Our report ‘The Middle Manager Lifeline’ – created through a partnership with the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) – shows how vital middle managers are to building trust in an organisation, but how undervalued they feel in this role. This lack of trust, created through being undervalued and unsupported, is gnawing away at the heart of British business and undermining growth.
The report found that 80% of middle managers believe they are very important in building a trusting workplace culture, but staggeringly, just 31% say they are actually being made to feel that way.
Fundamental to this sense of being undervalued is the lack of senior leadership communication with their middle managers. According to the report, 31% don’t believe their leaders work with them to communicate vision and strategy. We’re not talking about a monthly blog, a weekly slide deck or a quarterly update from the CEO, we mean meaningful, face to face time which offers real opportunity for two way dialogue, a chance to offer feedback on the strategic thinking that’s affecting their teams on a daily basis.
A lack of information from the top of the business is a big part of the problem. Middle managers are not informed or consulted … just 9% said they are always asked for input or feedback on the information they’re given. Because of this lack of input, they’re not confident to cascade … only 31% feel very confident communicating company information to their teams.
When you consider how frequently message cascade is left to middle managers, that’s actually quite terrifying!
So what can be done to bring middle managers in from the cold?
Trust is personal.
Managers consider face to face communication a more reliable indicator of honesty and openness, so getting face time with their leaders is crucial to building organisational trust.
It’s no coincidence then, that one of the top five takeaways from this report, for improving communication in an organisation, is to hold bespoke middle manager events.
Well conceived, well planned, bespoke middle manager events require an investment of (leadership) time, but can be extremely effective. These can’t just be plenary sessions, they must have a mix of plenary and creative breakouts, where the interaction and two-way debate will happen. This will help to foster trust across the organisation and build a real sense of value in the middle management tier.
No matter how big the organisation, leaders need to make more time to talk to their middle managers, face to face, both formally and informally.
Read more from the report in our other blogs here.