The Future of Organizations According to the Wall Street Journal

The future of organizations depends on skillful, empowered middle-managers. (WSJ – subscription required.)

Successful managers*:

  1. Motivate employees to act.
  2. Engage employees with purpose.
  3. Drive outcomes assertively.
  4. Paddle upstream successfully.
  5. Create accountability.
  6. Build relationships that foster trust, openness, and transparency.
  7. Choose productivity over politics.

*Adapted from Gallup

Google’s best managers:

  1. Coach
  2. Don’t micromanage.
  3. Show concern for success and wellbeing.
  4. Drive for results.

*Adapted from re:Work

Roadblocks to successful management:

Being pulled from both sides disempowers middle-managers. Upper-management wants one thing. Front-line employees want something else.

The knot in your stomach comes from feeling pulled in conflicting directions.

Pressure for short-term success causes conflict between front-line employees and management. People grow weary of today’s “crisis” when they know another “crisis” is just around the corner.

Lack of authority to act on input disempowers middle-management.

“We found that managers face two distinct hurdles: They are not empowered to act on input from below, and they feel compelled to adopt a short-term outlook to work.” HBR

Puppets or empowerment:

Don’t expect high performance when you treat middle-managers like puppets and front-line employees like tools.

Micro-management from upper-management paralyzes middle-management.

“… it is unreasonable to ask managers to solicit and encourage ideas and input from employees when they are not empowered themselves and are asked to focus on short-term outcomes.”

3 conversation starters for your next meeting:

  1. How might we give more autonomy to middle-management and satisfy the concerns of upper-management at the same time?
  2. What does an empowered middle-manager look like?
  3. What long-term goals might guide our actions today?

Confidence correlates with competence AND control.

Initiative requires autonomy.

Seeking input is futile when crisis-goals dominate organizational life.

“… managers in the low empowerment condition were 30% less likely to seek feedback from their employees than those in the high empowerment condition.”

What do successful middle-managers do that makes them successful?

How might organizations empower middle-managers?

Just a thought: It’s interesting that flat organizations are eliminating middle-managers.