The Squeezed Mid-manager

At the Talent Summit last week, one of the speakers,  Amanda Cheng-Cimini, shared this image to help illustrate that which so many clients experience.

Mid-level managers and leaders are the back-bone of any organisation. The image illustrates that: 

  • They are expected to strategise and execute at the same time.  
  • They have to deliver results (player) whilst developing others (coach).

There’s a lot more to it! 

They have to deal with the struggles and needs of their teammates at a very human level, even when that detracts from certain commercial initiatives and KPIs being met. 

They try to accommodate flexible working whilst creating a culture of collaboration, knowledge-sharing and belonging. It’s not easy to balance. 

They’re invested in their team’s wellbeing whilst striving for optimal productivity and performance. 

They’re often incentivised to hit certain targets and outcomes, without much guidance or boundaries in how they’re met. This can result in short-term gains and ruthless tactics being rewarded, creating all sorts of cultural challenges. 

It’s crazy to think that many of this mid-manager/leader cohort are promoted into their position on the back of strong individual performance in technical roles, as opposed to genuine leadership appetite or skills being expressed.

To succeed, amidst the turbulence of today’s business world, they must be equipped and enabled to develop their “power skills” (no longer soft skills).

Technical skills can be taught and studied. Power skills involve behavioural change, which can be learned, but aren’t as straightforward.

Each leader and manager will develop their emotional intelligence in their own unique way, in alignment with their past experience, values, strengths and various biases.

Courses, books and training manuals can shed light on their development needs. But delivering into it is an altogether different story.

To evolve one’s self-awareness, to change one’s behaviours around power skills such as empathy, active listening, trust, humility and more (which are essential for human-centred and situational leadership) coaching remains key.

Blended learning opportunities are essential. Some learners/leaders will want micro-learning, some classroom, some self-directed, some peer-peer communities, some 3rd party, some shadowing/observation, some 1:1 coaching.

There is no one-size-fits-all. The learning landscape needs to be individualised and varied to the development need at a specific point in time.

Josh Bersin’s book, Irresistible, is worth a read if you want to know and understand more about these evolving needs and how thriving organisations are responding.

Post-covid, we’ve seen AI hit the mainstream. Old ways of promoting and developing leadership capabilities are no longer fit for purpose. Emotionally intelligent leaders are more valuable than ever before. 

  • What is your business doing differently to build leadership capabilities as a result? 
  • How can you best support and enable mid-managers to lead your business effectively?

All the best.