The Role of Middle Management – Can They Make A Difference?

December 27, 2012 — Leave a comment

We hear it all the time, “don’t look at me; it’s not my fault- talk to corporate.”  To make matters worse, some managers use this strategy to make their team feel like they don’t have any influence on policy.  They act like they are just as stuck as everyone else.  Let’s just all be disgruntled together.

Now, don’t misunderstand what I’m saying; there are plenty of instances when managers are stuck with a policy or decision that they don’t agree with.  And I’m not suggesting that they should be insincere with their team about it either.  So, what is their role in this situation?

The Role of Middle Management

Photo courtesy of The U.S. Army; via Flickr

First of all, throw out the word “middle” from middle manager.  Whether you like it or not, as a manager, you have a responsibility to lead your team.

You have a responsibility to connect the dots; to rally the troops, even if the mission is sketchy.

Every leader has this issue.  Every manager has to get their team to do things they don’t agree with.  I can promise you that even VP’s and high level execs have to do things that the board of directors has forced them to do.  Do you ever hear about that?  Nope.

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So, if you are in this position, and have used that excuse in front of your team members, it’s time to take stock.  Have you ever said these things?

I can’t do anything to motivate my team, my hands are tied.

That’s just how it is here, I’ve tried to fix things.

I just do what I’m told.

These words are dangerous on two levels.  First of all, they instill a sense of hopelessness in you and your team.  Second of all they transfer any and all authority you might have to some unknown person or entity.  What a waste!

Try doing these things instead of making excuses:

  • Focus on what you can influence.  You spend 40+ hours per week with these people, you can make or break their experience daily.
  • Tie initiatives back to the teams bigger mission without trashing corporate ideas.
  • Think outside the box and execute.  Don’t let a poor culture stop you from being a great leader.
  • If money is the issue, spend some of your own personal cash.  You’ll be shocked at the results! (Otherwise there are plenty of ways to influence without spending money; check out my ebook for 5 dirt cheap ways).

Realize that sometimes these things require a bit of a spin-doctor.  Your team may have to be sold a little on certain policies.  That’s ok.  The bottom line here is that the buck stops with you.  Your team looks up the food chain and you are the first face they see.  Don’t let them down!

Question:  Have you ever convinced your team that they should do something you didn’t agree with?  How did you do it?