“Hello, Peter, what’s happening? Ummm, I’m gonna need you to go ahead come in tomorrow. So, if you could be here around 9 that would be great, mmmk… Oh, oh – and I almost forgot; ahh, I’m also gonna need you to go ahead and come in on Sunday, too, ‘kay. We, ahh, lost some people this week and, ah, we sorta need to play catch up…” – Bill Lumbergh
Uh, yeah….that’s the portrait of the classic floating head middle manager that we found in the movie Office Space … the kind of boss we dreaded; someone we would never respect and hope would vanish into thin air. Believe it or not, according to the Wall Street Journal, there are over 10.8 million potential “Lumberghs” running amuck in corporate America. If you are one of these 10.8 million, there is hope for you! Here are 5 ways to break free of the vicious cycle and become useful:
1. Roll Up Your Sleeves
One thing that will command respect from your direct reports is to be a hands-on manager. Don’t hide in an office – get out there and be there for your team. It’s like in football; the head coach who used to play the game commands respect from his team members. Nothing is more annoying than reporting to a boss who knows nothing of what you do on a daily basis.
2. Have Their Backs
Don’t throw your team under the bus. Let them know you support them. As a manager, defend your team members. If they aren’t performing, give them immediate feedback to correct their problems. Give them opportunities to improve without demoralizing.
3. Be a Filter
Don’t get your team caught up in the noise an politics of upper-management. Keep your team focused and on-task. Absorb the drama and only inform your team of important information relevant to their jobs and success.
4. Really CARE About Your Team
It’s not about being their best friends; it’s about showing a genuine interest in your team members’ growth. Take them out to coffee; learn about their aspirations; be an advisor, a mentor…
5. LEAD, Don’t “Manage”
Step up your game. Show your team how it’s done. Take charge without being pushy or condescending. Someone saw qualities in you to place you in the role you are in today; live up to the expectation and really take ownership. It’s all about being accountable to your team and yourself.
Middle management can be a relevant and an important role in business today. Be reflective and work on ways to help serve your team. Leading by example will allow the pieces of the organization to fit together (without a “red stapler”)!