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By David Harder on July, 26, 2018

Engagement. Mid-Management’s Final Frontier!

Success in management requires learning as fast as the world is changing.


Warren Bennis


In a recent Harvard Business School study, mid-managers emerged as the most disengaged of all workers. This isn’t a big surprise. Mid-managers are overworked, undervalued and are the most at-risk employees during lay-offs.


Academics and business authors routinely suggest that we get rid of them.


In 2011, Bersin & Associates released the findings of their research and indicated that “middle managers have fewer resources, manage more people and are less engaged than all other employee groups.”


But here is the rub. In America, mid-managers directly influence much of the workforce that interacts with customers. They are also the very professionals who directly impact engagement. One of the biggest mistakes we are making with mid-managers is to imply they don’t have value and are obsolete. As task work disappears, how can we best influence the employees that interface with our customers, that build or undermine our brands, and that inspire active learning?


Mid-managers used to be the “jack-of-all-trades.” We went to them to solve problems and to access needed information. Today, Wikipedia is one of the traditional manager’s biggest competitors. In fact, many of the traditional jobs for the mid-manager are being replaced by technology. Some would argue yet another job is falling prey to software. But, this isn’t the case.


Let’s take a glance at global engagement numbers. In Gallup’s last survey, only 13% of the world’s workers are fully engaged. In our country these numbers equate to billions in lost productivity every-single-day.


As the need for mid-management changes, perhaps it is time that we take a more visionary view of their future. Why become dismissive of the very people who’ve shouldered big responsibilities and demonstrated a capacity for hard work?


In my recent book, The Workplace Engagement Solution(Career Press), our research indicates that workers will not engage until we teach them how to change. Almost 40 years ago, Alvin Toffler predicted that by the turn of the century, the majority of our population would be in a state of Future Shock, which he characterizes as trying to absorb too much change in too short a period of time.  In today’s workplace, future shock equates to the trance brought about by frenzy, aimlessness (lack of vision), resignation, and cynicism.


If anything, it is time to shift gears with our mid-managers and help them elevate their role to trainer, coach, mentor, problem solver and guide. Technology is giving us freedom from task-based work. Work isn’t going away but it is changing. Task work numbed the mind. The new emerging work requires the use of one’s mind, especially the right brain. But, if someone has been shackled to a workstation for years doing tasks all day, many will require an intervention. If the mid-manager isn’t given the skills and insights to do this, what will become of them?


If anything, this is the opportune time to help all of our workers learn the practice of greater connectivity, active learning, consultative sales, self-invention, and leadership. When we mindlessly show them the door, their departure, in many cases, represents a great loss of intellectual capital and another failure in the nation’s need to show everyone how to change.


So where does the reinvention of middle management begin? “Engagement CEOs” recognize that awakening and inspiring talent is today’s key towards success. The reinvention requires the creation of more value from the manager’s time. Right now, frenzy often precludes managers from even exploring how they could elevate the value of everyone in their business area.


The chronically poor will tell you they don’t have money. Mid-manages will tell you they don’t have any time. That is a mantra that must be broken.


When we deliver an engagement program the expectations of every team member are raised. Everyone is enthused. They have not only become far more specific in what they want out of work, they are clear in what they want from each other. For the manager, this requires a commitment to break from the past and especially to break the trance of not having any time.


One of the most effective ways to make that break is to establish a simple five-minute ritual at the beginning of the day. Every team member participates. Everyone answers a few questions that help them prioritize what they want and what is needed from the day.


Here are a few examples:


  • Who most needs my attention and inspiration?
  • What is the most valuable problem to solve today?
  • Describe today’s ideal blend of tactical and strategic work.
  • How can I best sell our ideas and solutions?
  • How can I best take care of myself?
  • What can I do to create greater engagement and effectiveness with our team?
  • Describe one really valuable action that might require your courage.


It takes five minutes.


Consider what will happen when everyone who works with us and for us treats time as if it is precious.


Brought to you by David Harder, President – Inspired Work, Inc.


Schedule 15-Minutes to Discuss Your Workplace or Career with David (Here)


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