Middle Managers need extra flexibility in their communication skills compared to many others within the business.
The way they report to, speak up (and sometimes speak out), and interact with senior leadership taps a certain way of communicating that gives the relevant information while ensuring a certain level of saving face. That level of saving face will vary depending on the relationship one has with their senior leader: for some it might feel quite unsafe to report any issues while for others it might be more than okay to share where things aren’t going to plan.
Depending on the relationship and situation the level of discernment will dictate the level of disclosure.
Management team members might find they are called on to collaborate even when all else around them competes for time, focus, energy and resources. there’s lots of talk about many people operating in their silo yet there’s so much pull and pressure that creates the siloed affect. Middle Manages who can negotiate and collaborate with their peers will find opportunities may come a little more often and a little easier. Compromise is key and when while some companies promote healthy competition between departments, collaboration and championing for and with each other will lead to even great outcomes.
When the team succeeds, the manager succeeds. So helping the team achieve the expected outcomes is the job of the manager. This often looks like guiding, delegating, coaching, demonstrating, instructing, nurturing, listening, facilitating, training.
No matter which line you are communicating along you will need to have good listening skills, great questions, and keen decision making and problem solving ability, all while staying calm under pressure, ie, good emotional regulation. These will help you report up, build rapport across and rally your troops.
The shifting between lines is where I can see the fatigue hitting; like multi-tasking – or more accurately – task switching, energy is expended (wasted) in the switching so time and productivity is lost. You can definitely work to minimise your multi-tasking but you may not be able to greatly minimise your communication line switching. The key is awareness, and maybe factor in a quiet moment between switching in order to decompress, collect yourself and prepare for the change of communication.
What are your thoughts on the lines of communication and how it impacts you as a middle manager?