How leaders can better support middle management
by Kim Bassett, President and CEO, Steward Norwood Hospital, Massachusetts
Middle managers are often the unsung heroes within every organization. With a well-oiled machine, each piece plays a vital role and the same can be said for an organization. Each person has their part to play. What makes middle managers unique is their ability to communicate with both upper management and their staff. Middle managers are the bridge between the two groups. That’s one reason why executive management would be wise to help middle managers grow, learn and become confident as leaders.
Ways to create a growth environment for your middle managers:
Give them the freedom to make decisions. This not only shows you trust them as professionals, but allows them to take ownership and pride in what they do. This doesn’t mean you don’t discuss the decisions they are making, but rather sit back and let them lead the discussion, asking intentional questions that leads them to a thoughtful decision. Over time, they will go through this process without prompting.
Create an environment where they are not afraid to do their jobs. It takes time to create a culture of growth and it starts with you. In helping them grow and learn, you are creating an environment where they feel appreciated and respected. Reward them for doing a good job. When something goes awry, don’t show your anger. If you shut down every idea they bring to the table and then criticize the job they are doing, it sabotages not only their personal growth, but the growth of the entire organization.
Be a mentor. Talk to them and find out what they are interested in, what their goals are and create a plan to help them reach their goals. This type of professional development will keep them engaged in the job at present, and further strengthen your relationship.
Positive affirmation and support. Tell them that you support them and will go to bat for them. This gives them the courage to make decisions on their own, knowing you are going to support them with your boss if something happens. This is a crucial part of creating a strong team. No one wants to be the fall guy, but as their boss and leader, it’s your job not to pass the buck on to them when something happens.
Put them out front. Encourage them to give presentations in front of the leadership team. This is such a great learning experience and it gives them the opportunity to be seen by upper management. This also makes you look good because you can feature your rock star team members and their areas of expertise.
Community service. Identify community service organizations for them to represent your organization. Non-profit boards such as the Chamber of Commerce, United Way, Red Cross, are just a few examples. This gives them the opportunity to play part of their organization while making a difference in the community.
As leaders of our organization we are positioned to make a difference in the lives of our employees so I urge you to lead by example. Be someone they want to work for. You can do this by paying attention to their needs and then meeting them. The more you create a positive, growth-oriented environment, the healthier your team will become. In turn, you will see measurable results in the success of your organization.
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.