Productive Leaders

Ph.D., CSP, CDR, US Navy Ret.,
CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame

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Who Is Leading The Leaders?

Many mid-level managers are getting squeezed from the top and bottom. Organizations push responsibility down the ladder onto middle managers with little or no leadership development training required to handle these responsibilities. At the same time, employees don’t realize that their leaders feel burnout, get overwhelmed and frustrated too. Middle managers are pressured by their boss and at the same time, fielding issues from employees. This is a recipe for disaster!

Stepping into a managerial role requires shifts in perspective and responsibility but at the same time, it also requires having access to needed resources to successfully pull through. So what can mid-level managers do to stay sane, and handle the requirements of both their bosses and their employees? How can your company help middle managers to cope with the heavy responsibilities on their plate?
Here’s how to help middle managers stay sane without burning out:

1. Improve training and development programs

Middle level managers are often left out when it comes to leadership training. Most companies use a ‘barbell’ style approach before now by investing heavily in training senior executives on the high end and new managers but neglect to improve the training of the middle managers. Now is the time to ditch the barbell approach. Start giving middle managers the attention they deserve. Help mid-level managers increase their ability to cope and reduce their risk of burnout by ensuring they have the necessary professional development programs needed to handle all the challenges that will be coming their way.

2. Relieve stress.

Not only are middle managers under trained, but they’re also overworked. Middle managers work with limited resources and have increasing workloads that demand long hours. With the intense pressure of keeping the organization running, middle managers complete daunting tasks under intense stress and burn out as a result. Stress is associated with multiple health conditions, and workplaces have been found to be the biggest source of stress according to 2013 survey by the American Psychological Association. Stress takes its toll not only on manager or staff but the productivity of the organization as a whole.

Although employers want hardworking staff, working too hard without a time to cool off is unhealthy for employees. Prevent burnout among middle level managers by helping to alleviate their stress through stress-relieving perks such as reduced working hours on Fridays, gym memberships, and happy hours with the team. Strongly encourage them to take their vacation time to function at their best. Remember that unused vacation time can accumulate in liabilities for organizations.

3. Provide feedback

Middle managers sometimes feel lost because they don’t know how they are performing. In a 2014 survey conducted by SAP, 41% of non -millennial and 29% of millennial employees expect more feedback than they receive. It is believed that positive feedback improves managers’ performance especially feedback from a direct supervisor, executive leader or the employees they lead. Giving feedback and acknowledging hard work will help to boost their leadership skills and engagement, which will in turn boost the overall efficiency of the employees.

4. Mentorship programs

With a high work volume and little to basic leadership training, mid-level managers are left to model what they see and do what they feel is best. Mentorship programs can help improve leadership development. Middle managers can mentor upcoming managers while receiving advice from their senior managers. This will ease the pressure on them and prevent burning out. Senior executives need to make efforts to be better leaders and model the strategies middle managers can use within the organization.

5. Use of technology

Reach middle managers using technologies when and where they have time to learn using Web conferencing or online meeting software tools such as WebEx, Skype, Facebook, and GoToMeeting. This can help eliminate time barrier and defuse burnout issues by helping managers squeeze training and development programs into their busy schedules on the go – whenever and wherever the opportunity arises.

If you desire even better results, try using a group approach to leadership development. Let middle managers go for training and developmental programs as a group to create a sense of togetherness. This will help them build lasting relationships with their peers, unwind, and also make connections that will ultimately strengthen collaboration throughout your company.


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