The challenges of middle management are nothing new, but that doesn’t make it any less difficult for the middle manager involved. The nature of the job requires deftly crossing and recrossing the line that separates leaders from followers, transitioning between leading employees and answering to senior-level leadership.
The Harvard Business Review refers to the middle manager’s role as “exhausting.” One of the toughest skills to learn is how to take direction from upper management and then put it into action with subordinates. This is a highly sought-after skill by middle managers, and effectively implementing key leadership and communication skills is required to move up the corporate ladder.
In addition to learning “on the job”, many middle managers seek upskilling by earning a Master of Science in Management. This degree provides exposure and access to a variety of business concepts, tools, and resources that will help advance your career.
Management Skills for Successful Leaders
The term “middle manager” includes a wide group of people. They include front-line managers, office managers, shift supervisors, department managers, crew leaders, and store managers.
Most are still in the early years of their careers. As their careers unfold, middle managers increase their chances of promotion by bringing certain skills and strategies to the table. Students develop these skills as part of a master’s in management program. They include the following:
Every aspect of business revolves around people. Skilled leaders have the empathy, listening skills, and interpersonal skills needed to foster relationships with people across an organization. They support their employees in moving forward in their careers and guiding them toward becoming more productive and efficient. Doing so requires setting time aside to get to know people professionally and personally while maintaining proper professional boundaries.
In modern business, both managers and employees want to innovate and grow. Forbes reports that “if organizations truly want their leaders to have growth mindsets, corporate playbooks must give leaders room to grow as individuals and opportunities to influence their organizations’ futures.” A smart leader provides this room for growth and fosters a culture of innovation among employees.
Even those with great leadership skills will struggle if they do not hone their communication skills. Communication is key to articulating a strategic goal and making it clear to everyone how their work contributes toward reaching it. No one wants to pull on the oar if they don’t know where the boat is going. Good managers must have the ability to communicate well both orally and in writing.
Managers delegate the work on a project or day-to-day operations to team members, but they must always keep the strategic goal in mind. The ability to plan for the future is a key management skill. Skillful planning includes ensuring that team or department efforts align with overall business goals, that the success of systems and policies are adequately tracked, and that operations become more efficient and more profitable.
Making Decisions, Solving Problems
One of the main responsibilities of a manager is to identify challenges and quickly develop solutions. This requires excellent problem-solving and decision-making skills and an ability to work through large amounts of information quickly. A manager must make decisions based on a detailed awareness of the industry and the requirements for success. This commercial awareness requires an understanding of the company’s mission and goals, a keen perspective on the needs of the industry sector, and comprehension of all the political and economic influences on a business.
Things Managers Shouldn’t Do
There is also a long list of actions and behaviors that a manager should avoid. They include:
- Micromanaging the work of their employees
- Providing all the solutions to their teams rather than giving them the tools, support, and training needed to find solutions on their own
- Failing to define and communicate team, department, and overall business goals
- Developing too large an ego
- Playing favorites with employees
Merrimack College’s Master of Science in Management Program
Merrimack College designed its Master of Science in Management program to provide graduates with the management skills necessary to move up the corporate ranks. The program offers educational opportunities for business or non-business majors, career changers, middle managers, or those that are just starting out. It offers a core curriculum focused on developing critical business skills and a variety of concentrations in key business disciplines:
- Organizational leadership
- Marketing management
- Strategic human resources management
- Quantitative and digital finance
- Business analytics
The concentrations can also be pursued outside of the master’s program as stand-alone certificate programs. These certificates are available for those who have completed a master’s degree, those who feel unsure about earning a graduate degree but still want to advance their skillset, and those who want to take graduate-level classes that they may be able to transfer into a master’s program.