Every day when you arrive at work do you sigh as you go through the door? Do you think “Just once I’d like to be a cast member at Disney, rather than a middle manager where I am today”? If only this place was as exciting and fun to work at as Zappo’s or Google!
Life is too short to be working in a miserable environment. Yet, what can we do, from the trenches of management to make change? After all, we can’t authorize the building of gymnasiums, or introduce new policies giving employees two paid days per year to work for their favorite charity, or front expensive employee development programs. That’s for the top executives to do. They’re the ones responsible for creating amazing workplace cultures, right?
It’s true that the culture of an organization is based on the behaviours of its leaders. However, even managers in the middle are leaders. I once thought that I had to wait for head office to drive changes and set the stage for how we worked together. Then I decided to become the general of my own army.
Leading from the trenches
As the leader of a regional team, we went to work on becoming a high performance team. This included addressing how we worked together as a management team and also how we could pull together to better manage our employees. We developed a vision for our business unit and agreed on the values that were most important for our combined success.
Over the course of several years we were able to shift things from being silo functions merely existing in the same building to a cohesive, aligned and committed, results-oriented team. When we felt that Head Quarters wasn’t providing enough information, we didn’t complain about it. Instead we invited key players with the information our team needed to our management meetings. We became proactive.
It wasn’t long before people at Head Quarters began to send compliments our way. “You guys are so easy to work with” and “Whenever I want to pilot something I always choose Carol’s business unit because they just love a new challenge”.
So what can you do to make your business a better workplace for your employees?
5 steps for middle managers
Step 1 – assess what your current environment is really about. Is it filled with teamwork or mistrust?
Step 2 – get crystal clear on the purpose of your business unit and how it contributes to the greater organization. Communicate to your employees the purpose and how each and every one of them can contribute to its success.
Step 3 – define what you’d like the workplace to look like. Maybe you’d like it to be more social – more like a family. Maybe you’d like to see ongoing professional development. Outline what is needed in order to deliver effectively.
Step 4 – make a list of the things you can change within your own sphere of influence. If you don’t feel your team has the right information to get the job done – how can you improve it? Be proactive.
Step 5 – build an action plan with dates, resource requirements and accountabilities. Build it into your annual business plan.
Don’t let the fact that you’re working in the trenches of middle management in your organization stop you from improving your culture. Every operation needs a strong line of defence, as well as, an offence that keeps everyone moving forward. You can, and should be, the commander in charge of the corporate culture around you.