Browsing Tag


Stuck in the Middle: A changing reality…

USA Today did a piece that says most people think [tag]middle management[/tag] sucks – more access, more work, more meetings…. Yup and more opportunities, learning and influence on the organization. [tag]Work life balance[/tag] indeed.

So I had a boss once that said “don’t whine – get a new job”, he was full of bumper sticker management – “Your lacking of planning doesn’t make it my emergency” – I mean a real witster, but not necessarily wrong. The salient part is that if you say yes to something and don’t like it – do something else.

A survey referenced in the story concludes essentially 1 out of 4 want to do something else (promotion, life stuff…) This “I need to do something else” phenomenon is not new [tag]Eric Saperston[/tag]’s movie [tag]the Journey[/tag] influenced lots of kids to do something else. I’m not convinced that this disdain with “what you are doing” is a middle management thing – more of a life thing.

Middle management is a place you can thrive and deliver career influence on many folks in the organization and if this isn’t your thing – then be a contributor. The article cites flexibility as an issue, but I think it is a little long on the drama.

Lack of flexibility

Managers such as Raj Nijjer, who oversees a staff of four software test engineers at a software company in Scottsdale, Ariz., are struggling with whether to remain in their jobs. The 29-year-old and his wife recently had a son, and Nijjer says that as a manager, he can’t avail himself of the same flexibility as his staffers. On a recent day off with his baby, a crisis at work erupted, and he had to go in and conduct meetings with his team.

Welcome to the [tag]blackberry lifestyle[/tag]! The real challenge is integrating WORK into life, not LIFE into work. Use your media access to your benefit. Early morning email, late night email and industry web browsing – helps you better understand the organization, industry and confines the impact to a single sitting rather than on going dribbles and drabs which are interjected into your day.

Remember – anything can be done on a bluetooth and a cellular wireless card for your laptop. Its worth it for you to use your own money, if you can’t get from your employer. The right tools for the right life. A crisis can be VERY effectively managed remotely from a bluetooth device. Long lunches, early days and late arrivals are a privilege of the middle management – sorta.

I’m not saying be a slacker, but if you do 50 hours a week, not many people care where it is done – just that as long as it gets done and done well, that’s the key. (I am making the assumption your good at ALL of your time management and good at your job.)

If you actually manage, lead and are organized most jobs in middle management shouldn’t kill your life.

•More work. Middle-management jobs have become more demanding. Technology means middle managers have to do more multitasking and are expected to be accessible to their staffs, a Herculean challenge in the age of globalization. Employees may be spread across the globe, and a manager may have to get up at 3 a.m. to take a call from an employee in another country.

•Generational differences. Baby boomers, born roughly between 1944 and 1964, were reared with the ideal of company loyalty and the notion of a hierarchical career path that included paying dues and gradually ascending the corporate ladder. Middle management was considered a plum assignment that also brought job security.

Yes the world is different and flatter. A 3 am conference call gets you not coming in until noon or a FULL telecommute day. A conference call at 7PM get you home at 3:30. Balance folks.

The other item is due to the emotional investment more middle managers than not, don’t take all their paid time off which doesn’t help for the “I like my job” quotient. Staying at home and doing only 3 hours of work on a PTO day is better than burning it or banking it for the “future”.

Another trick – I’m a fairly wired worker so I go places where it’s plausible that you have no “bars” on the phone – mountains, 3rd world countries…. [tag]Integrate work[/tag] into life and enjoy the middle management opportunity.


Stuck in the Middle: The Visualist

A good amount of people in most workplaces work a real day’s work, but there are few/a small handful that believe being a pass-thru entity who provides verbose email updates qualify as work. The visualist is mainly focused on visibility and will eagerly sign up for any action. That’s when the real fun starts.

FAST FORWARD: Meeting end +30 minutes: The visualist stops by the office and meanders his/her way to a discussion on “who might know this” or “who might know that” or “who could”. After the information is divulged in a way that he or she can comprehend – they disappear – so they’re kinda magician’s as well.

Action item due time -30 minutes: Visualist stops by and plays back their assessments of the status, asks for input and thoughts around next steps. You give it up and – WHOOSH – gone like a phantom.

Status Meeting -12 minutes: Some how in the time you chatted a 3 page missive is sent which is effectively only 3 bullets of update, 2 bullets of next steps and a bunch of “here’s how tough it was” and “thanks to xxxx”. Ah the visualist value add – bloated communication, kudos and poor word choice.

Meeting: He or she boastfully brings in their update printed and reads it, like they aren’t sure they know it outside of the script.

So the fun part with this type of self-proclaimed leader starts when you go for the details. Go into the details, he or she will need to publicly engage the person who did the work or state they need to follow up with the work doer for additional validation and clarity, after fumbling towards an answer.

The other slightly mean thing to do is to send them off to the wrong people, this only works with short deadlines. Or goof with them on next steps… So while the stuck series speaks to leadership and middle management influence, the visualist is typically a climber who believes they are a leader. I mean they typically are in the office early.

These people typically think note taking and action management with the leadership is leadership. Some time’s note taking is just note taking. Typically these peoples ego’s will provide a quick burn from which only a phoenix will rise.

Stuck in the Middle: The Amoeba

It takes all kinds of leadership styles and ameoba is generally a kind, well intention and fairly good manager with limited creativity.  To just baseline on the core object which is the metaphor for this leader:

a•moe•ba also a•me•ba n. Any of various one-celled aquatic or parasitic protozoans of the genus [tag]Amoeba[/tag] or related genera, having no definite form and consisting of a mass of protoplasm containing one or more nuclei surrounded by a flexible outer membrane. It moves by means of pseudopods.

So it also is important to understand pseudopods:

pseu•do•pod (sōō’də-pŏd’) n. A temporary projection of the cytoplasm of certain cells, such as phagocytes, or of certain unicellular organisms, especially amoebas, that serves in locomotion and [tag]phagocytosis[/tag].

So the metaphor is a simplistic non-committal group thinker who just kinda hovers as a key activity. When experiencing an ameba event, typically it involve a fairly large group of folks from extended groups, your not sure why he/she is there, but you can’t miss ‘em because they took a seat at the middle of the table.

The other characteristic which is a little odd, this person schedule no meetings, in fact you probably can’t even remember the last meeting or email you received of from this person outside of the dog pile congratulations email streams which happen over a minor accomplishment.

So we have an effective non-entity. This person will wildly support any decision which has a clear majority and remain silent with anything below 70/30. (fair weather golfer)  Once the momentum is clear in a discussion, this person will emphatically agree! The amoeba will also be the last person to comment in a discussion. This person actually allows other functional to drive innovation into their own group which provides an exclamation to their passive reality. Bad Leaders Hover!

So how do you deal with this archetype? Just remember the amoeba is a survivor, in fact that’s all they ever do (embrace the metaphor).  Another key point to remember is when dealing with an amoeba is no one likes the mean kid and the bar for mean with this leader is low.

So if you can’t go head to head with this simplistic leader, use a mirror. Embrace the ameba’s view of the world and partner to develop an understanding of the processes and key metrics to deliver increased visibility through your own hovering in their group. Come up with improvement ideas and general observations to help improve the effectiveness of the group. The cool thing is if they invite you in – then you can do anything, so add some value!