The Pamban bridge in Tamilnadu connecting Rameswaram to the mainland is an
engineering marvel !! Apart from its engineering success, it also helped with railroad connectivity for the mainland and in enhancing trade with neighbouring Sri Lanka. Bridges always establish connections beyond the brick and mortar that we see. It helps connect people, increases emotional bonding and human values.
In the corporate world, the middle management layers serve as a crucial bridge connecting the senior leadership and employees across all departments. Are middle management staff well leveraged by organizations? Do organizations draw their wisdom for strategic objectives?
According to a Gartner study 76% of corporate leaders say that their strategic plans undergo significant pivots and the frequency of those pivots is only increasing.
Yeah there are headwinds to deal with – inflation, war in Europe, supply chain constraints, talent war, etc. How do we then stay strategic on what we do? While it is quite common to identify external factors and cite them as reasons for the need to pivot, an internal factor often ignored is the right level of enablement for middle management.
Middle Management is THE bridge that connects senior leadership to rest of the organization. How can this bridge be made stronger?
1) Starting with the organizational purpose that is relevant and practical for your business could be one right step forward. Most “purpose statements” are left at the company website and not really practiced or propagated among the employees. Starting from the Board to Senior Leadership to Middle Management, everyone should be absolutely in-sync with the “why we do business” question and have clarity on to how the values of the organization help serve the purpose. Senior Leadership team should be personally involved in hand holding and mentoring their middle management teams and be a sounding board on clarifying the purpose of the organization and the values that help serve the purpose.
2) Be intentional about being strategic. Translating the strategy to execution has some common pitfalls. Most commonly middle management has no buy-in due to inconsistent communication from senior leadership. Secondly, middle management is often beaten up to meet short term goals taking their focus away from being strategic. Senior Leadership should govern purely from the perspective of strategic goals and objectives and help the middle management to connect the dots between short term goals and strategic goals. Middle management teams will have much higher buy-in to organizational strategy when they know how the short term goals contribute to meeting the strategic goals.
3) Build curiosity at the middle management layer. Help them challenge status quo and find progressive answers to difficult situations. Enable them to explore and experiment rather than conform to comfort zones. Being open minded promotes learning from failures and willingness to unlearn. Nurture creativity to drive mindset change that fosters lateral thinking. Curiosity is contagious. When the middle management becomes curious, their teams look to emulate them and start demonstrating curiosity.
4) Create learning pathways through organizational development programs for middle management. The program should be wholistic and address 3 key areas for the middle management to be groomed in – strategic capability, authentic leadership and leading innovative teams. The program may need to provide structured approaches and implementation frameworks that must be translated into individual action plans that ties in purpose, strategy and people. Senior Leadership teams may need to invest their time in coaching and mentoring to not only drive implementation of learnings but also stay connected to strategic objectives being implemented through the individual action plans of the middle management.
For more thoughts on building your middle management muscle, feel free to connect with me !!