Scott Blanchard, principal and EVP at The Ken Blanchard Companies, likes to use the phrase heart of the house to describe the important role middle managers play in an organization. In Blanchard’s experience, if mid-level management is neglected, the result can be heart trouble—a slow moving organization that doesn’t respond well to feedback.
Is your organization experiencing heart trouble? This can be not only frustrating, but also damaging to performance in today’s fast paced business environment that requires a lean and agile approach.
Blanchard explains, “Managers working in the heart of the house play a couple of different roles. First, senior leaders look to middle managers to put goals and action plans in place to achieve strategic results. But that is just one side of the coin. Middle managers are also responsible for the environment in which the work is accomplished. So the middle manager’s job is twofold: to get things done and also to manage people’s emotional relationships to their work, their company, and their coworkers. Middle managers set the tone for the workplace.”
Blanchard says that to be successful, middle managers must be skilled in communicating what is expected and how it is to be achieved. That means connecting the dots from the boardroom to the frontlines. If middle management is ineffective, the staff both above and below this level suffers.
This can be a challenge if managers don’t get the training and support they need.
“If managers are not getting the support they need from the organization to grow and to meet challenges, they can feel stuck in the middle. When this happens, mid-level managers can become disengaged and fall back into transacting business with their people in a way that causes the people to not care as much, to not understand as much about the importance of their work, and to not be as connected to the mission and vision of the company as they could be.”
The good news, according to Blanchard, is that there are approaches organizations can use to help mid-level managers get things done and build commitment in a way that creates positive regard and advocacy from employees.
Blanchard points to a couple of programs in The Ken Blanchard Companies portfolio as examples.
“It’s important to take a foundational approach when helping managers develop skills. The goal is to provide a framework managers can use to guide performance. Two of our training programs can help: Situational Leadership® II, which is our flagship product and the most widely taught leadership framework in the world; and our new First-time Manager program, which is designed specifically for people stepping into leadership for the first time. Both programs teach managers important skills including how to effectively set goals, how to provide day-to-day coaching and support, how to engage in a partnership with direct reports, and how to have effective discussions around performance.”
On the emotional side of the equation, Blanchard refers to the Building Trust and Optimal Motivation programs as examples of content designed to help managers create a safe and engaged environment where people thrive.
“It’s about having useful conversations. Leadership is about getting things done with and through people. Performance and results are one side of the coin and environment and commitment are the other side. You can’t do one without the other.”
You can read more of Blanchard’s thinking on taking care of your middle managers in the May issue of Ignite. Also, check out a complimentary webinar he is conducting on June 1, Designing a Leadership Curriculum for the Heart of Your Organization. It’s free—courtesy of Cisco WebEx and The Ken Blanchard Companies.