Middle management: the forgotten front line
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A survey of 2,700 employees released by the management consulting firm Healthy Companies International found that 74 percent of respondents indicated they trusted their direct managers, while only 57 percent of respondents indicated they trusted senior leadership.
According to Rob Nielsen, CEO of LGL Leadership, “With economic downsizing and restructuring of organizations, middle management has become the forgotten front line with many organizations. While they may have the trust of their direct reports, in many cases they do not have the training to effectively execute and address the challenges facing many organizations.”
During CEO Roundtable discussions held throughout the Country, most recently in Tampa, Florida on September 4, 2012, over 650 participating executives have identified these as common challenges they face:
- Developing a common sense of purpose.
- Building a culture of transparency and trust.
- Generational Issues. (Getting the best effort from employees of all ages.)
- Cultivating engagement and loyalty.
- Maintaining the quality of our culture as we grow or become more dispersed.
- Developing our next generation of leaders.
- Establishing and maintaining a culture of empowerment and (self) accountability.
- Recruiting and challenging / engaging high performers.
- Managing/leading change and overcoming natural human resistance to change and new ideas.
- Maintaining or restoring trust in the face of layoffs or cutbacks.
- Over-coming turf wars and silo mentality and promoting collaboration and sharing.
According to Nielsen, “While middle managers are responsible for communicating a company’s vision to those who most directly influence customers’ experiences with a company, most managers lack the training to effectively get their direct reports, to WANT to, to be ABLE to, or to understand WHY what they do is important.”
Some front-line employees have been promoted to management based on performance or necessity, but too many may have not moved “up” or “over” for several years, and/or may be content to stay in their current position, which brings into question the level of engagement of the middle managers themselves, according to Nielsen.
According to a study by the Saratoga Institute (Price Waterhouse Coopers), the number one reason for employee disengagement is uncaring and unprofessional leaders that do not listen to or respect their employees. Giselle Kovary, managing partner of n-gen People Performance Inc. and co-author of Upgrade Now: 9 Advanced Leadership Skills, suggests that leaders keep three principles in mind to build a trusting and engaged workforce:
- Transparency. Leaders are open, honest and forthcoming with information, including motives and intentions, regardless of employee level or role. Everyone knows how their role impacts the big picture.
- Responsiveness. Leaders listen to employees, solicit their feedback and commit to taking action in a timely manner. Expectations are managed.
- Partnering. Leaders recognize that employees are equal partners and investors in the business and therefore seek a win-win relationship with all employee groups. Leaders consider themselves as part of the team and act collaboratively.
Nielsen indicates that, “Becoming empathetic leaders builds organizational trust which is the foundation for higher levels of retention, productivity and performance—all critical is achieving the discretionary effort necessary for successful organizations in our economically challenged environment.”
(Photo credited to www.ryanpolkcom)
DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, and based on particular situations, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice, financial advice and/or the advice of a licensed insurance or certified human resource professional.
© Connelly, Carlisle, Fields & Nichols 2012