The life of a middle manager can be a harrowing one. You may be given many problems, but not necessarily the direct authority over many of the players to easily carry out the solution. Follow this recipe for critical success in managing from the middle.
First, know that everyone you work with is important. Really. That isn’t a trite platitude. As a middle manager, the connections you form with others are critical to your success. Talk to everyone, find time to make friends, and be open to others. Most of all, become a careful listener. In the position of a middle manager, any broken connections hinder your ability to accomplish your objectives.
Second, maintain your vision. You may be asked to make decisions on large and small matters despite not having all the facts. In the midst of all the daily events and challenges, keep the mission in mind and keep it as a part of your daily interactions with others. This will give life and joy to your work—including those days that are particularly tough.
Stop and step away. There are many issues that come by your desk which seem to be egging you on. They may include inflammatory emails or be faced with absurd suppositions. These situations can spin out of control. Don’t jump on the bandwagon. Take a moment to stop, step out of the fray, and try to diffuse the situation without bothering those higher up in the chain of command. You will also gain the added benefit of avoiding false assumptions or working with bad information.
Remember, it’s not about you. The fact is, it’s not about the other guy, either. Keep the organization-wide goals in mind. Remember that they persevere, regardless of your daily challenges.
Finally, be courageous. Cynics would say that courage is a quality you don’t often find among middle managers, but it is essential. Are you becoming anxious and afraid? Not having control over all aspects of a situation can make success seem insurmountable. As a middle manager, you often have to lead others whom you have no real authority over. You will need all of the skills in this article to keep the faith. When those moments of timidity, fear and anxiety undermine the authority that you do have, remember that others are looking to you to be the calm in the storm. Remembering that you have courage within you will lead you through the challenges you face.