No child ever dreams of growing up to be a middle manager, notes Tacy Byham, vice-president of executive development for Development Dimensions International. These days, with the downsizing of management, middle managers may see their situation as a nightmare.
In TCB Review, Ms. Byham notes that one manager she knows has 72 direct reports and is responsible for performance reviews for all of them, while another manager says being insanely busy is a “badge of honour” in her organization. Mid-level leaders who feel overworked and underappreciated may become disillusioned about their jobs, disengaged from their teams, and fail to do all the important things they are counted on to do.
Companies continue to neglect middle managers even though they are the lynch pin between where the organization wants to go and what it takes to get there. “Traditionally, scarce training dollars have flowed toward maximizing the performance … of front-line leaders, and senior-level retirements have driven a sustained focus on the need for executive development,” she writes. “The middle, meanwhile, has tended to be the overlooked level.”
She urges companies to move beyond the focus on developing high-potential staff to also developing high performers, notably middle managers. The focus should not be on preparing them to move up to the next level, but rather on helping them to excel in their roles indefinitely.