1999 - Managers and Leaders (a continuing series)
- The Middle Manager Role Revisited
- Tips for Success
- Effective Leadership and Communication
The Middle Manager Role Revisited
Guest author: Steve Towers (stevetowers [at] workmail.com) with an update to
his article in
our October 1996 newsletter.
The original article
'Reengineering - Middle Managers are the key asset swam against the tide of
popular opinion back in 1996.
However, as many organizations came to realize in their
rush to down size and restructure, losing this most vital knowledge resource cost them
This article focuses on those enlightened businesses that
saw wisdom in not only retaining this asset but also revamping the Middle Manager role to
provide that new Corporate Wisdom which allows them to dominate their
respective market sectors.
There are ideas here for those seeking to learn from their
mistakes and make good the lost years of the mid 90's.
Many companies shed that vital knowledge base of the
Middle Manager — which when leveraged correctly — results in the new concept of
Combining experience and knowledge provides the top
performers with sustained advantages.
In the UK Marks & Spencer consistently outperform
their competitors through rigorous and continual renewal.
Mixing new ideas and innovation with current knowledge and
experience provides amazing energy.
Harnessing this corporate wisdom involves the revamped
Middle Managers role, now given such names as the Stage Managers (Egg, the banking
subsidiary of Prudential), in activities such as creativity centers, Energy groups and Tai
A massive leap forward for many companies now working with
their people to free up skills and talents previously only mentioned in new
Banging the drum
The new Middle Manager now finds himself leading a quiet
revolution typified by concepts such as 'dancing with customers' whereby the whole
organization seek not only to serve their customers but to provide a truly individual
The Middle Managers practical experience coupled with
knowledge in the market allows the new people-centered approaches to deliver substantial
improvements to the bottom line.
Organizations charting these approaches report continued
They are able to identify new concepts and bring them to
bear in their businesses before the competition even suspects a change in he way of
They can consistently offer better products and services
customized to their customers often changing needs.
While undoubtedly technology plays its role, the major
contributor to this new found agility is the good old Middle Manager role.
1. Free up the front line
- Keep management out of the customer front line.
- These front line guys know what they're about and its
the Middle Managers role to keep senior management out - don't let them interfere.
- The new Middle Manager role protects this vital resource
from internal politics and all things not focused against the customer.
- New ideas are born here and should be nurtured to provide
the business with continual sources of new approaches.
2. Adopt holism wholly
- Include in the corporate agenda new ways of thinking and
- Turn creativity ideas into practical programs targeted
against key corporate objectives.
- The Middle Manager becomes the conduit to coordinate the
new thinking along side successful current practices.
- The key here is to adopt a non-cynical approach to new
- If they work adopt them quickly. Internalize the best bits
and move on to the next innovation.
- Too much Analysis results in Paralysis.
3. Success breeds success
- Enthusiasm is infectious.
- People like to belong to a winning team.
- Involve the customer in the success - they are after all
the reason for it!
- Publicize and share winning approaches.
- The competitors become so busy emulating they miss your key
- Again the Middle Manager role is both the catalyst and the
4. Don't stop looking
- Good ideas are like good people - they need developing and
stimulating to deliver their best.
- Never neglect a good idea - your competitors certainly
- Look for corporate metaphors everywhere.
- Dancing with customers is only the beginning.
As we have discovered, organizations ignore the role of
the Middle Manager at their peril.
Those who retained and developed this vital resource have
The future is a bright prospect for the aspirant Middle
After an early career in the Utility and then the Financial Services
sector Steve Towers co-founded Utilisense Consulting, now established as a leading BPR
consultancy. He is Chairman of the Business Process Management Group
and has recently been appointed Chairman of IntraNet Solutions, a systems consultancy
currently undertaking Internet/IntraNet assignments with leading blue chip companies.
To contact Steve: Tel/fax (in the UK)
+44 121 711 7099 ), e-mail: stevetowers [at] workmail.com, Web site:
Thanks, Steve for sharing your experience!
Guest author: Karlene Sugarman,
M.A., Sports Psychology Consultant
Great leaders come in many forms
- In one sense solid leadership is a subjective thing, in another there are certain
characteristics that are consensus when it comes to quality leadership.
- A great leader is hard to define, but they incorporate whatever traits are necessary to
motivate others to work hard to pursue their goals.
- Leadership isnt just a characteristic of one person but rather a complex social
- Its the process of influencing members of the group to work hard towards, and be
committed to, its goals.
- What makes a good leader is based on your own perceptions.
- If you move the team and people follow then you are a leader, says former San Francisco
49er, Dr. Jamie Williams.
The great leader is a master in the art of communication
- He/She is aware of the strong need for his actions to match his words.
- Leaders need to possess a willingness to listen to input with an open mind.
- Two-way communication is essential in a team environment.
- Being approachable and having an "open door" policy makes for very good
relations among the group.
- This is crucial in building a trusting and open environment.
- It must be an established norm that it is okay to ask for help.
- It is critical that the members feel that they can communicate openly without fear of
Communication is a Circle
- There has to be a feedback loop where the group members give input and tell you what
they think, and you have to give them both constructive criticism and positive feedback -
its a circular process.
- Firmness and fairness are important components in this.
- The way you communicate with and lead your group will play a big part in your
members motivation to work hard.
- Disclose things that you feel will strengthen your relationship with them, as well as
the relationship they have with their group members. You should not use your role to
protect yourself from honest and direct interaction with the members.
- Feedback to and from group members is very crucial to success and productivity.
Leaders Continually Look Forward
- The goal is to push the group to achieve maximum performance.
- You, along with the members, have to set obtainable yet demanding group goals.
- Strong leadership becomes a moot point if the group members are uninterested in the
mission and goals.
- You must develop a strong rapport and you all need to be on the same page. This
involves trust and confidence on both ends.
- As a leader, you want to motivate people by giving them a chance to utilize their
strengths to obtain positive results.
- They provide opportunities to fulfill their goals and dreams.
- Outstanding leaders are able to influence others to work toward their goals.
Leaders Live Their Vision
- Murray & Mann stated that a proficient leader "has a vision, an intense focus
on outcome and results, a realistic strategy to carry out the vision and the ability to
communicate the vision and rally support of others" (Williams, 1993, p. 87).
- Leaders are there to coach, direct and nudge people in the direction of the goals.
- They have a strong ability to pass their intensity along to their others.
- They are always in the trenches right along with everyone else.
Leaders Set an Example
- A leader guides a group, not rules the group.
- He/She charts a course, gives direction and develops the social and psychological
environment (Martens, 1987).
- Ultimately, you are responsible for providing a great atmosphere for members to learn,
grow and help them identify obstacles in the path you are providing for them.
- You must give some responsibility to the group and have the courage to foster
- Otherwise the members will feel that you dont trust them to take care of
themselves, and will thus live up to this expectation by being irresponsible.
Copyright © Karlene Sugarman, M.A. This article was adapted from Chapter 2 of Winning
the Mental Way. To obtain your copy of Winning the Mental Way, contact
Step Up Publishing in the US at (650) 347-0826 or you can contact Karlene at karsug [at]
Karlene Sugarman received her B.A. from St. Marys College in 1991 and her
M.A. in Sports Psychology from John F. Kennedy University in 1993. She has worked with
numerous schools, organizations, clubs and businesses teaching team building and mental
training. She is a member of the Association for the Advancement of Sports Psychology
(AAASP) and a member of the Sports Science Committee for the U.S. Tennis Association. She
has written articles for many magazines.
- Martens, R. (1987). CoachesGuide to Sports Psychology.
Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics Publishers, Inc.
- Williams, J. M. (Ed.). (1993). Applied Sports
Psychology. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Company.
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