Posted by yoonsie in talent management, Sloan School of Management, Paul Osterman, MIT, middle managers, mid-level managers, mentors, McKinsey & Co., management roles, loyalty, leadership, job satisfaction, employee engagement, DDI, CIOs, careers
As C-level executives, CIOs run the IT organization. Two levels down the ranks, however, their middle managers make IT run. After all, these managers -- the directors of managers -- are the ones who carry out the CIO's agenda. Yet they're among the likeliest in the organization to leave. They're entrusted with interpreting the decisions CIOs make at the corporate level and putting them into action.
Last summer, my colleague Ellen Pearlman commented on a July 2009 McKinsey survey that found, among other things, an astounding 64 percent of middle managers intend to leave their companies in the next two years. By comparison, many senior and C-level executives indicated relative satisfaction with their jobs.
The mid-level manager has a thankless role, and CIOs and other senior executives would do well to change this if they care about realizing their own goals. There are a few reasons why this group matters so much, says Tacy Byham, at talent-management consultancy Development Dimensions International (DDI), who has worked on DDI's development programs for middle managers.
For one, despite their weakened commitment to their employers, managers at the middle level are especially loyal to their staff, making them a critical bridge between management and lower-level staff. This is especially true given the increasing influence middle managers have. In his book The Truth About Middle Managers: Who They Are, How They Work, Why They Matter (Harvard Business School Press, 2008) Paul Osterman, a professor at MIT's Sloan School of Management, quotes one manager as noting: "The tradeoffs between quality and timeliness and complexity: Who thinks about that? These kinds of challenges and decisions are mostly met by middle management." In addition, and perhaps of special interest to CIOs, middle managers have a great deal of what Osterman calls "craft pride" -- a powerful sense of doing their jobs well from a functional perspective. Middle managers in IT, for instance, tend to take great care and pride in building excellent IT systems.
Stressed by their increasing responsibility and workloads yet unrecognized for their contributions, many middle managers feel disenchanted and lack loyalty to their employers. They also feel a lack of career guidance and see limited advancement opportunities.
Understanding this, CIOs can address these issues to improve their chances of holding onto their most valuable middle managers. The goals are to rebuild loyalty and commitment, create a sense of growth in middle managers even where there are fewer opportunities for promotion, and build leadership skills -- lofty intentions but easier said than done. Fortunately, Byham offers some practical ways to rehabilitate middle managers' relationships to the organization:
Expose middle managers to top management. Inviting them to meetings with executives is one way. Byham also recommends hosting brown-bag lunches with senior executives in attendance to facilitate introductions and promote the development of relationships.
Set up networking opportunities. If possible, arrange mentor relationships. The most effective mentorships include a clear individual development plan, notes Byham -- a plan that incorporates milestones and corporate goals.
Finally, make a pointed effort to build leadership capabilities. CIOs should be especially aware that to advance further in their careers, mid-level managers in IT need a different set of skills than the ones that served them so far. Managers at this level need to develop skills such as making difficult decisions, building and leading teams, and working across functions.