The Balancing Skills of the Middle Manager – 8 minute read.

A few months ago, I worked with an editor at Financial Magazine to write an article on the fine lines a mid-level manager must walk. After some really good feedback from the CIMA and AICPA audience, I have summarised the article for other people who walk that fine line.

Here are some extracts from the article and supplementary thoughts.

If you feel you are walking that fine line, please have a read and share your thoughts.

The dilemma is having to manage senior management with different leadership styles, behaviours and varying people skills, while keeping employees engaged, motivated and contributing, who themselves have career goals, personal expectations and the need for flexibility.

You can see from the above that the role of the middle manager is extremely challenging, and you become a real-life magnetic force who pulls opposite fields together. While I could list a multiple of high level of business skills that are needed for you to be effective, Emotional Intelligence is an essential ingredient to help you listen, engage, communicate, support and facilitate the best outcomes.

Link the Vision and Strategy to the Function

Create high motivation and a sense of purpose for the team by helping them understand how as, a team and individuals, they can contribute to the wider strategy. Facilitate a group discussion with senior leaders and the team on how you can translate strategy, growth and high efficiency, into specific objectives that can utilise the functions overall capabilities. A two-way discussion to generate ideas and create a solid link of understanding between the pressures of leading the business and the demanding workload of an operational role.

Encourage Open Leadership Sessions

Creating trust and building mutual confidence between your team and the leadership team is a key element in the middle managers role. Of course, there needs to be some coaching of the team on the most effective way of interacting in these sessions, however, the session is the teams time to update, educate, listen and discuss. If done correctly, this can be invaluable for the senior leader. I have seen these sessions produce remarkable results.

Move from Directing and Delegating to, Guiding and Empowering

It takes courage and disciple to move from a delegated task environment to an environment where your employees become solution providers, contribute beyond any written down goals and hold themselves and peers accountable for delivering high quality work. Become more of a coach to connect people to the higher sense of purpose, develop capabilities instead of only specific task skills and empower individuals to make their own decisions. This will help you find more time to plan, think creatively and influence multiple stakeholders.

Advocate for Employees.

Not all senior executives will understand the important daily contributions employees make at a tactical or operational level. Becoming a champion and advocate, not just for your direct employees, but others who give a wider contribution, helps the senior executives understand how to connect, nurture and support people. It should open channels so you can be influential on employee growth and development programs, flexible working and innovative recognition programs.

Be the Culture 

It’s always a big topic for debate is creating culture. The acid test for a middle manager is to create an environment where people are falling over themselves to join your function. Don’t abdicate from responsibility and wait for high level programs, that might or might not get off the ground. Be brave and lead the change in your sphere of responsibility. What environment would people thrive in?

I hope you enjoyed a brief overview on the middle managers challenges and opportunities

Link to original article in FM Magazine  –

February 2023