Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Moving into middle management – Part 8: leading by example, mentoring and advocacy

Posted in job search and career development by Timothy Platt on March 29, 2011

This is my eighth installment in a series on moving into middle management and by now it should be clear that I view this as more qualitatively distinctive a career change than many if not most career councilors would. Moving into middle management is not simply an upgraded version of lower level management and it is not simply a light version of senior management. It is a distinctive middle ground with its own issues, skills requirements and challenges.

I have at least touched on a number of issues and topics related to that in the first seven installments to this series (see my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, see postings 142 through 148.) I finish this by turning to a set of issues that are important for any manager to discuss how they play out for middle managers in particular: the issues of leading by example, mentoring and advocacy.

Effective leaders at any level on the table of organization lead by example. They mentor and train to bring out the best in the people who report to them. They advocate on behalf of the people they are responsible for leading to help them as they carry out their tasks and complete the priorities and assignments their teams are responsible for. But when you enter middle management you are not directly working with or supervising everyone who is working under your authority on the table of organization. And for geographically dispersed organizations you may not even really know everyone who you lead and are responsible for. That brings me to the challenge and learning opportunity I would discuss here. As a middle manager you may still find yourself working primarily with people you know and who you have direct experience with. But this is the step in your career where you are likely to be working indirectly with people and with people you do not have a direct and personal business relationship with.

• Lead by example, setting a personal standard for what you would expect of others. Convey this directly to the lower level managers and others who you do directly work with by your day to day behavior, decisions, language and communications and follow-through. Convey it through them to more far reaching areas of your larger team, through these managers and the standards you challenge them to meet from your example.
• Mentor the people you work with directly and help them to get the training and experience and other resources they need to reach their potential. And cultivate a corporate culture in your branch of the table of organization that would lead others to do the same for people they lead and supervise.
• And be an effective advocate – for excellence and for securing the resources and the work environment needed to achieve that.

This all sounds very nice when simply stated in the abstract – like those homilies and adages we have all seen framed on business walls with an inspiring photo and a brief message about leadership or some other business-supportive quality or skill. The challenge is in actually following through on this in the heat and confusion of the ongoing day to day. So start out planning and developing in terms of doing this and set your more detailed plans and priorities around this corporate culture-level framework.

First and foremost expect people to do what your do and not simply what you say, and then strive to make sure that what you say actually is what you do. Work at the goal of enabling those working under you to do the same and reward them for doing so.

Some and even many of my postings list to-do and analytical bullet points on the intricacies and issues of one topic or other. This posting I frankly admit is more philosophical and I bring this series to a conclusion, at least for now on this note. The specific details of what you and those under you do will change and the goals, priorities and reasoning behind them will too. This is about setting and maintaining a framework of sustainable excellence in the face of that change and regardless of the other details you and your team face.

My next posting in the Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development will start a new series on finding a work/life balance and on keeping career in context, as per my prospective posting notes from My Jobs and Careers Guide at 167 Postings – and thoughts on what I will be posting here next.

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