Middle managers are a crucial cog in the wheels of any business. Their day-to-day dealings with their team have a ‘make or break’ impact on the way people feel about work and the effort they put into their job.
Developing the skills of these influential managers makes good business sense, although according to recent research from Ashridge, it’s an area that’s often overlooked. Their report ‘The Missing Middle: Exploring Learning Experiences of Middle Managers in the UK’ provides some pointers on how to make sure your investment in developing middle managers pays off:
- Make sure managers are allocated sufficient time for their own learning. In a busy environment, it’s all too easy for it to get pushed to the bottom of the list.
- Use stretch assignments and projects to take managers out of their comfort zone and encourage them to develop new skills. These on-the-job development opportunities are particularly effective for helping people increase their self-awareness and leadership skills.
- Short courses can often help managers develop business critical skills quickly and cost-effectively. Key topics that can be covered off in this way include communication, presentation, influencing, leadership and people management skills.
- Consider giving your middle managers access to a personal coach. Sixty-five per cent of the managers interviewed for the Ashridge survey felt they would benefit from a coach – although only 24 per cent actually had one.
- Try and identify role models – either from within or outside your business – who could inspire your managers and encourage them to find new and creative ways of approaching their role.
- Encourage managers to take responsibility for their own personal development. Discussions about development needs do, of course, need to take place as part of your regular performance management process – but if managers are in the driving seat they will often come up with creative ideas as to how they could fill their own skills gaps.
- Find ways to share and build knowledge internally. Short internal workshops or training sessions are a great way for your managers to share experience and best practice – and of course the process of putting these sessions together can be a development experience for people in itself.