From Here to There
Read time: 10 minutes
HERE is middle management. THERE is executive/senior management.
Two “regions” of the same organization where REALITY is different for those operating in the two regions.
In many organizations, a career accession from middle management to senior or even executive management is a career shift wanted or sought by the incumbents, and usually a well-deserved move.
This step is often performed by an internal candidate since this is the best way in which a company preserves its knowledge. Almost always this move is watched by all the organization's eyes, and guided by one or more senior executive managers who already know the potential pitfalls of the step.
But not all managers are enough fortunate to have appropriate in-house guidance. In the same way, not all promoted managers have the emotional maturity for permitting themselves to go light through such a transition.
But what is this transition all about?
Middle management is about balancing priorities and deadlines so things happen in the present. It is about ensuring quality and consistency in operations. And therefore, it is also about taking care all people are satisfactorily motivated and engaged to properly contribute to such operations consistency. Things are visible and known. Therefore, managers operate with lots of KNOWNs. Even the potential setbacks are KNOWN, and therefore, managers are caught seldom unprepared for them.
Time: present, and recent past
Focus: balancing priorities and deadlines and obtaining consistent outputs
Risk: sudden shortages with known solutions
People: motivating and supervising people and teams for compliance and productivity
Stakeholders: building relationships mainly with people from areas they interact the most.
Policies and Procedures: translating policies into effective local or standard procedures; ensuring quality and consistency in operations; continuous improvement; deploying necessary upgrades to stay relevant; implementing new procedures.
Development: mapping possibilities for innovation and growth and preparing recommendations to senior management;
Change: managing implementation of change; adapting and adjusting for continuous improvement
Organizational culture: enforcing people's behaviour for compliance with established organizational norms, policies and procedures.
In a nutshell, middle management is very much about removing blockages of today, preservation of the operational status quo, managing in the present with the immediate (1 to 3 months) outlook in mind, and allowing or favouring those short-cuts (exceptions, slips or deviations) in processes or relationships with their stakeholders that allows fulfilling deliveries "of this quarter".
Executive & senior management has a different game. At this level, the focus is very much directed towards the future. Therefore, it is much about the unknown, risk, and high potential of failure with the entire organization.
Time: mainly future, covering also aspects of present and the past
Focus: strategic planning and visioning
Risk: managing many known unknowns as well as unknown unknowns
People: managing talent and ensuring proper succession is available
Stakeholders: managing stakeholder engagement through effective communication
Policies: developing and managing the effective implementation of appropriate policies.
Development: driving innovation and growth to sustain strategic objectives.
Change: ensuring appropriate leadership for change and model adaptability for the entire organization
Organizational culture: building and sustaining a strong corporate culture.
In a nutshell, it is about defining a strategy out of the "crystal ball", about generating assumptions that can hold the proof of time. About driving direction and pace of growth and innovation. About running the masses through the invisible lines of the organizational culture and living each day by the organization's code of ethics. It is about knowing how to read and understand the organization and where its problems are, without meeting every Peter or Susan.
Each of the 9 dimensions explored above, provides you with an idea about the gap you will have to cover in your transition from HERE to THERE.
"Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do."
As leaders and managers, it's not enough to simply know what to do - it's about taking action and making things happen.
However, the DOING part can become truly difficult to execute not only because the new senior manager still thinks and operates as a middle manager. But mainly, because he is not aware of the limitations of his still present middle management approach and how making use of it will just get him in trouble.
One thing he cannot imagine is how his former successful behaviour and way of thinking have just become a heavy legacy he needs to get rid of fast. Nor what would he need to replace it with.
Not knowing what he does not know is their first surprise in this position.
Resilience and its role in the transition
Resilience is crucial during the transition period of a new senior manager towards reaching a consistence performance as an executive.
Without a resilient foundation, a senior manager may lack the confidence needed to take action and make decisions. Resilience helps a manager to stay calm under pressure and make sound decisions even in the face of adversity. For example, imagine a manager who is leading a team through a major project. If they lack resilience, they may become overwhelmed by the stress and pressure, and be unable to make clear decisions or effectively communicate with their team. This could lead to delays or mistakes in the project, and ultimately a failure to deliver results.
Another example of how a lack of resilience can inhibit execution can be seen in a manager who is leading a company through a period of rapid growth and expansion. If the manager lacks resilience, they may become again overwhelmed by the pressure and stress of managing this growth, and be unable to make quick and effective decisions. This could lead to missed opportunities or poor strategic choices, ultimately hindering the company's ability to capitalize on its growth.
How does the lack of resilience lead to overwhelm?
Usually through the inner critic voice which will be triggered by too unrealistic expectations, erroneous or not checked assumptions or hidden beliefs or values the managers would hold for themselves on success, safety, collaboration, transparency, etc.
In this DOING the new senior manager may believe he needs to always present bulletproof solutions and be seen as the one who is providing the solution. Let’s assume this new senior manager appreciates a lot being productive and not wasting people’s time. He is confident of what he knows and he is used to his former senior manager appreciating his contribution every time he contributes. The company goes through a mini-crisis with potential consequences for an entire segment of clients.
Our fresh manager tends to save everyone time and act according to his knowledge because he knows his knowledge is valid. Unfortunately, from his middle management perspective, he cannot see that his unilateral decision, taken without consulting with any other senior peer manager, will create even more operational havoc instead of putting the existing fire off.
To rationalize the bigger chaos, the new senior manager will appreciate the colleagues from the other department were not enough supportive of his idea, and, from his vantage point he perceives the other senior manager and his team as being resistant, and cannot see the disturbance he created further down in the larger organization.
Because he is so convinced about HIS TRUTH, he will stand his position creating the premises for an interdepartmental conflictual situation. Instead of listening to other perspectives, he starts to complain to his team, about resistance. After listening for several weeks to their new senior manager, his team truly believes the people from the other department are uncooperative and irrational. And a shadow of mistrust starts to build up between the two departments that used to cooperate very well before the arrival of the new senior manager.
On his side of the truth, the new senior manager is upset about not getting enough organisational support, has shifts in confidence for seeing his ideas not receiving enough credit, and is disappointed with his team’s actual results and his now obvious inability to make a breakthrough. He sees his best attempts did not yield his expected results and is confused about his role, not understanding what is the point of being now in a senior management position but not given the power to take a decision and execute without the approval of another senior director.
If this manager would have been sufficiently resilient, he would not have been feeling challenged by the reaction of the other manager or department. He would have sat with the other department and would have remained curious to understand what else is there, not visible to him. He would have learned there is more than he initially estimated that needs to be taken into consideration. He would have not created the conditions for conflict. And as a result, he would have conducted his collaboration more lightly, without producing a footprint of negativity and mistrust.
Many organizational conflicts bear similar seeds of misunderstanding due to leaders not having a sufficiently resilient foundation.
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As they said, the mindset with which one created a problem cannot help one to solve it.
- Resilience is systemic. When is present, it permeates all the circles the resilient person lives in. In the same way, the lack of it creates ripple effects in the same circles.
- What one says or not is a window into their mind.
- What one believes (or not) is a window into their mind.
- How one experiences a situation is a window into their mind.
- How one acts on the automated pilot, is also a window into their mind.
- What one sees, hears, and notices are also windows into their mind.
To have a swift passage toward and settle successfully in your new senior management position, you need to become aware of what from your previous management position and your previous professional identity, is YOUR WAY and how this way is holding you back from acting aligned with the new management position. The gap is there anyhow. Whether you work it or not. And soon it starts to be felt by you, and be visible to others too in case you do not act to fill it.
Coaching is a very good environment in which you can find the safety to shed away in confidence the layers of your already obsolete mindset, not serving you anymore, and replace them with better, more effective choices for the professional identity you now need to develop and the phase of life you are in right now.
Working with an executive coach who had a successful journey is a guarantee that you will land well and smoothly in the transition that lies in front of you.
Eighteen years ago I was making a similar transition from a middle management position, running 32 employees and the logistics function in an automotive company, to a managing director position of a +350 employees internationally operating project-based company. At that time I had an MBA with distinction. I thought I knew it. Yes, I knew many things. I also did not know many others!
My transformation as well as my constant work for developing leaders since then gave me the insight necessary for you to start or prepare your transition on the right foot. This is why I've created the masterclass - UNLOCK YOUR PATH TO EXECUTIVE TRANSFORMATION - where you will learn 3 key strategies to apply immediately for recognizing, intercepting and actively removing your roadblocks, and make it possible for you to
- Be appreciated by your CEO and other key leaders as a visible strategic contributor
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- Build and maintain strategic organizational allies or networks
The Masterclass is scheduled for February 2nd, at 18:30 CET, lasts 45 minutes and is free. To register: https://bit.ly/ExecutiveTransformation
Why would you want to wait? Now you know that knowing is not enough. Not even willing is enough. It is in DOING you find your solutions.
Let’s have a conversation and see how I can be your best partner in this journey. My goal in 2023 is to help 50 senior leaders in reaching success in taking their leadership to the next level.
Book your free 1:1 Strategy Call and create your transformational journey this year.
Your High-Performance Coach
💥🎉 SUMMARY 💥🎉
From HERE to THERE is about the journey from middle management to executive/senior management.
Each of the 9 dimensions ( time, focus, risk, people, stakeholders, policies and procedures, development, change, organizational culture), that define middle management and executive&senior management, are different.
"Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do ".
Resilience is crucial during the transition. And growing your resilience should be your personal development objective.
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