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Are You Investing Properly In Your Mid-level Managers?


by Larry Sternberg, President at Talent Plus, Inc.

If you’ve lived in the same neighborhood or section of a city for several years, there are probably some restaurants and shops you visit frequently. Do you remember occasions where the experience was suddenly much better or much worse in one of those shops? The root cause was almost certainly a new manager. That’s the subject of this post. It’s hard to overestimate the value created by a great manager.

Many organizations invest heavily in selecting high potential people for senior leadership positions. But for reasons I’ve never understood, they often don’t put forth as much effort at the mid-management level. For those organizations, improving the cadre of mid-level managers presents a low-risk, high-return strategic opportunity to improve organizational performance. Who doesn’t want that?

So how do you get more great mid-level managers? Performance management and competency training are only partial answers. Want to understand why? Think about the best mid-level manager with whom you’ve ever worked. The Gold Standard. Jot down six reasons that person performed at such a high level of excellence. If you want to get this point, please take a moment to jot those down…

Now, how many of your items were NOT the result of training or education? Did that person go through training, for instance, to make them more positive? More determined? More hard working? More caring? Probably not.

How can you ensure you’re putting potential Gold Standard performers into your management training program? Study those Gold Standard performers, but don’t focus on their learned competencies, focus on those crucial character traits that are not addressed in their education. Use available scientific methods to develop a profile of these Gold Standard performers and recruit to that profile. And don’t forget to assess your current hourly employees. There are future Gold Standard managers among them.

How many of your current mid-level managers are Gold Standard performers or have the potential to be in that club? If they don’t have the aptitude, training won’t get them there.

Great mid-level managers ensure that strategies are properly implemented, that employees are highly engaged, that customers are intensely loyal, that processes are optimized and that organization values are upheld. Furthermore, mid-level managers can be, and should be, the organization’s farm team for future senior leaders. Are you investing properly in their selection and development?

Thanks for reading. As always I welcome your thoughts.

Larry Sternberg

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