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Between a “Rock and a Hard Place” Five rules for thriving as a middle manager.

Middle management roles present a tough career milestone for many. Although they are also, undoubtedly, a pivotal time in your career. Working “from the middle” is challenging! Your direct reports require your support, your boss has priorities, your peers regularly ask you for help and pull you into extra projects on the way. You are forced to live with one foot on each side of the organisational dynamic, according to Forbes, being a liaison between the big picture and getting things done.

Centre for Creative Leadership identified that leading from the middle isn’t about the position itself, but rather about meeting the demands from above, while meeting the needs of those below.

It is not at all surprising to know that according to Renny Bloch, Leadership Development Expert, middle managers struggle to manage up. The critical “big picture” information often isn’t given; however, managers are put in the position to “sell” the decision/ change to their teams.

So, what do you need to know or do to help you not only survive, but thrive as a middle manager?

1. Teach yourself to think and act systematically.

Not a big picture person? Time to change that! Develop your skills in seeing global direction of your business, identify and analyse patterns in processes and relationships and make fast decisions based on multiple broad factors.

2. Learn quickly, be agile!

To be good at anything requires some skills, knowledge, and technical know-how. Your success depends on your ability to develop skills at a rapid pace. Seek opportunity to learn and do it fast as there is little precious time in your busy day.

It is inevitable that you would make mistakes. Take them seriously, take what learning you need from them and move on. Don’t let your mistakes drag you down!

3. Become Self-Aware

As a middle manager, you are called to motivate and drive others to succeed. But before you do that, understanding your own motivations, leadership style, preferences, and triggers, can help you leverage strengths and mitigate shortcomings.

4. Nurture your resilience

Even doing your best sometimes leads to things working out differently to how you intended. Always have contingency plan (or two!) up your sleeve. Having a plan B will keep you prepared and minimise inevitable stress.

Pause and breathe through the day. Take regular moments away from your desk to reflect and reset your mind. Think beyond immediate, short-term issues. Focus on long term goals – managing at this level is a marathon, not a sprint.

Be creative, adopt fast to changing environment, seek new paths to success. And don’t do it alone! Find your tribe, a peer group, or an experienced mentor to be your support system. Leadership doesn’t have to be a solo sport.

5. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!

Communication seems like a most common topic of any leadership conversation. Yet despite having spoken of extensively, not many businesses and leaders get it right.

Communication rests on your ability not only to express and share information, but also listen, sense-make and consolidate.

Understand your audience and share information in a way which would most likely be heard. For the information to be absorbed, meet people where they are at.

Where to from here?

Multiple ways exist to help you grow and develop in the areas discussed here. You may already be a part of the leadership training or studying a degree in leadership and management. Formal learning pathways will help you acquire the skills and knowledge; however, you are then left in finding your own pathways to application. Coaching is an excellent tool to help with translation of theory into practice, reflecting on and overcoming challenges, understanding self, building your resilience, and developing your own communication strategies.

If you are still reading, something (or all) in this article resonated with you! If so, make a phone call or e-mail, this discussion is on us. Ask your question, you never know where it may lead you.

Contact Maria at Flexiwell Group

Phone: 07 3532 5945

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