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

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 – plus you work late into the night regularly, and feel 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. 




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 do provide feedback regularly and use delegation properly and as a tool for development and effective dissemination of work, productivity will inevitably improve. 

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

Here are three coaching tips: 

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, 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.
We recommend business coaching webinar.

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

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


Here are three feedback tips: 

1:  Be specific. If it’s praise or if it’s something needing correction then be specific about what the behaviour 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. 

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.” That leads to, “What did I do bad?” Quality feedback conversations are actually change conversations.  

3:  I think this 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 too is the work. 


Here are three delegation tips: 

1: Trust is the cornerstone to delegation working effectively. A common reason for not delegating is: “I just don’t trust 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, and be sure you are clear in your expectations and you’ve checked understanding. 

2: Communicate beyond just you and the delegatee. Let others know what you’ve delegated and to whom so the team know who to go to if questions or issues arise and they don’t come to the middle manager where they may inadvertently bottleneck progress. 

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 then there’s 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, recover any delegation failures. 

Join us for an upcoming webinar with Sally, Let ’em Lead: Unleash the Power of Your B-Suite

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.” 




Transforming middle managers into the leaders’ others willingly follow, Sally helps middle managers move or improve. A global, multi-award winner, who’s helped thousands from diverse industries, locally and globally. With her unique blend of experiences, exceptional qualifications and humour Sally’s keynote presentations, workshops and resources inspire, transform and deliver results.  

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