A Life Raft for Frenzied Mid-Managers

inspired-work-david-harderIN 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.

Mid-managers used to be the “jack-of-all-trades.” We went to them to solve problems and for information. Today, Wikipedia is one of the biggest competitors with middle-management. Attitudes are changing. In many organizations, mid-managers are there to simply keep track of what people are doing. Today, technology does a much better job.

As the need for mid-management changes, there is a real opportunity for these individuals to look at life beyond the trappings of management and become experts, counselors, coaches and leaders who inspire. This is a very different role than someone who checks the boxes of productivity. Engaged workers want and expect to be trusted. The traditional mid-manager meddles with that need.

Today, the mid-manager exemplifies the very type of individual that most needs to change and yet has reached a certain level of success by doing the same thing over and over and over. Ongoing restructuring, the elimination of career ladders and persistent insecurity have diluted the mid-managers’ loyalty, as many become demoralized and disenfranchised. In 2012, Harvard Business Review indicated that almost half of the Gen-Y’s, which represents the largest segment of mid-managers, planned to leave their jobs within two years.

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.”[su_spacer]

In many organizations, mid-managers are treated as professional co-dependents, individuals who understand how to work harder, do more, and ask for less. But, unless we turn them into true leaders, we don’t need them and won’t keep them. Their departure, in many cases, represents a great loss of intellectual capital and another failure in teaching others how to change.

Mid-managers wield enormous power in the employee engagement game. Their engagement with direct reports and often far-flung teams determines how most of your employees are going to feel about their job and their customers.

In my work, I find mid-managers usually operate in the trance of frenzy. They have so many tasks and so many problems to solve that big issues of the day often get cast aside, especially if it involves drawing attention to themselves, getting support and influencing the tribe.

There is a common thread amongst many mid-managers who come into The Inspired Work Program. I call it, “Losing One’s Life Through Competency.” Mid-managers are often reward with promotions for solving more problems and more tasks than anyone else. If their role is packaged as an expense, their roles grow but their support systems remain relatively static. They realize they are spending so much time taking care of others, they have forgotten how to take care of themselves. Many of them have forgotten how to build effective support systems. Many of lost track of how to manage their work and personal lives in healthy and wonderful ways.

Poor people will tell you they don’t have money. Mid managers don’t have any time.

In our employee engagement programs, we look for any rituals that can not only sustain the engagement but also deepen it. Mid-Managers need a life raft to have effective lives. I believe the best way to do this is to help them distinguish what is most important and what isn’t. We give many of our clients a set of questions to ask at the beginning of every day. This gives them a five-minute “time out” to examine how they can create the greatest amount of value.

Here is an example:

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  • Who most needs my attention and inspiration?
  • What is the most valuable problem to solve today?
  • What is today’s ideal blend of tactical and strategic work?
  • What can I do to sell my ideas and solutions?
  • How can I best take care of myself?
  • How can I grow my circle of support?[/message][su_spacer]

This takes five minutes a day.

If ritualized, this exercise sets builds a discipline that sets aside the extraneous and builds more value into each day.

Andrew Wyeth once characterized it like this,

It’s all in how you arrange the thing…the careful balance of the design is the motion.”[su_spacer]

David Harder
David Harder
DAVID founded Inspired Work in 1990, which has helped over 42,000 professionals transform their relationship towards work. Individuals from all walks of life attend Inspired Work’s public programs to launch new careers, new business or to become more successful in their existing role. He views work as a profound opportunity to become more fulfilled, contributive and effective. Mr. Harder’s leadership, employee engagement, executive development and social networking programs are used in a wide variety of organizations including The Walt Disney Company, HBO, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Loyola Marymount University, University of Southern California, The United Church of Religious Science, Morgan Stanley, and many others. Inspired Work’s leadership programs, career development and team building programs produce some of the worlds most outstanding satisfaction numbers in any business: 92.6% out of a hundred. David has appeared on many business and human-interest programs including CNN, KTLA News, KFWB News and Business News Network. David’s book, new book, The Workplace Engagement Solution (Career Press) offers an entire “crack-the-code” approach to engagement.







"No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it."