11 Things to Remember About People in Middle Management Roles
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It’s easy to be critical of managers. A few things to remember.
0. Most people in management roles want to do a good job, but may not know what to do or how to do it.
1. People in management roles are dealing with incomplete and ambiguous knowledge. It’s a fantasy that they have all the information and know what to do (which may be held by both managers themselves and people who wonder why their managers do clueless things).
2. Most people in management roles receive little or no training on how to be good managers. Many people are promoted into management roles because they excel at technical work. This is not an easy transition.
3. Many people in management roles are working out of a mental model of management that limits their effectiveness. (See Don Gray’s Managing in Mayberry for two common mental models and one that’s less common.)
4. Many of the role models new managers have aren’t helpful. If people have never experienced good management, you can’t fault them for a lack of imagination.
5. Much of the management training out there is crap.
6. People in management roles are expected to achieve results over which they have no direct control. They must work thru other people and create work environments and work systems that support other people to do excellent work. Most managers have no training in how to do this.
7. Most people in management roles face demands from their managers and from the people who report to them. The are pulled from above and below. These demands are not always aligned and may be mutually exclusive.
8. Middle managers receive little peer support. Most managers face isolation and competition from other middle managers who are trying to meet locally optimized goals, obtain scarce resources and look good to the next level up. This is even more salient for new managers. Power difference (not matter how slight) changes the relationship with former peers.
9. People in management roles need to see the system and work on system, but receive little to no training in system seeing/thinking/acting. Relentless pressure tends to hold their focus on short term events and results, making it difficult to see patterns and connect the dots of seemingly unconnected events.
10. People in management roles need to work on the work system; they are also in the system, and their behavior is shaped by the system they work in. Both top managers and middle managers fall into predictable patterns of behavior.