Caught in the Middle, a new article by Wharton School of Business captures the dilemma of middle managers quite starkly. When they do their job well, they co-ordinate the needs and efforts of many people spread across the organisation and often have no visibility from senior leaders. They are accountable for execution of strategy, yet are squeezed from above and below and are often the subject of retrenchments because their value is not visible until too late.
One way to support middle managers is with development programs that cater to their needs for respect, recognition and reinforcement, but beware offering them training – experienced people hate the thought of going to training. So what’s working in the world of middle manager development?
Forums – give the middle managers the opportunity to meet and discuss issues with their peers and executives. Make sure the managers themselves contribute to the topics and clarify whether the purpose is to discuss and understand vs. to set action plans. Too much setting of action plans just looks like more work for middle managers.
Read on to find out about: Games and simulations, study tours, arts-based processes, and futurists and founders.
In a recent interview with business philosopher and author Paul Hawken in BOSS magazine, there’s a “phrase bite” I loved about greenwash – “Hypocrisy is one place to start… It’s human nature to start with little white lies [about your intentions] before you actually change what you really do. So business is telling lots of white lies, and not so white ones. But pretty soon people ask them questions and one thing leads to another.”
I presume he’s talking about the power of our need to appear consistent and how we can use that need. Let’s look at two ways we can work with ourselves and others and deal with hypocrisy.
Firstly, the traditional way, is to point out the gaps between our rhetoric and our [lack of] actions and trust that embarrassment will generate some change. I used to do this all the time (even to myself) and now I’m not so sure it works. It raises our defenses and the temptation for senior people is to use the power of their position to shut the questioning down. It takes a big person to respond well to this sort of questioning and most of us are normal after all.
The second way is to point out the inconsistencies in a way that keeps reminding the person how great it is that they want to change. If we allow everyone the benefit of the doubt and assume a gap between belief and action, rather than a lack of belief, we support people to take actions to regain consistency.
So let’s all keep reminding ourselves and our leaders how great it is that we’ve said we intend to improve the workplace and environment and contribute to social justice, and support us all to really walk our talk. Which reminds me I said I’d donate to …… time to take some action.
Read the full transcript of the BOSS interview with Paul Hawken at afrboss.com.au
Google Robert Cialdini for more information on consistency as a tool of influence.
Thanks to my colleague Stephanie West Allen from the Appreciative Inquiry list for this link to an interview with Karen Stephenson about her new book Quantum Theory of Trust.
Lots of her arguments resonate, especially the one about making sure you are dealing with a new economy person (who believes in growing the pie) when sharing Intellectual Property, because if you are dealing with an old economy person (who believes in taking your share of a fixed pie) you will lose out.
I also like her discussion about the trustworthiness of social networking and how quickly that leads to a desire to meet and talk and see the sincerity in their eyes.
And of course her discussion about imitating a group and their culture in order to scam it, reminds me of the joke about sincerity being so important, so once you can fake sincerity you’ve got it made!
Lots to digest.
I ran across a fascinating book in the Pages & Pages, Mosman bookshop on the weekend – just the topic for a wet Sunday – Why Good things happen to Good people. Author and researcher Stephen Post must have one of the best research roles – commissioning and finding research that proves the link between doing good and living a longer, healthier, happier life. Now I can encourage others to contribute to my favourite charities and keep doing my pro bono work, knowing that it is doing me and others good!