Why middle managers should be compulsive people’s managers

It is essential for organisations to have skilled middle managers who can manage people in an effective manner


Mid-level managers hold a crucial role in any organisation, responsible for not just overseeing the operations but also managing the people within the company. In fact, the most successful mid – managers are often those who prioritise people-management skills and invest in building strong relationships with their employees.

As Ravi Kumar, CPO, Page Industries, rightly says, “The organisation’s leadership is built on the foundation of mid-level managers. These managers are responsible for managing employees who directly interact with customers or work on the shop floor. They play a crucial role in mentoring, coaching and helping these employees grow.”

When it comes to the people’s aspect in any organisation, mid-managers play the most significant part. A manager is responsible for overseeing and guiding the team, and therefore, it is essential to have skilled individuals who can manage people effectively. “In today’s context, having a manager who is adept at managing people is a critical requirement for any organisation,” believes Praveen Purohit, deputy CHRO, Vedanta Resources.

What distinguishes middle managers from other managers? What are the qualities of the compulsive people’s managers that make them different from average ones?

“Since they work closely with the people, these managers usually possess strong people- management skills,” says Kumar. Their role is not just about managing the company’s operations, but also about managing the people who work within the company.

“They act very mature,” points out Purohit. They are likely to have more life and work experience, which can translate into better emotional intelligence and empathy towards their employees. They always has a long-term perspective on their employees’ growth and development.

The culture of an organisation is primarily shaped by mid-level managers. “They not only help build a strong culture, but sustain it,” points Kumar. While top-level leaders may articulate cultural values and expectations, it is the mid-level managers who embody and enforce them on a daily basis. To frontline colleagues, the mid-level managers represent the company’s culture.

They are very collaborative and always work together with the team to achieve common goals. It is essential that they be team players who are always committed to seeing and doing the best for their people. “This is a fundamental trait that I firmly believe a manager should possess, along with other essential qualities,” observes Purohit.

They are committed to investing time and resources in their employees’ professional development, and can provide mentorship and guidance that can lead to long-lasting and meaningful career growth.

“In middle management in particular, the manager’s role is not only to solve people’s problems but to ask the right questions so that people can come up with their own solutions,” points out Kumar. A good middle manager should encourage team members to think about solutions, career development opportunities, and how they can contribute to the organisation’s success. This approach can benefit everyone in the organisation, and a skilled manager can foster this kind of thinking amongst team members, which is valuable for both the people and the organisation.

Earlier, the mid-manager’s role used to be confined to overseeing the team and employees and keeping their productivity high. Now that times have changed, and we have technology, especially AI to do all the regular work, (managing productivity, performance evaluation, accessing and keeping data), how has the role of the compulsive people’s manager changed or rather developed?

“The role has evolved such that the most significant part played by the managers is that of giving their eyes and ears to their people,” opines Purohit. Managers play a critical role in being attentive and receptive to their team. This includes providing them with visibility and actively listening to their concerns and feedback.

“The role of a middle manager has evolved to become more of a coach rather than just a supervisor or monitor,” observes Kumar. In addition to managing qualifications and overseeing performance, a middle manager is now responsible for coaching and mentoring team members. This may also involve mentoring others who are subject matter experts within the organisation. Good mentors can develop the skills and abilities of their team members and foster collaboration within and between teams. Thus, coaching and mentoring have become crucial responsibilities for managers to focus on.

It is crucial to engage with team members and collaborate with them to enhance their performance. This can be achieved through discussions and performance dialogues. In Purohit’s opinion, such engagement is essential and cannot be replaced by any technology. “The human touch is irreplaceable, and it will always remain significant in building strong relationships and achieving success in the workplace,” asserts Purohit.

While some qualities of a good manager may come from experience or upbringing, the company can also identify individuals in the mid-management level who require special attention to develop these traits.

“Focusing on inputs such as empathy, collaboration and mindset can significantly benefit the organisation. By identifying and nurturing these skills in their managers, companies can create a more positive and productive work environment,” says Kumar.

“Traditional management-training programmes, where new managers are tested and evaluated in certain settings, are also helpful. However, it is equally crucial for organisations to empower their managers by involving them in real-life business cases and processes,” says Purohit. This practical experience can provide managers with the opportunity to develop their skills and enhance their understanding of the business. While training and development programmes are essential, providing hands-on experience can be equally valuable and has been a classical approach to developing managers for years.

Additionally, developing managers’ skills in people management, empathy, and collaboration should be a personalised process. Each manager may require different levels of support and attention. Thus, as Kumar believes, “It is crucial for companies to identify the specific needs of each manager and tailor their development accordingly. This personalised approach can yield more fruitful results in enhancing the skills of mid-level managers.”

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