After a recent survey of 2,001 midlevel leaders worldwide, combined
with additional contemporary data, Development Dimensions
International (DDI) offers suggestions for organizations to prepare
their midlevel talent to ensure business success in todays
DDIs report, Put Your Money in the Middle, defines a midlevel
leader as a manager of managers who is accountable for several team
leaders, an operation, or a global business unit. Although the
ranks of midlevel leaders have shrunk during the last two years,
middle managers responsibilities have grown exponentially,
according to Tacy M. Byham, vice president of executive development
Midlevel managers are like shock absorbersthey take energy from the
top and at the same time, try to keep their troops engaged and
energized. They are constantly at the beck-and-call of both
executives and team members.
Midlevel leaders cite leading change, executing work priorities,
and making tough decisions as the most pressing challenges they
face now, and only 11 percent of respondents feel well prepared to
handle these challenges over the next two years. Executives believe
that the next generation of senior leaders lacks the ability to
think strategically, lead change, create a vision, and rally others
around a visionall strategic competencies necessary for business
success and sustainability.
Byham identifies the cause of this disconnect between talent and
business strategy as a lack of leadership development. Whats
missing is the how component in leadership development, says Byham.
How do you execute what the business is asking you to execute? How
do you manage others?
Organizations tend to spend their money on executives and the
first-level supervisory ranks, not growing their leaders in the
middle. The recession has kept Baby Boomers in senior leader
positions, but once they begin to retire during the next several
years, organizations that have failed to invest sufficient
resources into growing their middle leaders will feel the burn.
A lack of professional development has also been linked to a
decrease in engagement. According to the study, 64 percent of
middle managers say that they are not likely to be with their
current employers two years from now. Theres a direct correlation
between the engagement of a manager and the engagement of the
people on his team. When people feel disengaged, theyre likely to
leave, Byham says.
The report suggests that the way midlevel roles are structured
breeds disengagement. Respondents identified the top drivers of
engagement as the ability to make decisions about how I do my job,
whether people trust each other in my work group, and teamwork and
collaboration. When middle managers are given greater autonomy and
trust in their roles, they tend to be more engaged in their work.
Building engagement also includes helping managers understand their
value and realize that what they do is important to the future of
the organization, Byham adds. Training and development
professionals should encourage senior leaders to have these ongoing
conversations with middle managers.