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Supervisors to Superstars: Authentically Engaging Middle Managers — Part 1 of 2

You know them: They’re the standouts. While their specific skill sets differ depending on the job, every workplace has them. They may step into the organization at the entry level, but they quickly distinguish themselves as contributors, high performers, stars among their peers. Their productivity exceeds expectations. They receive consistently stellar customer service scores. They’re reliable and accountable. They’re usually well-liked by their coworkers and their supervisors.

So you know what happens next. Company leadership sees the shine coming off of these gems. If they exceed at Task A, the thinking goes, they’ll certainly be able to manage other people doing Task A — and likely Tasks B and C, as well. Leadership rushes to promote these performers into a supervisory role, propelling them into mid-level management. In executives’ minds, they’ve retained a high producer and offered career growth and professional development to a deserving employee.

Slam dunk, right? A win-win for everyone?

Not always. In fact, not often. According to a recent survey, 43 percent of middle managers report feeling burned out. That’s higher than any other group in the workplace. Mid-level managers also report higher levels of stress and anxiety than their direct reports or their executive leaders. This is a serious problem, especially in today’s extremely tough employment market. Companies can’t afford to lose good managers.

Many of my clients are baffled by the challenges that are presented when high performers become managers. Why are these stars struggling in their new roles?

Here is what I have observed in my extensive work with my clients, and what is borne out by reams of research on workplace culture and manager development:

  • The new manager may have been exemplary at completing tasks as an employee, but fails to help others achieve the same tasks.
  • The employee avoids difficult conversations, especially with people who were once their peers and are now their direct reports.
  • Messages from leadership to employees are lost, or worse, misrepresented. An “us vs. them” mentality begins to creep into the workplace.
  • The trust that leaders placed in the new manager begins to erode, and the manager’s growth stalls.
  • Mid-level managers no longer have direct, hands-on control over their work product — they supervise those employees now. But they also don’t have the decision-making power that executives have, leaving them suspended in the middle and feeling powerless.
  • Turnover at the entry level begins to occur.

As I write, I am preparing to work with a client who wants to prevent these issues. With a new class of mid-level managers, this client has anticipated the challenges and has chosen to be proactive about empowering these supervisors early on.

The training that I’ve customized for this client speaks directly to this transition. It is designed to give managers the tools and skills they need and deserve in order to thrive. We will cover things like communication, time management, feedback, and accountability. We will dive into intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation.

This is exactly the type of training I love to do with my clients: It is hyper-targeted to their specific challenges, while building on proven research. From using The Predictive Index and EQ-i 2.0 to help organizations understand their teams at much deeper levels to developing customized solutions to address specific workplace issues, I help my clients get results.

Check out my next blog to see how I helped this particular client support and empower their mid-level management — and what the client had to say about the impact.

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