Home 5 Uncategorized 5 Unleashing the power of middle managers: A modern approach to leading people


Unleashing the power of middle managers: A modern approach to leading people

by | Jul 11, 2023 | Uncategorized

How focused are businesses on the influence and importance of middle managers? Are we giving them the enough focus, to enable them to have a positive impact on their teams, the business and our overall experience of work? Middle managers are the connection between senior leaders and frontline colleagues, ensuring effective communication, targeted productivity, and a motivated workforce. But is the true potential of middle managers untapped?

These are just a few questions and discussion points that an article in the Economist entitled The potential and plight of the middle manager prompted us to explore. Its highly relevant for us – we have recently been sharing our ‘10 traits framework: The code of a modern leading people function’ which includes an emphasis on great people management.

So in this blog, inspired by that Economist article, Debbie Mitchell, explores the significance of empowering middle managers to become exceptional people leaders and how it can impact the effectiveness of the People function.

Our 10 Traits Framework

Every leading People function requires a combination of four key ‘bases’ as part of its DNA: people, process, technology and governance. The specific combination is unique to each organisation, with the traits determined by the desired service offering and experience for employees, people managers and business leaders. It is this combination of traits which creates the function’s genetic code. Based on our research, and our work with People/HR functions in many global organisations across a range of industries, we have distilled 10 core traits for future success:

ten traits LACE Partners

Our focus on ‘Supercharged People Managers’ is explored in this blog, as we focus on how middle managers can drive productivity, enhance employee experience, and help HR teams to focus on some of the strategic, value-adding work that will drive business success.

Unleashing the power of people management

An effective middle manager must not only have strong technical or professional expertise and experience but also be able to demonstrate great people management capabilities. Investing in the development of middle managers naturally leads to the development of talented individuals across the business, fostering a culture of talent development, personal and professional growth, and benefiting the organisation with increased performance and productivity, whilst also preparing for the future with new skills. We recognise the temptation to hold on tightly to those top performers, great contributors and high potential teams members, but we strongly believe that building and exporting brilliant talent throughout the business is a mark of an exceptional people manager.

People management development

For many, budgets are tight, and time is tighter, so prioritising where you invest in development is critical. Soft skills play a vital role in effective people leadership. Middle managers need to demonstrate strong interpersonal skills – active listening, asking insightful questions, providing feedback, and a broad coaching capability. These skills impact on teams and individuals in so many ways – from the quality and clarity of delegation to performance improvement, development, wellbeing and recognition conversations.

By prioritising soft skills training we can enable middle managers to create a positive impact on their teams and deliver an improved experience at work.

Impacting productivity

At the end of the day, we’re in business to achieve our goals, be those financial or a wholly different purpose – and to achieve those goals we need employees to be productive towards our purpose. The actions and behaviours of middle managers, equipped with excellent people management skills, can enhance that productivity significantly and have a positive impact on the employees’ experience too. We know that engaged employees are more likely to give discretionary effort, have lower absenteeism and turnover and act as champions for your workplace, and these all contribute positively to achieving business goals.

And let’s not forget that people don’t leave jobs; they leave managers. Get people management right, and you get employee experience and engagement right.

Liberating HR

Empowering and enabling middle managers to handle day-to-day people management challenges can release HR business partners, freeing up their time to focus on value added, strategic initiatives. So much of an HR partner’s time is drawn into handling questions or situations that people managers should be able to address, or that could be directly resolved through digital self-service technology. By enabling HR to become true business partners, organizations can drive alignment with the business strategy and deliver impactful results. But this requires investment – in developing people managers’ capabilities, and in the right technology solutions; adoption of new ways of working from employees and managers, and importantly, a commitment from HR partners to shift out of their comfort zone and into areas that might feel less familiar, more challenging and much more strategic. It’s a challenge to more traditional People function operating models, but a challenge that can reap rewards for the business, the people function team and every employee’s experience at work.

Interested in talking to us about how you can apply our ten traits framework to people within your business? Reach out to us and we can send you more information about the traits, as well as benchmarking tool that we have developed that you can plot out where your people are in their process. Fill in the form below and mention that you’d like more information in the notes section and we’ll be in touch.

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