As much as it’s your responsibility, it is also a CEOs responsibility to ensure that you are performing at your best. As a middle manager, you play a critical role in the success of the organisation, as you are responsible for executing the Board’s or CEO’s vision and strategy on a day-to-day basis.
Here are some of things CEOs should do to drive high-performing middle managers and how you can help them to help you.
1. Provide clear direction and expectations
One of the most important things that CEOs can do to drive high-performing middle managers is to provide clear direction and expectations. Middle managers need to know what is expected of them and what they need to accomplish in order to be successful. CEOs can provide this clarity by setting clear goals and objectives, and by communicating them effectively to their middle managers. This will help middle managers to prioritise their work and focus on what is most important.
YOU: Ask for more clarity using specific questions. The more vague the question, the more vague the answer.
If you have ideas, create a plan and use that to help set expectations and seek clarity. You can initiate some action, you don’t always need to wait on the CEO.
2. Provide the right resources and support
CEOs need to provide the right resources and support to their middle managers. This includes things like technology, training, and development opportunities, as well as access to the right people and information. By providing these resources and support, CEOs can help their middle managers to be more effective and efficient in their work.
YOU: Help expedite this by creating efficiencies and increasing buying power by collaborating with your peers in the management team. The stronger the bond and relationship you have with your management peers the better you can support each other and rely less on a busy CEO to provide support.
When it comes to resources be sure to look at your needs from multiple viewpoints – who else needs the same resources, who needs resources more urgently than you. Can you provide a staged approach to resourcing?
3. Foster a culture of collaboration and teamwork
CEOs can drive high-performing middle managers by fostering a culture of collaboration and teamwork. When middle managers feel that they are part of a team that is working together to achieve a common goal, they are more likely to be motivated and engaged in their work. CEOs can encourage this culture by promoting open communication, recognising and rewarding team successes, and creating opportunities for cross-functional collaboration.
YOU: I talked about this in a previous email – you have two teams: your direct reports and your management peers. Invest in your peers and they will invest in you.
4. Empower middle managers to make decisions
Another way that CEOs can drive high-performing middle managers is by empowering them to make decisions. Middle managers are often the ones who are closest to the day-to-day operations of the organisation, and they have valuable insights into what is working and what is not. By giving them the authority to make decisions and take action, CEOs can help their middle managers to be more effective in their roles.
YOU: This might be a tougher one as it depends on the senior leader’s approach to leading. But don’t let that stop you from making yourself be seen as a strong decision maker. Demonstrate your strong decision making skills by sharing your steps to making the decision: walking in and telling a CEO your decision may trigger more questions than assurance. They may wander why you’ve come to that decision. Build the trust up by sharing how you get to your decisions.
5. Provide regular feedback and coaching
CEOs also need to provide regular feedback and coaching to their middle managers. This includes both positive feedback and constructive criticism. By providing this feedback, CEOs can help their middle managers to improve their performance and develop new skills. CEOs should also provide coaching and mentoring to their middle managers, helping them to develop their leadership skills and become better at managing their teams.
YOU: You can use the feedback formula I have shared previously to drive a constructive feedback conversation from your leader.
6. Set clear expectations for accountability
CEOs need to set clear expectations for accountability for their middle managers. This means holding them responsible for their performance and the performance of their teams. CEOs should establish metrics for success and hold their middle managers accountable for meeting those metrics. This will help to ensure that middle managers are focused on achieving results and are held accountable for their actions.
YOU: This is linked to point one, once you are clear on what is expected, be sure to also confirm accountability and responsibility. Then get on with it. Once achieved be sure to let the CEO what you and your team have achieved. It’s tempting to think that your work will speak for itself, this is not a foolproof strategy as a busy CEO simply won’t see everything that every middle manager has achieved, how can they? You need to let them know. This tells them you have operated in accordance with the expected accountability.
7. Invest in leadership development
Finally, CEOs should invest in leadership development for their middle managers. This includes providing training and development opportunities to help them improve their leadership skills and become more effective managers. CEOs can also create mentoring and coaching programs to help middle managers develop their leadership abilities and prepare them for more senior roles in the organisation.
YOU: Middle managers receive the least amount of investment compared to any other ‘rank’ in the organisation. Be discerning about the training or development you need. Don’t wait for training to come to you, research and find what you need. Reach out to me if you need help with this.
Collaborate with your peers and together look for economies of scale to secure more development: eg. start your own internal book club; organise group coaching; bring in a customised program for the management team. As a team, you can get creative in securing the leadership and professional development you need.
Of course these are just some tips, and will be contextual, if you need help with any of these, please reach out, I’m here to help.
Over to you, what other areas of your role do you want your CEO to help you with?
I’d love to know.