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Now is the time – invest in middle managers’ development

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Now is the time – invest in middle managers’ development

By Sacha Thompson, founder of The Equity Equation


Investing in developing middle managers is crucial for organizations to thrive in today’s complex and diverse business environment. They play a critical role in bridging the gap between senior leadership and frontline employees. They are responsible for implementing strategic initiatives, managing teams, and driving organizational performance. However, these leaders often face unique challenges and pressures that hinder their effectiveness.

One of the key challenges middle managers face is the lack of support and development opportunities. Many organizations focus their resources on senior leadership development or frontline employee training, neglecting the crucial role of these leaders. This lack of investment can lead to a disconnect between organizational goals and frontline execution, decreasing employee engagement and productivity.

The Role of Middle Managers

Middle managers are the key to driving inclusion within their teams. However, they need to understand what’s in it for them and how they can benefit from investing in this work. By participating in Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) or encouraging their employees to join ERGs, middle managers can gain valuable insights and perspectives, enhancing their own leadership skills. Addressing the fear and uncertainty surrounding inclusion efforts is important, as managers may have learned their management style from previous managers who may not have embraced inclusive practices. Organizations must provide middle managers with the necessary tools and training to facilitate a paradigm shift in leadership styles to become inclusive leaders.

21st Century Inclusive Leadership

Inclusive leadership in the 21st century requires focusing on previously undervalued “soft” skills. Skills such as psychological safety, emotional intelligence, and creating environments where individuals feel valued, seen, heard, and connected are essential for inclusive leadership. These skills may be counterintuitive to many leaders shaped by previous management styles. However, by recognizing the importance of these skills and providing training and support, organizations can empower leaders to create inclusive environments that retain diverse talent and drive organizational success.

Managing inclusion like a change process involves engaging middle managers and providing them with the necessary tools, resources, and support. By integrating inclusion efforts into the change management process, organizations can foster a resilient and adaptable workforce, change systems and structures to support inclusivity and empower middle managers to become agents of change. Inclusive leadership in the 21st century requires focusing on not soft skills but power skills, and a paradigm shift in leadership styles. By investing in inclusive culture development and providing training and support, organizations can create a culture of inclusivity that benefits both individuals and the organization.

Three Reasons Why You Should Invest Now

Investing in middle managers’ development is essential for several reasons. First, they are the backbone of the organization. They are responsible for translating the vision and strategy set by senior leaders into actionable plans and goals for their teams. By investing in their development, organizations can ensure they have the necessary skills and knowledge to effectively communicate and execute the organization’s strategic objectives.

Second, middle managers are often the primary point of contact for frontline employees. They play a crucial role in creating a positive work environment, fostering employee engagement, and driving performance. By investing in their development, organizations can equip these leaders with the necessary leadership and communication skills to effectively motivate and support their teams.

Third, investing in middle managers’ development can enhance organizational agility and adaptability. In today’s rapidly changing business landscape, organizations need leaders who can navigate complexity, embrace diversity, and drive innovation. Leaders who are equipped with the skills to lead diverse teams, manage change, and foster a culture of learning and innovation can help organizations stay competitive and responsive to market dynamics.

Three Ways You Can Invest Starting Today

Organizations can take several steps to effectively invest in middle managers’ development. First, they should provide targeted training and development programs that address the unique challenges and responsibilities of this critical role. These programs should enhance leadership skills, communication and collaboration, change management, and inclusive leadership.

Second, organizations should provide ongoing coaching and mentoring support to them. Coaching and mentoring can help middle managers navigate challenges, develop their leadership style, and build their confidence and resilience. By pairing these leaders with experienced mentors or executive coaches, organizations can provide personalized guidance and support to help them reach their full potential.

Third, organizations should create opportunities for middle managers to gain exposure to senior leadership and participate in strategic decision-making processes. This can help them develop a broader perspective, understand the organization’s strategic priorities, and build relationships with senior leaders. By involving these leaders in strategic discussions and decision-making, organizations can empower them to contribute to the organization’s success and feel valued and engaged.

Investing in the development of middle managers is crucial for organizations to thrive in today’s complex and diverse business environment. Middle managers play a vital role in translating strategic objectives into actionable plans, driving employee engagement and performance, and fostering a culture of learning and innovation. By providing targeted training, coaching, and mentoring support, and creating opportunities for exposure and involvement in strategic decision-making, organizations can empower middle managers to become effective leaders who drive organizational success. Investing in middle managers’ development is not only a smart business strategy but also a testament to an organization’s commitment to inclusivity, growth, and employee well-being.

Sacha Thompson is the founder of The Equity Equation, LLC, an inclusive culture consulting firm based in the Washington, DC, area. With 20+ years of experience in education, non-profit, and tech industries, Sacha’s work is about removing barriers or providing support to achieve equity. She helps executives and leaders have that meaningful dialogue and coaches them on the necessary, long-term changes that develop institutional cultures of inclusion. She was most recently featured in Business Insider and MSNBC’s The Cross Connection.