Middle management tends to get a bad rep as the “middle man” inside organizations. But middle management, sometimes known as “middle level management,” plays an important supervisory role within large companies. However, as remote work continues to become the norm, the role is changing.
In this article, we’ll discuss the role and characteristics of middle management in the 21st century. We’ll also explore how Middle Management Development Programs can be used to provide training and development to the next generation of firm leadership (i.e., today’s middle managers). Let’s get into it.
What Is Middle Management?
Before thinking about the role of middle management, let’s first answer the question: “What is middle management?” A generally accepted definition: managers that rank in the middle tier of the hierarchy of a company and are tasked with supervising employees.
In this sense, they act as a liaison, receiving information from senior leadership and conveying those directives to those below them. However, as more and more businesses operate in remote environments, the question becomes: What is middle management in the 21st century?
In the current era, the role of the middle manager is getting more challenging, complex, and valuable. This requires an updated definition. Modern day middle managers are being trained to take on a role that is not just focused on human resources and technical office skills, but also on big picture thinking (ex: developing business strategy, improving employee retention, and achieving company goals).
Examples Of Middle Managers and Their Importance
As businesses transform under fast changing societal (i.e., coronavirus standards) and technological forces (i.e., use of automation), it will be important to train middle managers that are adaptable and able to solve problems. They should know how to care for employees and utilize communication, technology, and leadership skills to make any work environment more productive as they implement the business’ overall strategy.
Based on this understanding, let’s outline some key examples of middle managers (and why they matter):
A finance manager who knows senior leaders are looking for more actionable data from the company’s information systems but whose team of analysts is young and inexperienced
A marketing manager who must communicate the cutting-edge digital marketing tactics being employed by his team to a Marketing Director with 30 years of experience who doesn’t fully grasp these tools
An Associate Principal in a consulting firm who must lead an inexperienced team and balance the directives of a disengaged Partner and a demanding client
As companies allow more workers to work from home or engage in a hybrid work structure, the demands placed on middle management will only increase.
Characteristics Of A Middle Manager
The characteristics of a middle manager can be understood through both a positive and a negative lens. In the former, characteristics are focused on leadership, strategy, vision, and accountability.
For example, middle managers that are properly trained can create a productive workplace environment that allows employees to accomplish their goals. Using this lens, senior leaders set high level strategic direction, but leave it to the middle managers to execute that strategy. That includes making a wide range of operational, marketing, and financial decisions in the process.
But there is also a history of viewing middle managers in a negative light. In some companies, senior leadership makes decisions that middle managers reinforce to those below them without applying critical thinking to the directive. As a result, many leaders and employees view middle management as a hindrance to improvements in the workplace. Some businesses have eliminated the role of middle management entirely.
Middle Management Development Program
For organizations that want to develop their middle level management teams, there are several institutions that offer middle management development programs. These programs offer training in an academic environment to help organizations transition from an outdated understanding of middle management into the future of this dynamic position.
The most effective middle management training programs are customized to the specific responsibilities of the middle managers in a given context. Work with the team at Management Consulted to upskill your middle management teams via a virtual or in-person training. Our training is customized based on materials from your team to help shift the culture and mindset of your organization. Learn more here.
As times have changed, the role of middle management has also changed. Whether in-person or in a remote environment, middle management plays a key role in supervising employees across settings.
For business leaders and managers that want to learn more about improving the role of middle management in their unique sphere of influence, middle management development programs are often a very worthwhile investment. Reach out to learn about how we can support your organization’s middle management teams.
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