Solving the Middle Management Breakdown

I believe that when middle managers are able to master management, result breakthroughs are profound and sustainable.

In this episode, I’m going to share with you how to break through what I call the “middle management breakdown”—the block that keeps executives dreams from becoming the reality of the front line’s execution.

If you worry that perhaps your managers act more like “individual contributors” and don’t do nearly enough to maximize the results of their team members, I’m going to give you some solid executable ideas to get some traction for your managers.

If you feel like your managers are proficient, I’ll show you how you can build on that so they can drive even more performance.

And if you are already doing great at getting your managers to manage and you have a fire in your belly to take it up several notches to be the best of the best, you are going to love this session.

It isn’t easy to get managers to manage. There are some predictable challenges.

First, they often don’t have the “street smart” tools they need to manage, causing them to feel inept. As a result, they often gravitate back to the technical aspects of their individual contributors’ roles, where they can enjoy feelings of success.

Second, they quickly learn that not all people want their coaching. When managers run into those who don’t have strong self-esteem—people who deflect or become defensive when they are coached on their performance—they quickly learn to back away. They become “trained” to not manage by the very people who most need to be managed!

Third, because they are managers and not leaders, many lack the “why” understand of what you are asking for. They put people into a mode of “doing” without the “why,” and as a result, things get screwy really fast.

It seems like these happen with almost all management teams, at some level.

I’m now going to share three steps to help you have a breakthrough in whatever level of “middle management breakdown” that you experience, so that you can get everyone and everything aligned with exceeding your strategic plan.

Step 1: Many management theories and training processes are simply “conventional wisdom.” Your managers need to have some basic mastery of psychology and how it applies to changing behavior. They need to learn how to take the complex and make it simple, breaking everything down to basic steps so that people can execute quickly and effectively to get results and feel the joy of daily progress.

Step 2: Move away from the fuzzy language of conventional management theory and training, and mundane practices such as giving people job descriptions (one of the most meaningless tools ever developed in the workplace for improving performance). Your managers need to communicate to their people what the real purpose of each job is if they are performing as a top 5% performer, and what the performance metrics are. They also need to describe the key roles, tasks and responsibilities of a high performer so that it is absolutely clear what good performance looks like.

Step 3: Teach managers how to align each person to what was discussed in step two as well as the new quarterly key initiatives from the strategic plan. Let’s face it, if you can get people behaving like top 5% performers, they’re certainly going to increase performance for everyone who has that job. The skills to coach, celebrate, do one-on-ones, and do quarterly performance reviews that tie to the strategic plan—these transform performance.

So just three steps, really. Create simplicity from complexity so people know how to win; make it clear exactly what extraordinary performance looks like; and follow up with the skills and meeting rhythms to get everyone aligned with performance metrics, what key roles and responsibilities are, and the strategic plan.

By solving the “middle management breakdown” for good, you can reap the benefits of having each team member hit every goal and metric with consistency. You will then know that you can hit all of your goals and metrics—and receive all the praise and personal satisfaction that comes with a job well done.

Be sure to join me next time as I show you how to implement even more performance improvement ideas.

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