Can a gap at a leadership level slow down your company’s performance? Yes, it can.
An organization’s growth was at risk. Critical projects were stalling. New products were taking forever to get to market. Customers were defecting. Employee engagement was very low primarily due to poor people management.
I was asked to help and what I learned was very interesting.
I found that engagement levels were lowest among the middle-managers. I zeroed in on exploring why. It was clear that the middle-managers felt ill-equipped to meet the complex demands of their roles. They were trying to handle the pressures coming from senior management, while at the same time trying to address all the issues surfacing from the rest of the organization. They were sandwiched.
What was the source of the problem? What I found was that the problem didn’t begin with the middle-managers, but rather the root of the problem began many years before when the middle-managers were in front-line managerial roles.
You see this organization had never invested in developing their leaders, especially their front-line managers. New managers had to learn their jobs through trial and error or in a “sink-or-swim process”. As you can imagine there were fundamental gaps in their basic management skills. They couldn’t manage people if their lives depended on it.
This created a gap which didn’t truly become apparent until the leaders took on mid-level leadership roles years later. The demands of these roles were greater. As a result, the gaps in the basics, began to limit the leaders' effectiveness.
What also became clear was that the gaps in the middle dragged down the performance of the senior leaders because it forced them to be more tactical and operational, rather than strategic. So this meant that the senior leaders weren’t leading at the level that they needed to lead at. The entire leadership system in this company was underperforming.
What senior management realized was that their company would not succeed until the capabilities of middle managers were strengthened, and that's what they worked on to turn things around.
Over the last few blogs, I’ve been writing about an organization’s leadership system. As you can see from this company’s experience, the levels within that system interact and impact one another. What's happening in your own organization? Are there gaps at a particular leadership level that may be affecting your company’s performance? Are those gaps affecting or dragging down other leadership levels?
Let me know what you discover.