This is the second of a quick three-part series on how to communicate with the three various types of folks that we have to deal with as technical consultants/geeks-in-residence etc.
Part 2 – MIDDLE MANAGEMENT
Caught in the Middle. These folks are caught in the middle. They are, by definition, managers of managers. Therefore they have to balance a number of different skills that are seen at the user and leadership level. So, let’s take a look at the construct of a near-perfect middle manager:
- Delegation skills (both inside their scope of control as well as influencing other groups to do their bidding)
- Effective communication skills
- Interpersonal skills both human and alliance based
- Negotiation skills
- Emotional intelligence
Empathy: Have empathy for middle managers. Those below are crawling up the food chain to take over their roles, and those above are stomping on their fingers to keep them in their place (especially if they are good at the above skills). Those in these roles are looking to elevate themselves above the masses. All in all it’s a cutthroat section of the enterprise, and typically it’s one of the first to be cut out when times get hard. So what can we do?
Make them look good: Engage with middle managers in a way that helps them attain business success. Help them “shine” and be the one who’s able to champion a cause that is seen as beneficial to the organization. However, this has to be done in a very well crafted, articulate and calculated manner. Calculated here does not mean sneaky, but a process where you come to the middle management with a complete plan, something that defines every aspect, including the “oh shit” moments so that they can see what aspects they can manage/control and what/where they are going to have to put those communication/negotiation/delegation skills to use. Now is not the time for half-baked plans or ideas. You’ll be sent back to the minors to re-think and you might not have as much leeway next time round.
What’s the end goal?: From a communication standpoint ascertain what their end goal is. What do they want and how are they planning to get there? That will be key to their success.
Who are the stakeholders?: Be clear about who they are when communicating to middle management and ensure you have covered ALL the bases both inside the organization as well as vendors, partners etc.
Utilize their skills:This is where effective middle managers can shine. Their ability to balance projects, be efficient with resources and provide the necessary metrics both up and down the food chain is important. Be prepared to come into this project with not only the goals and the ways to do it, but also how to demonstrate effectiveness beyond simply “we didn’t get hacked”…Gantt charts rule!