The first promotion for anyone into a managerial role is always the most exhilarating one as you are now sort of a demi-god and dictating lives of other human beings for 8 hours a day. The exhilaration soon dissipates as you are now tasked with transforming decisions into actions which is normally the most difficult part of any organization.
Being top management is about making decisions to make the company better, cheaper and faster. Being operational staff, the job is actually to control and solve problems, keeping the working machinery going. The middle manager needs to be the head coach to boost team morale, foster organization of resources around executing management decisions, removing roadblocks for operations to run smoothly. Everyone can be a middle manager but not everyone can be a good middle manager. A good middle manager is an ultimate all in one role that requires a man with mettle, guts, wit and perseverance.
The rule of the game of being a middle manager is to keep both those above you and under you happy. What keeps the management happy are normally quantifiable results and nicely packaged progress tracking charts and diagrams. The operational staff on the other hand just want to live through another day without being dragged through the mud, treated with respect and better pay with more benefits. Key is to bridge the expectations and needs of both in order to attain an alignment of positive benefits across the hierarchy. So just how do we do it?
- Communicate with the management and understand what are the results they are looking for. Some might communicate directly the measurable result and some might indirectly communicate their goals which means you have to read between the lines to convert that into a measurable result. Example : Management B who is indirect might say he expects an improved customer satisfaction rate while Management A who is direct will say he expects the satisfaction rate to finish off at 80% for the year.
- Ask for tangible rewards to the team that are tied to the results.
- Request for authority to clear roadblocks that might get into the way of execution.
- Achieve a clear mutual understanding of the milestones and reporting of updates.
- Manage their expectations that certain results might not be achievable.
- Communicate overall expectations from management and set a stretch target to the team.
- Communicate measurable expectations that are broken down into operational tasks. Example: Picking up a support call within 10 seconds and always saying thank you at the end of every call.
- Reward and compliment with generosity.
- Coach and guide with patience.
- Punish/reprimand with respect and fairness.
- Highlight team members’ victory to management. Do not credit snatch because their victory is your victory.
- Always be the first to take the blame should something go wrong because their mishap is your mishap.
- Proactively help clear any roadblocks that gets into the way of your team.
All that being said, it is more often easier said than done. It is an art as much as it is a science. It takes practice if not some setbacks in order to truly master it.