Why The Middle Is Important

Being a leader in today’s workplace is complex, especially for those who are “in the middle.” Pulled from both above and below, today’s middle managers are dealing with a plethora of challenges, such as leading a team with potentially under-skilled workers, trying to manage through contradictory goals, or using internal systems and processes that no longer support the organization’s objectives.

Without a focus on developing leadership and management skills, middle managers are often left to model the behaviors of their own managers, people who most likely have also not had proper training. And with an ever-expanding role, it isn’t uncommon for middle managers to have to figure out most of their management tasks entirely on their own.

This sets up a potentially huge issue. A 2015 Vanderbilt University study discovered that poor senior level managers can influence middle managers into becoming poor managers as well. Yet, middle managers are responsible for delivering organizational results and supporting strategic initiatives.

If we expect our organizations to produce excellent results, we need to devote more attention — and direct more resources — to helping the middle develop into highly effective leaders.

Supporting Middle Managers

High-impact organizations recognize that mid-level managers are central to their success, and focus talent management initiatives and development programs on this group. A comprehensive approach includes assessment, classroom and/or e-learning, coaching, mentoring, and action learning.

Well-supported middle managers are able to develop their mindsets and acquire new leadership skills in areas such as:

• Change management
• Leadership mindset
• Communication across all levels of the organization
• Talent growth and management
• Engagement
• Broad general management

A Formula for Success

Considering the 70-20-10 development model, the most powerful levers for development are workplace experiences and coaching. Impactful leadership development requires the blending of experiential on-the-job learning, coaching, and feedback with formal training. The best programs keep the learning as close as possible to a manager’s day-to-day work.

At Coaching Right Now, we’ve found that the best formula for success links coaching directly to the workplace experience. The experiences and perspectives of the right coach can help middle managers increase their capability, build on their strengths, and address areas for development. Coaches help to:

• Interpret assessment results
• Zero in and describe the development need(s)
• Provide perspective, challenge, and feedback as new behaviors are developed

Middle managers are critically important to an organization’s success. The role they play as the direct interface in leading teams should justify investments in their development. Investing in middle managers provides increases in any organization’s bottom line.


A blog post by Rosanna Riffle, CRN Account Manager, Mom and Hydroponic Grower.

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