From Middle Child to Middle Manager


chicksThe December 2013 edition of Talent Management magazine includes an article focused on mid-level managers – the characteristics that facilitate success in these critical, complex positions and how to best assess those characteristics.  The article led me to thinking about middle children. (What can I say? On the Hogan Personality Inventory both my Inquisitive and Learning Approach scores are high, so my thought patterns and processes can be disjointed!)

I think middle children and middle managers may have a lot in common. Hear me out on this. Despite popular perception of “middle child syndrome”, some research suggests middle-born children possess a number of unique strengths. The same strengths may make for successful middle managers:

Middle children build relationships
I’m willing to bet that anyone in middle management will tell you that their success is due in large part to the ability to effectively work with those above them, their management teammates, and their direct reports. Middle managers have to build and maintain productive relationships with employees at all levels of the organization, often across divisions, functions, and geographies, in order to fulfill their responsibilities.

Middle children compromise
Middle management positions are unique in that these individuals are largely responsible for taking strategy from the top, selling it to the bottom, and ensuring it is successfully implements. Effective middle managers may be those who implement strategies in manner which ensures that, while no one can have everything, everyone will get something. 

Middle children innovate
The job descriptions for middle managers across companies may vary widely, but oftentimes these are the people in the organization who are responsible for “making it work” and that requires thinking outside of the box.  An effective middle manager may need to generate, adapt, and implement ideas to ensure the success of the team and the enterprise.

Middle children keep their cool
I doubt anyone would deny the stress inherent in the majority of middle management positions. Middle managers may be called upon to act as both an individual contributor and a leader in the organization. As a result it is critical that they remain calm, focused, and productive despite the pressures of workload, deadlines, and office politics.

What strengths do you see in middle managers? As globalization increases and organizations move further into the 21st century, what attributes do you think will lead to middle managers’ continued success? I hate to be alone with my own musings, so please post your thoughts!