04.2012 - Mastering the Middle Space

Conventional wisdom says that creating organizational change requires both top-down and bottom-up initiatives.  Unwittingly, such wisdom omits a source of enormous change potential – integrating people in the middle of the system.

So often people in the middle face enormous pressure
to deliver products and services to other parts of the system.


  ·   Tops demand flawless execution.

  ·   The front-line demands resources and fairness.

  ·   Customers demand products and services at the cost they want to pay, the quality they expect and in a timeframe that meets their needs.

  ·   One department’s priorities compete with another department’s priorities.

  ·   Cross-functional teams work under competing demands for their time.

Most often, middles feel torn -- trying to please one part of the system at the expense of another.  The result:  middle leaders feel alienated from other middle leaders, out of touch, and crunched.

Too often, in these conditions, middle leaders slide into the middle of everyone’s business – being the conduit or linkage node for all delivery.  Instinctively, people in the middle react this way much of the time. The result is more tearing for them and clogged arteries for the system.   The classic definition of bureacracy.

What if the secret to success can be found in a number of simple strategies?

A Real Case

When middles master the middle space, they help the organizational system energize potential.

In a recent leadership initiative launch, WilderWeber worked with high potential middle leaders from a large financial institution that spans our region and beyond. 

These high potential middle leaders are now armed with specific strategies to empower themselves as individuals and the organization as a whole.  They are poised to create a project mission which will have multiple beneficial results for other parts of the system – top leaders, front-line staff and customers – through initiating a collective effort to address key projects and more tightly integrate and coordinate the system.

We expect these middle leaders will not only help this financial institution achieve greater success in the near future, but that they will be ready for the leadership challenges ahead when they rise up to new leadership responsibilities.

Empowering Strategies for Middle Leaders

  ·   Don’t slide into the middle.

  ·   Keep your independence of thought and action.

  ·   Facilitate others when you can.

  ·   Coach others when you should.

  ·   Be the front-line or the top when necessary.

  ·   Partner with other parts of the system by making it easier for them to get done what they need to do.

  ·   Integrate the middle level group.