The role of the middle manager.
The role of the middle manager hinges around the word „middle”.
The role of the middle manager is not to be the visionary, nor that of the do-er.
The middle manager sits in the middle, on the one side top management, the mother company or the owner, who want their vision, their long term plan, their dream to be made reality, on the other side the supervisors, team leaders and workers that want a clear assignment and want to go home at the end of the day with a feeling of achievement. The middle manager has to make this happen. Not through what he or she does, but through what (s)he gets other people to do.
Is this a bad place to be? I think not.
Is it an easy place to be? I think not.
The job of the middle manager, carried out well, is however a challenging, an interesting and certainly never a boring job.
Is the middle manager a „facilitator”?
No the middle manager is a practical person that makes the right things happen through the actions of others.
To do that, the middle manager needs to take ownership of the company vision. This is done through gaining a true understanding of the vision, the thinking behind the vision and the dreams upon which the vision is based. However, ownership does not come from understanding alone. The middle manager must assess how the company, with its present abilities and assets, can work towards achieving this vision. What strengths can be used, what weaknesses have to be worked upon and what shortcomings need to be addressed so there is a realistic chance to achieve the goals. This will unavoidably lead to negotiations on what can be achieved, priorities on which weaknesses need to be addressed first and decisions on which shortcoming can be addressed and which not. This will lead to a plan that top management as well as middle management can believe in. This is the plan that the middle manager „owns” and which (s)he now has to „sell” to the supervisors and team leaders. Selling the plan is not the same as telling the plan. To convince the supervisors and team leaders that the plan is achievable, the middle manager needs to translate the vision into actions (the supervisors and team leaders subsequently need to translate these action into tasks) that they can relate to e.g. expand this department, increase that capacity, cut excesses there and build up somewhere else. These actions need to be simple and practical and NEED TO HAPPEN!! After that, the role of the middle manager is simple. (S)He just has to make sure it happens and the dream will come true.
To give the middle manager some food for thought, I have developed the middle manager excellence model. Like the companies we work for, like the world we live in, it changes.