You can quickly improve the organizational health of your company by focusing on the potential of your middle management.
But if your culture doesn’t recognize this as important, you are headed for trouble.
How do you redirect so that you strengthen your future?
- Make leadership development a high priority.
- Know how to develop your emerging leaders.
- Address prickly roadblocks that stand in the way.
Following are three real scenarios from former clients.
I hope these help you to see where you might improve your own process and mindset.
1. Make leadership development a high priority for your organization.
Tom had led the company for years, and it had done well. Then, he was diagnosed with a heart problem. Although the prognosis for recovery was excellent, his doctor informed him that he would have to take off a considerable amount of time in order to work a wellness program.
The company was in a bind when Tom called me. He had never gotten around to putting a system and process in place to develop those high potentials who might have stepped in to help bridge the gap.
If he left to care for his health, the business would be in trouble. If he didn’t, he would seriously jeopardize his health.
Tom and I worked together on an interim plan to support his absence, and a way to stay in communication with him on the large-picture items.
I then coached his executives to the plan as they stepped into the new responsibilities assigned to them. I also helped coach them as a team on a regular basis to keep things cohesive and smooth.
However, this was challenging. The executives all experienced steep learning curves, with corresponding bumps in the road, which presented some tense moments. We worked through it, and Tom was able to return some time later. Quite happy that we moved through this critical time, I shared with Tom that the company could have experienced a much smoother and more effective transition, had he worked with his HR department to implement an ongoing plan for leadership development.
2. Know how to develop your emerging leaders.
Rebecca ran a tight ship. She, along with her executive team, believed fully in leadership development, and they approved large budgets year after year to support succession planning. But they were not seeing the results they wanted.
Rebecca intuited that the talent was there – why weren’t those programs working for them? They were on the cusp of cutting the entire budget for learning and development. Meanwhile, some of her best middle managers were voicing complaints that they were not moving up the leadership ladder. Engagement was waning.
When Rebecca called, she said she was only calling because another CEO colleague had pressed her to do so. “I’m ready to bag investing in leadership development,” she said. “I’m only reaching out because Tim says you get results.”
After exploring what she and the team had implemented, I congratulated her on placing development as a priority. I also pointed out that the programs in which she had invested were not carefully customized to her company, its culture, and its needs.
We did wind up working together and I am happy to report that we turned things around by identifying development initiatives that would support organizational goals, a way to support growth ongoing, and systems and processes to undergird this. I’m just sorry we had to work hard to reanimate engagement because of prior wasted efforts.
3. Address prickly roadblocks that stand in the way of leadership developments.
Mark had been waiting in the wings for years for Jack, the seasoned CEO to finally retire. Jack allowed him to run daily operations and to field the heat that comes with leading a business.
There was one problem, however: Jack also kept Mark and the executive team from truly stepping into their own power to improve organizational health.
He would run interference when Mark attempted to hold employees accountable. He would halt Mark from moving forward with initiatives that would keep the company highly competitive because, Jack said, “We have never done that, before.” Mark was quietly seeking another leadership position elsewhere – and so were some of his best executives.
This scenario was tricky. It was actually Mark who called me and not Jack. “What am I doing wrong?” he asked. “I’ve been here forever. I keep the company running, but I’m not empowered. I deal with problems that Jack creates because he keeps ‘pets’ around that shouldn’t be here – some even subversive to the organization.”
I worked with Mark to confront Jack about some of the decisions that he was not allowing Mark to implement, which compromised the business. Unfortunately, Jack did not want to listen.
Jack was afraid of retirement, and so he sat in his office and continued to collect the incredible salary and bonus he had enjoyed for more than 20 years.
Mark decided to leave and assumed the CEO spot at a new company. It’s been my pleasure to work with him there to develop a high-performing team. Mark’s only regret is that he didn’t move sooner. “I wasted a lot of years waiting,” he said. “It could have been different.”
Each of these cases could have been avoided. Good leaders are not born knowing how to prize and approach leadership development in a way that benefits them and their company.
How could stronger leadership at the middle management level improve your organizational health?
© Patti Cotton and patticotton.com. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that attribution is made to Patti Cotton and patticotton.com, with links thereto.
Patti Cotton helps executives optimize their effectiveness in leading self, others, and the enterprise. Her areas of focus include confidence, leadership style, executive presence, effective communication, succession planning, and masterful execution. With over 25 years of leadership experience, both stateside and abroad, Patti works with individuals, teams, and organizations across industries, providing executive consulting, leadership development, succession planning, change management, and conflict resolution. She is also an experienced Fortune 500 speaker. For more information on how Patti Cotton can help you and your organization, click here.