Being a middle manager is exactly how it sounds — you’re stuck in the middle.
You’re delegating the work but also expected to produce results yourself. You’re managing the expectations of those above you in the work hierarchy, as well as those below. Often, you might be caught in the cycle of reacting to problems. While you might be solving all of the problems that come your way, you’re not feeling accomplished, nor do you feel empowered or connected to your team.
If this describes you, you really have one of the toughest jobs, especially in our world of hybrid/remote work.
There are probably moments where you feel like there’s no end to the problems you’re facing. But I’m here to tell you a secret — proactively building an engaged team, as well as learning how to advocate for what you need, will help make your job a whole lot easier.
If you think about it, most of the problems that keep you up at night are all interpersonal!
It really comes down to building trust and learning how to ask for what you need to thrive.
Build Trust and Advocate For Yourself
Trust can mean different things to different people. But in general, we can all agree that we want to work on a team where we feel empowered and that our colleagues and managers have our backs.
Below are the crucial elements to building trust. It’s not something that happens over night but if you prioritize these actions, over time, it becomes a part of your team culture.
Meaningful Conversations and Have a Genuine Interest
Simply put, having a meaningful conversation means to have a genuine interest in the other person’s way of thinking and feeling. It’s asking questions to get to know the person and removing your own judgments. This leads to my next point.
Having awareness of your own judgments and assumptions of others (and yourself!) is a powerful skill, especially in times of stress or conflict. Your assumptions can hold you back from asking the right questions, just because you think you understand the whole situation (but trust me, you don’t!).
Here’s an old post I wrote on building trust through difficult conversations.
Make Sure Every Voice is Heard
Making an effort to hear every voice in the room is crucial to team success. As a leader, being intentional about how to get everyone to speak up will help create a psychologically safe environment. Here’s an interesting technique written in a Forbes article on how to do so, especially around sensitive topics.
Celebrate Accomplishment and Also Allow Mistakes
We are probably all guilty of not taking enough time to celebrate our accomplishments and the accomplishments of others. However, in addition to celebrating wins, it is just as important to acknowledge mistakes in a positive light. There’s so much we can learn from each other when we find out why things didn’t go the way we had expected. These are powerful moments in helping to build trust! So in a way, these “mistakes” are not really mistakes — it’s your team’s stepping stone to achieving greater success.
Provide Feedback and Have Genuine Development Conversations Regularly
Providing feedback constructively is crucial to building a high-performing culture. But it is also often what a lot of leaders shy away from. If you are being intentional and prioritize building a trusting team culture everyday, this step becomes way easier. In addition to providing feedback, it is about being genuinely curious on how each team member would like to grow. It is asking how you can be their champion to help them get there.
Ask for What You Need
Last but not least, what support do you need? As a middle manager, sometimes you might not have the information and resources you need to build the team engagement you had envisioned, especially when it comes to managing change. Get clear on what those things are. Ask for more information from your leader and advocate for what you need.
Leadership Development Support For Middle Managers
Middle managers truly have one of the toughest jobs! If you are a middle manager, focusing on your own leadership development will help you lead more effortlessly and take your career to the next level.
If you’re curious about what a tailored 1:1 leadership coaching program can look like for you, request a complimentary discovery call today! I’d be honored to be your partner in your leadership development journey.