The Future of Organizations According to the Wall Street Journal
The future of organizations depends on skillful, empowered middle-managers. (WSJ – subscription required.)
- Motivate employees to act.
- Engage employees with purpose.
- Drive outcomes assertively.
- Paddle upstream successfully.
- Create accountability.
- Build relationships that foster trust, openness, and transparency.
- Choose productivity over politics.
*Adapted from Gallup
Google’s best managers:
- Don’t micromanage.
- Show concern for success and wellbeing.
- 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:
- How might we give more autonomy to middle-management and satisfy the concerns of upper-management at the same time?
- What does an empowered middle-manager look like?
- 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.
The servant leader–senior manager asks the “middle manager” –“What can I do to help you be more successful?”
The senior leader practicing “appreciative inquiry” asks the middle manager–“What’s working really well for you and how can you do more of it?”
The senior leader with a “growth mindset” asks the middle manager–“What are the obstacles that are holding you back? What knowledge and tools will make you more effective?”
Thanks Paul. Great road map. The idea of working on things we do well is a mind-shift for some people. It’s so easy to be in fix everything mode all the time. Problems seem to drag us away from opportunities. In the end we expend our energy on weaknesses and neglect strengths.
Who wouldn’t love to be on the receiving end of the questions you suggest? 🙂
What do successful middle-managers do that makes them successful? Knowing how to connect with clients & workers, comes down to communication with all parties involved, be clear and concise.
How might organizations empower middle-managers? Let them do their jobs to the fullest, organize some basic guidelines and let them run. Give them a basic “Do’s and Don’t’s”, letting them know how far they can go with what limitations they have and ” when in doubt ask who so ever when needed”.
Keep it simple, complexity can cause uncertainty!
Thanks Tim. The image of a fenced playground came to mind. Set boundaries and let people play. In organizations, goals, mission, vision, values are all part of fence-building.
A lot of what you have been saying all in one post. Let those who you trust to lead do their jobs. If you don’t trust your leaders then deal with it. You may want to look in the mirror first. Always do self reflection before judgement. Good post Dan.
Thanks Walt. Bingo! If you don’t trust people, deal with trust. Don’t try to create an environment where distrust is the guiding principle.
Thank you for posting an article I can share! It’s insightful, interesting, and…. no vulgar language this time!! 🙂