Are you making the most of your middle managers?

Middle management is often overlooked or misunderstood. We think this is a great shame. Many businesses are missing out on the potential of this group, who are uniquely positioned to provide insight on both the upper and lower levels of the company.

They’re also a key asset when upscaling your company; when you’re in growth mode, it’s vital to have people properly cascading information, keeping the day-to-day running smoothly, and retaining institutional knowledge.

So how do you make sure you’re getting the most out of your middle managers? Here’s a handy checklist of questions to ask yourself.

1. Are your middle managers’ roles clearly defined?

Working in middle management can be exhausting. A lot of the time, this is because of scope spread, with responsibilities expanding well beyond their initial boundaries. To enable your middle managers to focus on what they actually need to be doing, it’s important that they know exactly what their remit is. On top of that, everyone working directly with them needs to be aware of this too, and stick to it.

2. Have your middle managers been appropriately trained for their roles?

As well as having clearly defined roles, your middle managers need to be properly trained. This is neglected shockingly often, even though moving into a management role requires all kinds of skills which an employee may not have developed yet. The training should also be tailored to the organisation, at least, and the individual or team, ideally.

Instead, most mid-level managers who receive training or coaching get a one-size-fits-all, one-off session. No wonder they might feel overlooked, underappreciated or unclear on how best to do their jobs at times!

3. Do your middle managers have opportunities for growth and learning new skills?

Middle management absolutely shouldn’t be viewed as a waiting room for people aiming for ‘real’ leadership roles. But equally, it shouldn’t be somewhere your employees stagnate.

Instead, you need to make promotion pathways and opportunities clear, as well as enabling people to develop new skills. This will both enhance their performance in their current role, and encourage a culture of professional development which will benefit the company at large.

4. Are your middle managers given room to innovate, and to encourage their teams to innovate?

Your middle managers need to be able to work on their own growth and development. But they should also be able to help the wider organisation grow and develop. The biggest barrier to this is micromanagement, both directed at and coming from middle managers. If they have to spend all their time monitoring their teams, meeting arbitrary goals and feeding back on whether and how they met those goals, your middle managers will have very little time for big-picture thinking. Neither, of course, will their teams.

5. Do you have efficient and clear comms and reporting structures?

Middle managers act as a bridge between different parts of the organisation. This is a vital part of the role, but in many organisations the communications pathways are muddled or needlessly complicated. Meetings are often a big drain on middle managers’ time, requiring them to do in person or on a call what they could do in one email. Having streamlined processes here can save a huge amount of time and energy, and remove one of the most common sources of exhaustion and frustration for middle managers.

6. Are your middle managers ready to support your company as it grows?

Mid-level managers at the top of their game can be invaluable for upscaling businesses. Don’t neglect their training if your company is in a growth phase. Upscaling businesses need to adapt to new ways of communicating and conveying information, especially as they acquire new talent. In doing this, it’s crucial to have experienced middle managers who know how to cascade information properly and ensure teams are adapting to new members and new roles.

Effective mid-level managers are the driving force behind agility, sweeping obstacles out of the way of senior management and ensuring staff are working to their greatest potential.

7. Do your mid-level managers understand their importance to the company?

Tying your middle managers’ work to the company mission is vital. It’s very hard to maintain motivation, energy and innovation when you feel like your work doesn’t make a difference. Simply showing appreciation for their work and giving clear examples of how it helps the company at large can make a huge difference to your middle managers. It also helps integrate their role, making it a specific and important part of the company rather than a no man’s land between subordinate and leader.

How many of these points can you tick off for your own middle management teams? If it’s not many, don’t worry – we can help you change that. And by revitalising and re-invigorating middle management in your company, we’re sure you’ll see a clear positive change in the organisation as a whole.