CEOs can afford to be slightly remote, detached figures. It’s the middle managers who frequently set the mood and tone of the daily working environment and inspire the most contempt from the rank and file. A survey from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) surveyed 5,000 adults about how they view their managers. Only 10 per cent describe their bosses as accessible, while a paltry 7 per cent say their leaders are empowering.
Putting an effective team of middle managers in place is hard work. The first mistake is to assume that it’s best to promote from within. Robert O’Brien, the CEO of compliance specialist Baronscourt Technology, says: ‘It has been the ruination of many a good sales person to be made into a sales manager. That happens quite lot and from my own experience, if there is a path of least resistance and an absolute obvious choice, then resist and reappraise it.’
The other issue is training. This can range from polishing up finance skills to basic management techniques – not everyone is at ease when it comes to giving instructions or telling someone what they should or shouldn’t be doing.
David Warren, the CEO of valet service provider Motorclean, observes that a proper training scheme has seen the company’s growth soar. ‘What we have done is take each of them through a development programme to teach them about the finances of the business at quite a high end. This enables them to run their section and to look at the finances so we are making a profit.’
A workplace is never going to foster constant harmony. Personalities will clash and grievances will be held. But that is not the same as bad, ineffective line managers, which as the figures from the CMI show, seems to be more the norm than many chief execs and owner-managers would probably like to believe.