As an Executive Coach, I have noticed themes that present themselves across my Executive clients.  Imposter syndrome, self-confidence, worth, conflict, building trust and senior management politics are a few I have encountered over the last couple of years.  This week, Leoni and I were discussing the most recent theme.  It came up as it is a challenge that businesses face that is close to our hearts and one, we feel incredibly passionate about.  The theme I am referring to is that of middle manager competence.

In any organization, the critical team of middle managers who lead the day-to-day delivery and who work most closely with our delivery teams is a critical group of leaders.  They provide the capacity for our executives to focus on directing the business.  They should support the executive to stay focused on navigating the outside influences that are affecting the business success.  Good middle managers keep the teams motivated, take ownership for the day-to-day challenges being faced and make good decisions that allow the business to fulfil its promises and build loyal relationships with its suppliers and customers.  

Bad middle managers, on the other hand, are the primary reason why staff leave or disengage from our businesses.  The adage “people don’t leave companies, they leave managers” has proven consistently true.  The Gallup Organizations latest poll on employee engagement (November 2023) shares results that:

23% of global employees are actively engaged at work. 

32% of US employees are engaged and,

 17% are actively disengaged. 

This leaves 60% of US employees who are partially engaged.

You may ask why employee engagement is important?  Engaged employees are:

healthier,

up to 300% more productive,

stay with a company, and

champion the company they work for.

Companies with high employee engagement levels are proven to be more profitable and resilient.  A critical influence on whether employees are engaged is who they are managed by.  This presents a problem that we are part of solving.  How do we support as many of the 60% of employees to become actively engaged?  Being actively engaged will have an impact on their lives, the lives of their executives and, most importantly, the results their companies produce.

On our quest to positively impact the 60% (and arguable 77%, if you can help disengaged staff to re-engage), we explored middle managements influence.  In exploring the reasons behind the current coaching trend that we have recognized, some revealing statistics were uncovered.  A new research article has been published by the Chartered Management Institute in the UK.  The research was conducted between June and July 2023 and published early in 2024*.

The research results show that the majority of middle managers have become managers accidentally.  An accidental manager is someone that was promoted because they are popular, good at their job or happen to be in the right place at the right time when someone was needed to take charge. 

82% of managers have not received formal management training. 

18% of managers admit to not feeling confident. 

60% say they are confident but believe they need more development.

Insightful research that provides clarity on why our middle managers struggle to engage their teams, hold them accountable and lead effectively.

The introduction of hybrid working environments and increased automation (AI) which places pressure on the people in the system to add “human” value, has made managing even more complex.  But, if your middle managers, do not have the foundation skills and competencies required to manage in a normal environment, how can you expect them to navigate the new, more complex environments.  Environments that demand initiative, proactivity, trust, accountability management and leadership.

At RainTree, we have always had a passion for working with middle managers.  It is incredibly rewarding seeing quantitative data that validates what we have known and worked to solve for your middle managers.  We have seen how, when they receive the learning insights, they have immense power to shift organizational performance and profitability.  We choose to use coaching as our learning methodology as it honors and values the informal lessons our managers have gained from experience.  It builds on the good lessons and helps them to refine and redirect the less effective leadership capabilities.  They maturely take on responsibility and hold their teams accountable

For the broader executive leadership community, the questions remain. 

  • How important are our middle managers?
  • How can we invest in them so they can manage and lead our people and deliver optimally?

Contact us at RainTree Business Coaching to explore how we can support you to grow your middle managers to maturely take on responsibility and hold their teams accountable. 

*The research was completed with 5,500 people working across all sectors and environments in the UK economy.  2,524 of the surveyed employees had management experience and 2,018 were employees with no management experience.

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