How do you decode the Middle Riddle? What are the most relevant issues involved with middle managers in the organisations?
LC In simplistic terms - Middle Riddle is majorly about inability of mid-level managers to discharge people manager responsibility effectively, efficiently and productively. They are in true sense a bridge between strategy and execution. In majority of the organisations they are not involved in the design of strategy at any stage or there are communication gaps around how the strategy has to be executed, therefore, they fail to adequately plan and deliver. This causes the muddle for the organisation and hence it's a riddle for the leadership.
Major areas where mid-level managers fail is alignment between strategic goals and operational goals. This hinders the strategy execution process and more often than not they tend to be in crisis management mode. Ideally, it is expected of them to play the role of a coach to front line staff as they guide and coach the behaviours of these employees in line with the strategic goal requirements or as envisaged in the leadership competency framework of the organisation. Moreover their inability to play the role of a coach or a mentor adds to the middle riddle.
Does the Corp Inc. recognise the existence and value middle managers? If yes, why it is not visible and appreciated enough? If not, what reasons you can count upon?
LC Existence of middle managers will depend on the type of organisation structures. Organisation structures which are based on hierarchy or function or product or geography based or matrix will surely have middle managers. They will continue to play a vital role in ensuring execution of business strategy, planning and managing of human resources including setting and reviewing performance goals etc., engagement and development of talent. They also play an important role in change management and communication across the organisation.
In my view, one of the reasons why their contribution is less visible or appreciated less is possibly because of their inability to escalate or seek help from peers or leadership or HR when they need it the most. Somewhere I believe the emphasis is on getting the job done quickly (read as tick) rather than ensuring the living part i.e. are things being done in the manner they should have been done or are the deliverables resulting in value creation or impact on business as per the required standards and expectations or are they below the desired level e.g. the quality of performance dialogue and feedback with the employees - is it being done to report to HR as completed or is it helpful for employee on his/her journey of goal achievement or the discussions are confined to quantitative review of goal achievement either yes or no, with no exchange on "how" part.
Do you think that the middle managers are self-responsible for their misery or failure in the organisation? What can be the strategies to make them more competent?
LC I feel and believe that it is incorrect to completely blame the middle managers for the current state. In my view, the Leadership and the HR function has not given sufficient attention to the need of development of middle managers. It is presumed that since middle managers are in the ecosystem for fairly long number of years and do understand what the organisation needs, hence they are the best judge to learn, adapt and demonstrate behaviours which are needed for organisational success. It does not happens this way. It is the leadership and HR responsibility to coach, give feedback, make them self-aware and support in their development.
I feel that the strategy has to be simple, they must practice to be more mindful, be more self-aware, be more empathetic, be more curious to learn and unlearn. Solutions and answers for higher engagement has to come from within by the middle managers, only than we can see higher impact - HR and leadership can only be enablers.
In order to make the middle managers more competent, strategies for providing experiential learning must include aspects of situational leadership, coaching, impactful communications including developmental planning conversations, providing structured feedback, storytelling and art of influencing, mindfulness and ability to cultivate growth mindset.