Alpha Search

Middle managers motivation

Middle managers may have the most challenging role in any company. It's difficult for them to manage expectations of those above and below them, and they're often not fully understood or accepted by either. At the same time, they're crucial in keeping the company together and moving it forward. Despite this, they are often overlooked when it comes to training and development and can feel forgotten about, even though they are so difficult to replace. It's time to fire up your middle tier, and get the most out of them.

1. Develop mutual trust

Middle managers are empowered by trust and respect. They need to feel confident about taking decisions by themselves without being questioned at every step, and need to see and feel the support from the senior management team leaders. They are effectively the powerhouse of the business, and visible respect for their decisions from more senior managers will help to engage them.

2. Appreciate them

It's all about recognition and a sense of achievement. Money alone won't motivate middle managers who are more concerned with personal fulfilment. Show you care for them and appreciate the job they're doing. Including them in away-days, informal business lunches or team-building activities with senior management can help to develop their sense of belonging.

3. Stimulate their growth

You can't assume middle managers are not interested in further development just because they've already reached a certain level. They still want to develop their skills, but perhaps a different set of skills. Sending them to more generic training would be a waste of time and money, but they might appreciate training, for example, in coaching and mentoring, so they can start passing on their knowledge and experience in new and better ways.

4. Converse with them

Don't underestimate the power of conversation - open communication channels both ways, preferably in an informal fashion. Senior managers could share their experiences of challenges they may have faced, and use these as tools to mentor middle managers. But informality is often the key to making it work. More senior leaders should be ready to chat to people, otherwise middle managers will only feel they can raise problems in formal settings, when it may be too late.

5. Make their roles clear

Middle managers often have a misunderstood role. They try to do everything that they think is expected of them and take over both the work and stress from their teams. Make roles clear so everyone knows where their own job ends and the line manager's role begins. Besides doing their own work, middle managers need to have time to be role models to others and to mentor junior staff. They have valuable knowledge and understand the company's vision, its strengths and weaknesses, as well as what's happening on the shop floor. Help them find time to transfer this knowledge. It should be easy if there's clarity about who is doing what and everyone actually does it. Perhaps mentoring could be a part of the middle manager's role description? Making it an expectation will give people a defined timescale for achieving it.

6. Involve them in decisions

Middle managers rarely tend to be involved in making strategic decisions that they then need to sell to their teams. They should be there when decisions are made, as they will know best how to communicate them. Managers have the most power to engage the wider workforce - don't miss out on this opportunity.

Key points

- Ignore middle managers at your peril - they are vital to your organisation's success.
- Ensure they feel supported by senior management.
- Involve them in strategy and decision-making.
- Keep them motivated by offering tailored training.