Middle Managers: Gatekeepers of Success

What is the biggest driver of profitability for an organization? A deep-dive analysis by Gallup unearthed a finding that they identified as “the single most profound, distinct, and clarifying finding” in 80 years, something that directly impacts an organization’s profitability: the factor that had the greatest impact on the overall success of an organization is effective middle managers.

This finding confirms our professional observations and the research CMOE has been doing for 40 years. Our experience suggests that organizational success requires much more than getting your hiring practices right. Even if organizations know what they need from superstar middle managers, there simply aren’t enough of them in the labor market to fill the gap. Instead, organizations that strive to be highly successful must invest in their middle managers’ development and growth. So why are middle managers so essential to unlocking better performance and margins? It’s simple: middle managers hold the key to

  • The success or failure of every new strategy.
  • Every operating process.
  • The continuous-improvement initiatives of the enterprise.

Ultimately, they are largely responsible for determining whether the organization has a high-performance culture—or a mediocre one.

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Middle managers are the linchpin between senior leaders who set direction and those on the front lines who execute short-term operating strategy as well as long-term plans. Mid-level managers influence front-line leaders, operators, sales, and support functions, and they have a relatively clear line of sight to the goals and priorities of the senior team. In essence, middle managers are the gatekeepers of the organization’s success—and those who are skilled in a few key competencies and behaviors can infuse your organization with the drive, focus, and competitive edge needed to outperform your rivals.

However, having skilled leaders doesn’t happen by accident. Successful firms are highly committed to a strategy of growth and development for their mid-level managers. So, what are the behaviors that make managers great? For the best business outcomes, there are seven critical competencies that every middle manager must embody:

  1. Align the Team

Middle managers must be able to create cohesive teams of front-line leaders who can influence the behavior of scores of people in your organization.

  1. Coach for Results

Middle managers must be able to coach others effectively across boundaries and up and down the organizational hierarchy. They must be equipped to provide constructive feedback to the front-line leaders who report to them and influence senior management without having significant positional authority.

  1. Think and Act Strategically

Middle managers must be future-focused and capable of creating a strategic agenda that is linked to the enterprise while also being relevant for their function.

  1. Demonstrate Self-Awareness and Composure

Middle managers must be self-aware, having the ability to reflect on their own emotions and reactions and able to maintain their composure when handling challenges of all types.

  1. Follow Through and Be Accountable

Middle managers must have the ability to establish plans and priorities and execute on their commitments.

  1. Lead Groups to Solutions

Middle managers must be skillful at facilitating, listening, and collaborating with individuals and teams.

  1. Solve the Tough Problems

Middle managers must be able to use logic, facts, and critical-thinking skills as well as their instincts, intuition, and experience to work through difficult dilemmas, solve problems, and make decisions.

Designing a well-rounded program to develop and strengthen these behaviors and competencies in mid-level managers is what truly sets highly successful organizations apart. CMOE has created a program for mid-level managers that helps companies like yours build and develop their leadership pipeline. Explore our website to learn more about what we offer and how we can help your company reach the next level of success.

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About the Author

Stephanie Mead

Ms. Mead has experience in operations management, leadership development curriculum design, organization development consulting, and international operations. Stephanie has developed complete leadership development curriculums for some of the world’s leading organizations. Her experience also includes creating specialized learning experiences and blended learning programs aimed at maximizing human and organization performance. Stephanie has also co-authored 4 books with other CMOE consultants.