5 Ways to Unleash the Hidden Potential of Middle Managers

leadership Jul 11, 2023
Group of Middle Managers

In the modern workplace, middle managers face many challenges. They're feeling pressure from both the top and bottom trying to deliver on demanding organizational agendas without receiving adequate training, tools, or support to be effective. This can often leave middle managers feeling undervalued and unappreciated.

However, middle managers play a pivotal role in organizations because they can influence productivity, stall innovation, and impede success. Particularly since 86% of employee satisfaction is tied to their relationship with their manager.

Organizations need to harness the potential of middle managers effectively, showcasing how they as invaluable assets to any business seeking to maximize its resources and enhance overall performance. It's time middle managers get the support they've earned and need.

In my monthly AM Northwest Morning Show segment, I shared the five ways to start reinvesting into one of their most precious assets.

1. Expand Leadership Development - Unfortunately, most professional and leadership development coaching and support is reserved for the C-Suite, and most middle managers aren't considered for these developmental opportunities. They're also not gaining access to the tools or support necessary to develop the talent of their team members. So, leaders need to consider providing this form of additional support.

2. Stop Massive Generic Training - Most massive training programs are not designed to consider the attendees' unique needs, preferences, and challenges. Yet, when it comes to middle management training, the practice is to send them to "water hose" training events where they're inundated with information that, studies prove, they won't retain.

Research on the forgetting curve shows that 70% of new information is lost within the first 24 hours and an average of 90% within a week. Yet the money companies are spending on these long, exhaustive, generic trainings is, in effect, like pouring water into a pitcher with a hole in it. 

So, companies need to stop forcing managers to attend trainings that fail to account for adult learning theory and the forgetting curve

3. Provide Targeted Training with Coaching Support - Instead of forcing middle managers to attend significant and long-term training programs, provide topical micro-monthly training for long-term digestion and immediate application. Also, they should be allowed to self-select to engage in this training when it makes the best sense for their schedule and workload. 

In addition, with these mico-monthly opportunities, managers must be equipped with ongoing coaching for sustainable accountability, behavioral change, and other practice and support with internal challenges or limiting beliefs. 

4. Create Mico-Communities of Support - Our clients have thrived in small masterminds for their professional development. The intimacy of the small groups provides a place of trust and safety where the members of 5 to 8 people feel confident to share their joys and challenges, receiving support from those uniquely positioned to understand their experiences.

So, along with the micro-training, it's imperative to provide small cohorts for peer-to-peer support, networking, and professional development.

5. Provide Appropriate Incentives - As noted by McKinsey, "to motivate managers to put forth their best efforts in the most impactful areas, organizations should not only remove the barriers to managers' success but also reward them in the ways they want to be rewarded." In other words, "the carrot shouldn't feel like the stick."

And organizations must stop rewarding managers with more work. That's NOT a reward.

We recommend creating a culture of professional development. Reach out to our team, and we'll have an honest conversation to help you assess any gaps or blind spots so we can support you in building programs that will not just meet your needs now but help to build future leaders that are going to support you in that next phase of your organizational growth. 

Watch the full segment here:


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