Do any of the following sound familiar to you?
- Senior leaders have no time for strategy they are too busy fighting fires
- Large organisational change seems to stumble when it comes to implementation
- Staff refer to ‘them’ as the most senior leaders, missing out several layers of managers in between
- Mediocre middle managers hide for years doing just enough to get by
- When you look around for the next senior leaders all you see is tumbleweed?
If you recognise some of these symptoms you could be suffering from the underuse of the operational management levels in your organisation. The layer of management under the senior team contains a rich seam of knowledge and skills that needs to be mined by an organisation for growth and success yet so often is ignored, wasted and undermined.
If we look at the big picture around leadership and management we see a clear difference between the two. Leaders concern themselves with high-level strategy, scanning the horizon and keeping an eye on the next big thing and what the competitors are doing. They also have a huge role to play in getting the right people in the right place, removing obstacles in their way so they can deliver results and feel good about doing so.
Managers concern themselves with operational planning, objectives, delivery and creating a motivational environment for people to release their potential, achieve and grow. They need to understand and know the people they work with to get the best out of them and use their skills for the benefit of all.
There are, of course, crossovers. Sometimes leaders need to manage and managers must lead when the situation demands but broadly speaking if each layer can do what they need to do most of the time the organisation gains huge advantages.
We work with organisations that have worked really hard to strengthen the individual teams of senior leaders and middle managers. Then they bring the two together to agree boundaries, cross-team project work and the exchange of information vital to their success. Leaders know things middle managers do not and vice versa so together they get the whole picture and success emerges.
Another list for you, this time one that highlights the advantages of the gap being closed at the top:
- Change is more successful as strategy and operational planning and implementation are brought together
- Organisation wide initiatives are more intelligent, empowering and staff buy-in is greater
- Succession planning can happen as middle managers get exposure to the senior leaders and how they behave
- Morale is increased as middle managers take their place, are accountable and feel valued and respected
- Decisions are cascaded down with middle managers knowing about them before their staff so they can explain and show commitment to them
- Meaningful feedback from the front line goes back up to so those in positional power can remove obstacles and smooth the way.
Are you bridging the gap or falling into it?