5 things you can do as a middle manager to position yourself for upward mobility

by Kim Bassett, President and CEO, Steward Norwood Hospital, Massachusetts

Middle managers serve a vital role within any organization. You are the bridge between top administration and the support services staff. The responsibility of implementing strategic plans falls on your shoulders—right down to the smallest of details. You enjoy the challenges of working to keep your employees and customers happy and satisfied. You may love your job, happy to carry out these directives, seeing the results firsthand, never desiring to cross that bridge and move into upper management. But some may want more.

Do you find yourself thinking you have what it takes to accept more responsibility? Do you want to continue your upward climb within the organization? There are not as many top-level positions available as people desiring to have them. What can you do to make sure those leaders making the decisions about promotions recognize your talents and abilities?

Below are five things you can do to position yourself for upward mobility.

  • Situational awareness. This is key within any organization. Study the dynamics that come into play when key players within upper management interact with one another. You may even want to take notes on different topics that are mentioned, initiatives they wish they had time to accomplish, etc. File this information away in your brain and start thinking about how you could help them accomplish whatever it is they are talking about. This will keep you in touch with the inner workings and needs of upper management. Conversely, know what topics to avoid, what things set them off and what they consider to be a waste of time. Listening is key.
  • Think big-picture. Start asking yourself, “What piece of the organizational puzzle am I contributing to today?” Recognize the significance and the role you are playing in moving the organization forward. Often this is referred to as the 20,000 foot view. This simple shift in thinking will start preparing you to interact with upper management, putting yourself in their mindset where the welfare of the overall organization is first and foremost each and every day.
  • Volunteer for additional responsibility. Let your supervisor know you are interested in taking on more responsibility. Volunteer for special projects. Never turn down an opportunity to work with other people in your organization that you do not typically interact with. Every experience gives you an opportunity to show your talent. This also helps widen the circle of people that can tell your supervisor how wonderful you are. You can’t be everywhere all the time. You want others talking about your leadership abilities and how easy you are to work with even when you are not around.
  • Declare your goals. Your supervisor has a lot of responsibilities and can’t read your mind. Make an appointment with your supervisor to let them know what your end-goal is. Ask for their advise on things you need to work on to be considered for upper level responsibilities.
  • Don’t take constructive criticism personally. Showing upper management that you are able to respond positively to constructive criticism is important. It shows a level of professionalism and objectivity that is regarded highly among upper management. Even better, show them a level of proactiveness and willingness to create change.

Middle management is incredibly important to all organizations. Don’t feel like you need to be thinking about “upward moves” to be successful. Scoping out a more senior leadership role is not necessarily a move upward. It’s just a move. The above tips can be use regardless of your ambition. Every organization is different but most leaders are looking for the same thing when looking for new managers. We want strong, independent, critical thinkers that know how to inspire others and get work done.

Difficult People D


As an experienced healthcare executive, Kim Bassett is a strong believer in the “can-do” attitude, focusing on team-building, communication and creativity to find the “win-win” in every situation. She thrives on challenges, especially those that involve bringing teams and people together to provide exceptional healthcare. Her mission in life is to care for every patient as if they were family.