Middle managers make an organisations strategic purpose a reality on the ground. They play a central role in managing and guiding its people. They shape the development of the next generation’s potential. They are, in short, the lifeblood of an organisation, yet in some research we did with Westminster University we found they are rarely treated in a way that reflects this. Less than half believe that their leadership team makes communication with line managers a priority. In order to build trust through communication, nothing beats personal, face to face contact.
So, we decided to talk to a company that champions middle manager communication and as a result have an engaged, productive and motivated middle manager team. Lisa Birmingham, Internal Communications Business Partner at Virgin Media Business, spoke to us about their recent conference dedicated solely to the business’s middle managers.
Tell us a little bit about the purpose of the event?
We previously held a number of events for our higher levels of senior management, but this was the first time we hosted one for our 250 people managers at Virgin Media Business. We knew that to make our strategy a success for the year ahead we needed our people managers understanding not only the strategy but their crucial role in leading their teams on our journey. At VMB we recognize the importance of face to face communication and knew this was the best way to ensure our people managers are in a strong position to get on board and share our strategy.
What are the event objectives?
The aim was to bring the people managers together for the first time and for them to leave feeling like a community. We wanted them to really understand the wider group strategy as well recognising the importance of the changes in the market and how as a business we are unable to stand still and will continue the need to evolve but most importantly their role as leaders in this journey. We wanted to empower this level of management within the business and for them to understand that they are fundamental to business success.
How do you achieve the objectives?
The key to getting true buy-in to the strategy is for this audience to hear directly from the managing director and senior leadership team. Our people managers need to value their role in our strategy and trust in the decisions our leadership team are making. Asking this audience to step up and become the leaders we need them to be needed to be delivered face to face, delivering this message and ask would simply not have been as effective without the backing of our managing director and senior leadership team.
What does the event include?
The event had a balanced agenda that included presentations, breakouts and workshops to truly immerse our delegates in understanding the strategy and their role in leading the business to success. We didn’t want them to just sit in the audience and for us to transmit information to them, we really wanted to build a two-way conversation, not only us telling them what we expect from them, but for them to tell the leadership team what they needed from them too. In order to have our senior leadership team feel truly accessible to our people managers the event approach was perhaps more informal than some conferences. We had the senior leadership team sitting with the delegates, no stage and they hosted an open and honest Q&A session.
What impact does this have on the rest of the business?
Ultimately the event aims to engage and empower our line/people managers, so that when they are back at the office and leading their teams the feel they have the knowledge and tools to bring our strategy to life and what it means for the day job. As this is the first event of its type it will be great to see the impact it has on the wider business this year.
Top 3 takeaways from communicating with your middle managers:
- Deliver messages “straight from the horse’s mouth” and get your leaders to share important business messages face to face
- Involve them in your business strategy. Always remember the well-known saying “tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn”
- Make them feel part of something big, but also make them feel like a community. Inspire and motivate them as leaders and influencers of your business