managing in the middle

What’s It All About?

As a manager, do you find yourself squeezed in the middle? Do you have to deal with information and instructions dropping down from above, as well as having to retrieve and decipher information from below? We live in a world driven and controlled by technology. As a manager, do you feel you are evolving fast enough to keep up with this technology, or do you sometimes feel that technology is managing you?

One may argue that the most important person in your business, be it a large corporation, medium sized, or small business, is the CEO, MD, or business owner. Yes, they provide the direction, strategy, and, very importantly, “inspirational leadership,” but the most important person in your business is YOU, the manager in the middle!

Why? Well, you are in the middle of what I call the BCE triangle: the triangle that organizational behavior revolves around. The three sides of the triangle are the BUSINESS (represented by the CEO, MD, or business owner), the CUSTOMER, and the EMPLOYEES (the people who make up your organization). The representatives of the three sides of this triangle all have their own needs and objectives, or what is called their “WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?” In other words:

  • The BUSINESS leaders want performance and results.
  • The CUSTOMERS want great products, service, and value.
  • The EMPLOYEES want their needs to be met at work.

Remember, when dealing with people, and despite the sophistication of communication, their basic needs, irrespective of which side of the triangle they are on, are to simply be understood, respected, appreciated, and have their self-interests addressed.

Traditionally, the flow is from the top-down: leaders wanting better performance and results. Businesses are constantly looking at ways of managing customer relationships as well as continually managing and motivating people. As a manager in the middle of this BCE triangle, you are the important link because of the responsibility you have managing the execution of the BUSINESS plan. You control the outcomes through your ability to manage, direct, and engage every single team member to ensure you meet the expectations of your CUSTOMERS as well as the task of facilitating and meeting the needs of the EMPLOYEE. You are required to manage all the technical as well as “people” related issues and challenges that are part of everyday business.

As a manager in the middle, you can reverse the top-down approach to a bottom-up approach, through understanding and facilitating the needs of the EMPLOYEE, who is engaged in meeting the needs and expectations of the CUSTOMER, who, in turn, delivers and meets the needs of the LEADERS. This means better business performance.

In the world at large and in your business in particular, it is all about change: a word we hear every day and is as inevitable as the sun rising in the east and setting in the west. You need to change as managers, and the people you manage certainly need to change too. Some embrace this change, while others don’t. Your success will rest on your ability to manage this change. Sometimes, despite all odds, people will not move from their position, so you may have to do things differently.

Excerpt from the book ‘The Fixer’ by Iain Johnston

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