“I have a great team, they know I have their back and I feel like they have mine too.”
“My team and I confide in each other and I get a sense of deep trust between us.”
“I see my direct reports – my team – as closer and generally more important that the management team I belong to.”
Given that employees and their managers can sometimes spend more time with each other than with their own respective families, there’s a natural bond that forms between a manager and their team.
However, there is another team that is often neglected, and yet when it operates as a strong and functional team, bonded with trust and respect, actually enhances the managers relationships with their respective teams and makes everyone’s work easier.
Introducing the management team [insert cheesy grin]
I’m not suggesting that you redirect focus away from your team of direct reports, rather, broaden your focus: see both teams as critical for your success.
WHY BUILD A STRONG MANAGEMENT TEAM
Organisational Goals: One of the primary reasons why middle managers should build a strong network with their management colleagues is that it helps them stay informed about organisational goals and what is the current priorities.
Middle managers are often responsible for implementing strategic plans and initiatives, but they need to be aware of these plans before they can execute them effectively. By building strong relationships with other managers, they can gain insights into the decision-making process and stay up-to-date with the latest developments in the organisation.
When a management team has a collective understanding and agreement of the overarching goals and immediate priorities, they can then shift, ebb and flow, direct energy to help achieve the goals. They will feel in alignment with where the organisation is going and can help their team to align as well.
Change: With a strong team in the middle of the organisation, managers can support each other when leading themselves and others through change. The support can also be invaluable when crises arise. Middle managers often say they feel isolated despite being surrounded by so many people. With a strong team of colleagues, they have support around them to help navigate tough times.
Resources: Middle management colleagues can also provide each other with access to valuable resources. This can include information about best practices in other departments, contacts with external partners, and access to training and development opportunities. By having a network of colleagues they can rely on, middle managers can leverage these resources to improve their own performance and that of their team.
When budgets get trimmed, a collective approach to resources can lead to economies of scale that can yield great results.
For example: when I was booked to deliver a leadership program for a small group of managers in a large organisation. I did suggest that the group extend an invitation to more managers at their similar rank/level so that their overall budget could go further; they could have more program components added; and more managers would benefit. We went from five to 13 managers and it led to them having, amongst other benefits, a great bond, respect and understanding of each other.
Politics: Not to be exploited as a space for gossip, when middle managers have a strong network they can navigate organisational politics. Every organisation will have, at some time or another, competing interests and power dynamics that impacts decisions and strategies. Having allies and advocate means middle managers can help each other navigate the politics and get on with achieving their goals.
Personal Brand: When middle managers network with each other and build a trusted bond with each other they establish themselves as a trusted and knowledgeable colleague. This enhances their reputation and credibility: useful when promotions and new opportunities arise.
With real trust, care, respect and commitment – check out Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – middle managers will hold each other to account, be more confident and comfortable to speak up, to respectfully disagree, to recommend another for an opportunity (without jealousy) because they are the right choice.
Productivity: Building a strong network can also provide middle managers with a sense of belonging and connection within the organisation. As they establish relationships with colleagues across different departments, they can feel more integrated into the organisation and develop a deeper understanding of its culture and values. This can foster a sense of loyalty and commitment, which can translate into higher levels of engagement and productivity.
HOW TO BUILD A STRONG MIDDLE MANAGER NETWORK
There are several strategies middle managers can employ to build a strong team or network amongst their middle management colleagues.
Attend networking events, both within the organisation and externally. This can include attending conferences and industry events, as well as internal events such as town halls and team-building activities. By being present at these events, middle managers can meet new people and strengthen existing relationships.
Engage in informal networking, such as grabbing coffee or lunch with colleagues. By taking the time to connect on a personal level, middle managers can build trust and establish a more meaningful relationship. They can also use these informal conversations to share ideas and perspectives, which can lead to new insights and opportunities.
It’s important for middle managers to seek out opportunities to collaborate with their colleagues. By working together on projects or initiatives, they can develop a deeper understanding of each other’s strengths and areas of expertise. This can lead to a more effective and efficient collaboration in the future.
Middle managers can use social media and online platforms to build their network. LinkedIn, for example, can be a valuable tool for connecting with colleagues and staying informed about industry trends and best practices. By sharing content and engaging with others online, middle managers can establish themselves as thought leaders and expand their reach beyond their immediate network.
Over to you, I’d love to know:
- How strong is your relationship with your management colleagues?
- What do you currently do to build and sustain a great network with your middle manager colleagues?
Check out the Certified Learning Solution program: Middle Manager Leadership Development: click here