By Sara Harrup
Being an executive comes with a lot of responsibility. It can be a stressful job. It can be lonely and professionally isolating. The world of business consultants, trainers and other professionals are offering a growing suite of products for busy executives. Executive coaching, CEO groups, business consulting, change management advice! The list goes on.
With all the focus on executives, there is a group of people with an equally tough job who seem to be totally forgotten – Team Leaders and Middle Managers. For every executive who needs coaching and support there is a team leader or middle manager reporting to them who need just as much support, if not more. We must remember that today’s middle manager is tomorrow’s executive. What are we doing to prepare them, develop them and support them?
There are studies around that show that being an executive is no more stressful than being a middle manager, team leader or frontline staff member. I suspect that is because work stress is often relative to a person’s role in an organisation. An executive may not find coping with a difficult frontline team member stressful or disruptive, but that is probably because they have already done their time and experienced this situation ten times over, whereas a team leader may be experiencing it for the first time.
So what are the particular challenges of being a team leader or middle manager?
- You are expected to be able to think strategically yet be close enough to the frontline to know exactly what is going on
- You often have to inflict unpopular directives from senior executives on your team and show a supportive face whilst doing it. Somehow you have to take something unpopular and find a way to get your team across it, doing it and not complaining about it.
- You are often expected to lead and manage staff whilst still undertaking grass roots work. These two roles are often conflicting and compete for your time.
- Executives are often not inclined to coach or mentor their team leaders/middle managers so you often end up in a mentor-less vacuüm, stumbling along and making it up as you go along.
- You have to balance on the fine line between acting independently and reporting up appropriately
There is a great role for coaching for our team leaders and middle managers. Coaching can help by:
- Clarifying how strategic and operational imperatives cascade downwards to the frontline
- Prioritizing work and deadlines
- Supporting leadership and team management activities including troubleshooting staff issues
- Assisting in the dual roles of reporting up to an executive, managing a team and meeting the needs of both
- Helping the manager transition to measurement based reporting
- Developing leadership and management capabilities generally
Sara is a Cause & Effective Associate and a highly experienced not for profit Senior Executive and Board Member.