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The challenges of middle management

August 1, 2017

I spent many years in the throes of a middle management position (also often known as senior management, program director, leadership team etc.) and though I mostly loved it, there were some challenges that I wonder if other folks in similar roles have also experienced.  My favorite part of being in a management role was that it allowed me to mentor and coach younger and less experienced staff members.  I loved being the expert, the one with the historical perspective and the person who had all the answers (apparently some staff members really thought this!).  Where the challenge came in, however, was when I DIDN’T have all the answers - when I needed higher approval, or a signature, or a simple nod of the head giving me the okay to move forward with something.  In those moments, I often felt like those waiting for the answers were frustrated and doubtful about my ability to get things accomplished. 

Of course, that’s how organizations must run – decision making is a process and generally done at the top.  My exasperation would lie in the fact that I was expected to run several programs, manage budgets, supervise staff, handle emergencies, oversee facilities (oh and make sure 34 young people have all their needs met!) and certainly more, but was often not given the authority to make necessary decisions that affected the way my programs functioned on a day to day basis.  Also, I couldn’t download software onto my computer… 

Every organization is going to have to tackle these challenges differently.  At the most basic level, however, lies the need for effective communication, clear expectations and healthy processes that ensure staff at the middle management level feel, and actually are, empowered to do their job (and get stuff done!). 

 

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