Article: A study of middle managers

Leadership

A study of middle managers

There is dissatisfaction among middle managers on how their careers are shaping up, according to Think Talent research
A study of middle managers

Think Talent conducted a research covering over 250 managers over a three-year period across industries. The research focused on how Indian managers viewed blockages in their own careers based on a comprehensive questionnaire. The NEWS™ questionnaire has been used across the world in over 80 countries for developmental and coaching purposes. The questionnaire makes enquiries in four types of blockages a person may be facing in moving ahead in their career, on three dimensions - self, in relation to others around the person and in relation to the organisational context. The four blockages are defined as:

  1. A lack of clear future direction or vision
  2. An absence of a strong connection between personal values and career direction chosen
  3. An absence of planning and execution competencies including skills required to marshal the resources necessary to achieve objectives and,
  4. A presence of inhibitions and limitations in the mind including fear of failure.

Overall, the study clearly indicates significant dissatisfaction among middle managers in relation to how their careers are shaping up. There appears to be reason for action to be taken in managing this—a direct cause for attrition, and lack of engagement for middle managers, as well as for their teams.

Findings highlight the issues in the areas of planning and execution capability in managing one’s personal direction and career. As per their own assessment, Indian managers perceive that when managing teams, they are able to set clear task goals/deliverables, including the planning aspect but it comes to self-management, it emerges a clear area of dissatisfaction. As one manager commented in the research –“I know where I want to go but do not know how to take steps to get there”.

There is also a general perception that the organisations (where they work) could improve on systems, planning and execution. The survey scores the lowest in planning and execution on all three dimensions — self, others and organisation. It is also evident that most managers receive limited coaching and training support on planning and execution, as it seems to be a weak area across teams and organisations.

One of the apparent contradictions in the research appears to be that team planning and management is an area of perceived strength (relatively) whereas self-management (including time and resources planning) is an area of development. This inherent contradiction could be due to an inappropriate understanding of the team management role and/or a strong desire to project a bright(er) managerial image. It could possibly be attributed to the impact of hierarchical social structure and the need to create an image of being ‘responsible’ as a senior in an organisational context.

From the questionnaire, comments and interviews, several factors emerge as potential reasons for lack of self management, planning and execution skills :

  1. Often, the direction of one’s career is chosen by circumstances or others, and there is no alignment between the career and a person’s inherent talents or strengths. This means that the manager starts with a handicap -- trying to manage weaknesses for career success rather than working to his strengths. For example, managers who genuinely love managing people (with values and direction aligned)have higher scores on team planning and execution.
  2. Self-management skills i.e. managing one’s own time/resources in an effective and efficient manner needs to be inculcated early in childhood and nurturing of accountability/ownership needs to be built in the early education system. Our family, social and educational structures may be working against this.
  3. Middle managers want their organisations to consistently communicate its vision, overall direction and goals. The clarity around the linkages of larger organisational goals and successes with that of one’s own and for the teams is often weak, leading to a feeling of lack of achievement and direction, further creating uncertainty for action to be taken.

Topics: Leadership, Strategic HR

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