Middle managers are the first line managers in an organisation. They manage a team to drive results yet have very little or no impact on company strategy and objectives. They are expected to achieve results and motivate their teams by senior management, expected by their team to support and develop them whilst also delivering on people related aspects of the job and any reporting that is required by the business.
Senior management will typically expect from middle managers that they deliver the objectives determined by the organisation even if these aren’t realistic. They’re expected to get on with the difficulties that may arise with their team whether it is interpersonal conflict or staffing problems without letting it impact on the plan and expected output. They are also typically expected to find ways to motivate their team members and retain them even in contexts where they themselves have no impact on company direction or the changes that are impacting their team such as budgets or companywide technology and processes for example.
Hands up those of you who have sat through completely pointless meetings at work. There’s no clear agenda, people are rambling on about stuff that doesn’t affect you and most of your colleagues are surreptitiously checking their emails rather than focusing on what’s going on.
You’re not alone. Research suggests that 67 per cent of us think meetings are a complete waste of time and fail to result in any concrete actions or conclusions.
It’s frustrating for those who are taking part – but it’s also a serious issue for organisations and Business Leaders. Unproductive, poorly managed meetings take time, cost money and take employees away from more important tasks. Part of the problem is that managers often convene meetings without thinking first about whether one is really needed. They hold a recurrent meeting without fail, even if there isn’t really anything new to say, or set up a formal meeting with a colleague or team member when a quick phone call or email would do.
Of course there are times when a meeting is necessary. So what is best practice when it comes to making sure the meetings you hold are purposeful and effective?
I learnt a valuable lesson about delegation at the point in my career when I was promoted to a management role for the first time.
The feedback from a 360 degree exercise showed that I wasn’t delegating enough to my team – and that as a result I was taking on too much and heading towards burn-out.
It’s a common scenario people face when they pick up managerial responsibility. They feel they need to carry on doing their own job, while also taking on everything that goes with the territory of managing a team. It often takes time for them to realise that the skills that got them promoted are not what they being measured on now. The success criteria has shifted, and in fact managing people and getting the best out of the team isn’t an add-on to the new job, it is the new job.
I’ve learnt over time that letting go and delegating tasks to others makes sound operational sense. It gives you as the manager valuable head space and allows you to concentrate on the strategic aspects of your role and the important decisions that need to be made.
Being a good manager is a difficult balancing act. There’s often a real tension between leading the team (and dealing with the all the people-related issues that come with that) and getting your own day-to-day work done, as well as giving the right impression to senior management.
Managers often find it hard to know what management style to adopt – particularly if they have been promoted into a position where they now have authority over people who used to be colleagues. Should they take an autocratic stance and make it clear who’s in charge? Or should their role be one of coach and/or mentor?
Organisational culture plays a huge part in this. When managers are new, either to the business or to their role, they tend to follow the status quo that has been set by others in senior positions. The problem with this, however, is that many organisations are still hanging on to very out-dated, hierarchical styles of management.