As a leader, it’s likely you aren’t at the very top of the pyramid at your organization. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle, leading a team (maybe even a team of teams), while still reporting to leadership above us. Much like middle children, middle management positions come with their own unique set of challenges (and strengths). Even at the top of your own team structure, you still have someone that you’re accountable to. So...how do you lead from the middle?
As a middle manager, your responsibilities come at you from every direction, and it can be difficult to balance priorities like leading and managing while still being accountable to your own leadership. At the same time, you are responsible for the results, but don’t necessarily have the needed authority to make necessary changes to the organization.
There are three things you need to master in order to effectively lead from the middle ground:
Knowing what to give and what to take
(Rather listen along? Tune into The Beyond Leadership podcast, now!)
Mastering Efficient Communication
As a middle manager, you have to know two languages. You have to be able to talk the talk of your senior leadership, and also that of your team. It’s up to you to be able to understand the conversations that happen at both tables and translate for both parties, working as a middle-woman to help both groups find success.
When learning and talking the language of a senior leader, you need to be able to talk vision and strategy. Where are you going, and how are you going to get there as a team?
When talking to your team, you need to be able to talk systems. How is their work helping achieve the vision? What piece of the pie is your team tackling, and how will they carry it out? It’s important to break down the high level vision of your organization and turn it into achievable milestones for your team.
Knowing What to Give & What to Take
Give praise. Take responsibility. As a leader in the middle, it’s likely that you won’t always get the recognition you deserve, which isn’t always a bad thing! A good leader takes responsibility when receiving negative feedback as opposed to shifting blame onto their team. This doesn’t mean you can’t use this feedback as a teaching moment, but it does mean that you don’t direct the feedback onto your team.
When receiving praise, it’s okay to take pride in your work, but don’t forget to take pride in your team. By passing praise along to the people who are truly responsible, you create opportunities to celebrate wins publicly. At the end of the day, it isn’t your job to take credit, it’s your job to get results.
Mastering Effective Influence
Especially when influencing upwards in your chain of command, it’s important to manage expectations. If you aren’t trying to manage your leadership’s expectations of you and your team, then you probably aren’t doing a very good job of advocating for your team members. Use the influence you have to acquire the resources your team requires to do their jobs. Advocate for your team, and make sure your leadership is clear when it comes to your team’s needs in order to get things done.
If your leadership assigns you and your team a project with an unrealistic deadline, do not leave it to your team to make up for the unrealistic expectations. Speak up and make it heard when your team has needs and concerns.
When influencing downwards in your chain of command, it’s important to look for opportunities for your team to excel. By being alert and aware of these opportunities, you can pass them onto your team and give them quick wins worth celebrating.
Use your influence to keep your “why” at the forefront of operations, even if your team is focused on the “how.”
Consider your own positioning.
To round out this subject, consider asking yourself three questions:
How does your senior leadership think you are doing as a leader?
How does your team think you are doing as a leader?
Is there a difference?
If you find that the answer to number three is “yes,” something has to give. Do what you can to close the gap to ensure you are leading effectively and efficiently from the middle.
NEED MORE LEADERSHIP TIPS AND TRICKS?