the Management of Talent and Leadership which has been designed to train the 21st century manager in the universe of human capital through three main lines of action: innovation, new technologies and talent management and leadership. Ask for further information!