THE BIG THREE: 3 Essential Skills Every Middle Manager Needs to Lead Up, Down and Across

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THE BIG THREE: 3 Essential Skills Every Middle Manager Needs to Lead Up, Down and Across

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As a leader in an ever-changing world, your leadership can be tested daily, even hourly! Although you can, and should, celebrate the successes and milestones, you know the frustrations and annoyances can seem, more often than not, impenetrable. When it comes to leading and managing people, there are many big challenges you need to deal with.

Do you

  • Struggle with your team getting their work done the way you expected it?
  • Arrive at the office first and are usually the last one out – or the first switch on and the last to click off – and you regularly work late into the night, feeling like precious family time is sacrificed?
  • Struggle to get staff performance to improve?


To overcome these and other people management challenges to be a confident, skilled, and successful middle manager, you need to master three core skills.

This blog post is designed to re-connect, re-energize, and re-ignite the core skills in you with the three fundamental skills that will improve communication, workflow, employee engagement, and performance, as well as your own career success.

In this VUCA world, it’s essential to have the basics finely tuned! The three core skills every middle manager needs to master to lead successfully are coaching, feedback, and delegation.

Recommended training from HRDQ-U

THE BIG THREE: 3 Essential Skills Every Middle Manager Needs to Lead Up, Down and Across


When middle managers effectively combine coaching and feedback, this can engage their people more effectively, which is known to enhance motivation. 

When middle managers ensure they provide feedback regularly and use delegation properly as a tool for the development and effective dissemination of work, productivity will inevitably improve. 

And when middle managers tap into their coaching skills when delegating, they are priming the situation for better on-the-job skills development.  

3 Coaching Tips

Tip 1: Coaching in the workplace is not the same as a sports coach. A sports coach calls the play, directs the players to certain moves, points out what needs correcting, and helps the athlete improve performance through showing, demonstrating, and even helping the athlete move through a range of motion. The sports coach is the expert. In workplace coaching, the coachee/employee is the expert, and the coach’s role is to help the employee find the right goals and actions to achieve the right outcome.

Tip 2: The two key skills coaches use are listening and asking questions. 

Tip 3: A great coach will check that the coachee/employee is willing – and committed – to do the actions they have opted to undertake and will help the coachee/employee stay accountable for those actions. 

3 Feedback Tips

 Tip 1:  Be specific. If it’s praise or something needing correction, then be specific about what the behavior or the performance issue is or the result that’s needed. If the middle manager is not specific, then there’s the chance that people can excuse their way out of it. “That wasn’t me!” The blame goes elsewhere. Furthermore, the impact is lessened, so there’s very little positive impact on performance improvement, productivity, and even the relationship between the manager and employee. 

Tip 2: Remember that feedback is about change. It’s more than the middle manager saying, “Hey good job.” Good job on what? It’s not about “Hey you did that bad,” which leads to “What did I do bad?” Quality feedback conversations are actually changing conversations.  

Tip 3: I think this is the most important of all when it comes to feedback conversations – follow up! Middle managers need to follow up; so many don’t follow up, and, therefore, they get upset because their staff don’t do anything. A middle manager needs to follow up, and that says to the employee that they are important and valued, and so is the work. 

3 Delegation Tips

Tip 1: Trust is the cornerstone to delegation working effectively. A common reason for not delegating is, “I just don’t trust that they’ll do it to my standard.” Without trust, middle managers will struggle to let go of control and let the employee get on with the work. If trust is lacking, then work on improving the relationship so there is more underlying trust. Be sure you are clear in your expectations and that you’ve checked to make sure everyone understands.

Tip 2: Communicate beyond just you and the person you’re delegating to do a task. Let others know what you’ve delegated and to whom so the team knows who to go to if questions or issues arise. This way they don’t come to the middle manager where they may inadvertently bottleneck progress.

Tip 3: Slow is fast! Drive-by-delegating is a recipe for failure. Taking the time to think, plan, and have a thorough conversation before the work or tasks commence ensures a greater chance of success. Being sure to consider the who, what, why, resources, communication, responsibility, decision-making authority, milestones, and potential issues/challenges in the pre-work delegation set-up conversation will ensure the middle manager has less risk of needing to redo, repair, or recover any delegation failures.

In today’s constantly demanding world, the most successful middle managers have their core skills finely tuned. Famed author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey’s seventh habit is “sharpen the saw.” While this means looking after your number one asset – you – it’s a relevant reminder to also look after the core skills. As Covey says, “we must never be too busy to take time to sharpen the saw.”

Sally Foley-Lewis smiling
Sally Foley-Lewis

Sally Foley-Lewis inspires skills managers to be high-performing, purposeful, and productive. Obsessed with leadership and professional development that ensures people reach their potential. Sally’s presentations and programs positively impact your confidence, leadership, and results.


  • 2021 University of Southern Queensland – Outstanding Alumnus of the Year – Business and Enterprise
  • 2021 A.I. Influential Businesswoman – Winner – Most Inspirational Leadership Development Specialist (Australia)
  • 2021 ROAR Success Awards – Silver Leadership Award
  • 2020 Gold Stevie Award – Female Entrepreneur of the Year – Business Services
  • 2020 Bronze Stevie Award – Female Entrepreneur of the Year – Consumer Services
  • 2020 Breakthrough Speaker of the Year by Professional Speakers Australia
  • 2019 finalist for Australian Learning Professional of the Year
  • 2019 Australian Champion Sole Trader winner – Australian Small Business Champion Awards
  • One of the 25 LinkedIn Top Voices for Australia for 2018 for her thought leadership.


She is a global professional speaker and has authored multiple books. The drive to support and skill managers comes from her own CEO and senior leadership experiences. Sally delivers presentations, keynote speeches, workshops, and coaching – live online and face-to-face – to skill managers and boost productivity and self-leadership.

Blending 20+ years of working with a diverse range of people and industries in Germany, the Middle East, Asia, and across Australia. Sally has extensive qualifications, a wicked sense of humor, and an ability to inspire and make people feel at ease. Sally’s your first choice for mastering skills, facilitating action, and achieving results.

Connect with Sally on LinkedIn, InstagramYouTube, and at

Recommended Training from HRDQ-U
THE BIG THREE: 3 Essential Skills Every Middle Manager Needs to Lead Up, Down and Across

This webinar is designed to re-connect, re-energize, and re-ignite the core skills in you with three fundamental management skills.

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