Our Prescription: Managerial Fitness
Implementing the right programme of managerial fitness is an important step to unfreezing the middle of the organisations. To begin our exploration of mid-level leader fitness we first summarise who they are. We culled recent industry research to create a picture of key traits and post this summary at the end of this POV.
This summary emphasises that there is substantial diversity within this critical talent segment.
One of the insights we extract from the picture above is that many leaders entered their roles when organisations had deinvested from leadership development programmes following the “great recession.” “We have to catch them up!” as one client said. While observers of our industry report increases in training and development budgets in the last few years, we estimate that as many as 60 percent of the people who are currently in middle management roles entered the roles when leadership development budgets were very thin.
Catching them up—building managerial fitness—is what we focus on next. We begin by clarifying what mid-level leaders do.
What Do Mid-Level Leaders Do?
Mid-level leaders do five big things. They:
1. Optimise performance of team members in service of team/function goals
• Set goals, give direction, provide feedback, and administer rewards and recognition for achievement
2. Operate as the “transmission belt”1 between the (a) front-line staff and (b) senior managers to achieve and maintain critical alignm1`ents
• Translate the goals of senior management into plans
• Communicate plans to teams
• Engage senior leaders with insights about how to improve strategy, planning and performance based on intelligence gathered from front-line staff and work with customers
3. Manage teams and functions
• Manage internal processes and systems
• Get the best people on the team (and get poor performers off the team)
• Set team/functional priorities
• Report on team/function performance
• Evaluate and resolve problems and facilitate problem-solving others
4. Liaise between teams to drive performance on shared priorities
•This is particularly important when priorities have not been aligned or prioritised across teams or the clarity needed to implement effectively is missing.
5. Do work
• Many managers today are “working managers” who both lead and do work. This tension is tough to resolve as managing requires time and attention. Doing it as a part time job is quite challenging for many
Setting the Mid-Level Leader Fitness Agenda
Job one for L&D and TM Professionals is building the managerial fitness needed to perform these tasks. Managerial fitness, like fitness in any discipline, from athletics to music, powers high performance. Mid-level leaders need the equivalents of strength, stamina, and flexibility to drive the results for which they are accountable.
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