Growing From the Middle Out: 5 Key Benefits of a Middle Manager Coaching Program
- Managers will become agents for change
- Learn to use soft skills to simplify complex situations
- Learn when and how to use the tools at their disposal
- Managers become adept at setting well-defined goals
- Managers will be ready for innovation, with a dash of pragmatism
Too often, HR practitioners focus on two ends of the workforce spectrum: strategically collaborating with senior leadership, and ensuring on-ground workers/employees are engaged and enthused. As much as these two pillars of any organizational ecosystem are critical, it’s vital to involve and energize a third leg – the middle manager.
Every day, a middle manager will look after a multi-faceted team, addressing diverse challenges, staying on track for key targets, and running the foundational business operations. This is why middle managers are an important cog in the machine, making the work environment more hospitable and ensuring long/short-term goals are met.
However, mid-level leadership is a cloudy area; studies suggest that one in two employees leave their jobs just because they have a bone to pick with their reporting managers. This has three obvious implications:
- The manager is unable to create a healthy workplace and the employee is dissatisfied/ indifferent/ unhappy at some level.
- The manager has failed to instill a sense of engagement and ownership in the employee; there is an absence of clarity, goal-setting, and – in most cases – a gap in effective communication.
- The middle manager, on an individual level, is un-skilled in resolving the above issues and may personally feel a lack of direction in their own career pathway.
This brings us to the central argument: is your middle manager adequately trained in the requisite skillsets, fostering a productive and engaging work environment? Is there a clearly outlined employee coaching practice for middle managers?
"Middle managers are an important cog in the machine, making the work environment more hospitable and ensuring long/short-term goals are met"
Interestingly, the answer to these questions brings up some oddly conflicting data. An Accenture report suggests that 25% of US companies reduced leadership program investments – or have never had one to begin with! On the other hand, 39% of organizations polled recognize the significant contributions of middle management, as well as the risk of having underprepared middle managers running the workforce.
Clearly, what’s missing is a planned and regularized employee coaching program which helps them offer better support to their teams and groom themselves for future leadership roles. Let’s look at some of the benefits of having a middle manager coaching initiative:
1. They Will Become Change Agents, and Not Roadblocks to Disruption
The modern office is rapidly changing as we know it. From automation and AI to remote workers and WFH/BYOD, the shape of our professional lives is witnessing a paradigmatic shift. A 2017 study revealed that half of US workers were uncertain or wary of the changes on the road ahead; 55% of the respondents reported a sense of continued stress, negatively affecting their productivity levels.
Change is a constant, no matter the business. In fact, in many ways, adapting to socio-cultural change and embracing emerging tech is integral to the survival of a business. Middle managers are an essential element in harmonizing a transition, removing doubt or fear through communication, and helping employees cope with their altered roles.
"Change is a constant, no matter the business."
An employee coaching program can make any middle manage quickly adapt to a change, understanding how to communicate better and realizing the organizational implications.
2. They Can Use Soft Skills to Simplify a Complex Situation
No matter how technical or product-specific a middle manager’s role, soft skills will always come into play. A middle manager who communicates well, knows how to fine-tune the messaging according to an employee’s mindset, and can both extract as well as receive valuable feedback is a great asset to a company.
Employee coaching modules envisioned as soft skills support and training sessions will impart a higher degree of EQ in the middle manager and groom them to help employees perform better, appreciate their role, and stay engaged in the workplace.
3. They Will Be Able to Use a Plethora of Tools with Ease and Comfort
A major part of any manager’s daily routine is working on a variety of tools. In fact, this particularly becomes more complicated with a larger pool of employees reporting to a single manager. Balancing the hard skills of using tools with the soft skills of knowing which is the right tool for a given scenario is often difficult. Executive coaching can help managers learn that balance and how to use it to their advantage.
"Identify standout performance and natural potential, pushing these middle managers to the next level"
For organizations, a clear and detailed employee productivity report will help assess several factors such as OPEX, overheads, worker efficiency/contributions, and attendance patterns, among others. This makes coaching an imperative for middle managers so that they can adequately operate the various tools assigned to them with confidence. In the long-term, this will directly translate into better project management, intelligent workforce analytics, and an acute map of productive highs or lows for their business unit.
4. They Can Set Well-Defined Goals for Themselves (and Also Others)
Leadership and succession-planning are among the must-haves for any company, big or small. Enterprises can groom the next generation of leaders who have already proven themselves in critical scenarios. And, an individual can link their growth path to future objectives.This is why a leadership training program – assisted by a steady flowchart of targeted employee coaching modules – will help companies to:
- Identify standout performance and natural potential, pushing these middle managers to the next level
- Engender in middle managers a habit of goal setting, eventually percolating down to every employee
- Creating a prejudice-free employee recognition and progression culture
5. They Will Be Always Ready for Innovation, with a Dash of Pragmatism
In a rapidly evolving global business environment, companies have to constantly add new upgrades to a product or a service, with a keen eye on CX. This means that every company must prioritize innovation (study market movement, consider customer sentiment, tweak plans/products/goals, ensure enterprise adoption).
In other words, companies have to keep their middle managers prepared for change, and, in fact, eager for transformation. By insisting that middle managers don’t settle in too deep into a familiar position and keep training themselves for new responsibilities, businesses can make innovation a habit – both for the organization and for the individual. Needless to say, employee coaching is the glue that holds this idea together.
Why Coaching Always Makes Sense
A recent study had something appalling to share: a massive 58% of managers said that they never received any workplace management training! The number hints at a difficult problem; managers continue to grind on at a certain level, in some cases without the possibility of growth. Others are selectively pushed forward for their good work, without considering if they can inspire and lead the larger workforce. Employee coaching is the answer to this glaring hole in the managerial ecosystem.
"Employee coaching is the answer to this glaring hole in the managerial ecosystem."
A standardized coaching schedule will ensure every middle manager gets a chance to prove themselves and move up the ladder, while also helping others to perform at their optimum. Over time, this can reduce attrition risks, keep your middle management layer happy and engaged, and ensure every worker brings their best to the workplace, across their tenure.