Middle Managers have to wear many different metaphorical work hats. Here the Four Cs of Communicator, Contact, Champion and Coach are explored.
The days of a command and control management have largely been surpassed by the more enlightened managerial approach of inclusiveness and employee engagement. Now one key talent for managers is the ability to positively influence his direct reports.
Managers can’t order team members to feel a certain way. When faced with adapting to change it is up to the individual to undertake the change process and choose whether or not to participate. But managers are powerful influencers. In his book ‘The Business of Influence’ which helps to redefine public relations Philip Sheldrake emphasises the significance of the act of influence defining it as ‘to have an effect on the character, development or behaviour of someone of something.’
People can be seduced by the Siren call of change and with it perhaps possibilities of career progression, trust and respect for the leadership, the promise of learning new skills, better job security, more money. Or pushed towards change by the potential shipwreck of the current state: fear of loss job, disaffection with current job processes and systems, for example.
During change processes managers and supervisors take on the role of the Four Cs: Communicator, champion, coach and contact person in order to positively influence their team members towards participating in change initiatives.
Employees want to hear the business imperatives for change, along with the risks of not making the change, from someone at the top of the company – for instance the CEO or the COO. But for information that answer the: What’s In It For Me (“WIFM”) type questions employees look to their line managers. These are questions like: How will this change affect me? Does the change impact directly on our team? What are the changes in my day-to-day responsibilities?
When a manager champions the change initiative it is likely that his direct reports will too. As a change champion the direct line manager is also best placed to manage and mitigate resistance. Note: this runs both ways. If the manager opposes the change it is likely his team will follow his lead and be anti the change also. My article on understanding the four Fs looks at the different characters middle managers adopt: Friend, Foe, Faux Amigo and Fickle-ist.
Change is a personal process. Helping employees through their own personal transitions is the essence of change coaching. Managers have to remain patient here, everyone changes at different paces. Don’t treat the team as one big lump of people going through change at the same rate.
The middle manager acts as a ‘boundary spanner’ acting as the main point of contact between his team and the project team facilitating the change, taking direction and providing feedback.
Middle managers are often the lynch pins to successful change management initiatives. They are subject matter experts and they have direct influence over the front line employees who are often the people who are encapsulating the change.
Research undertaken by PROSCI, however, shows that middle managers are often the most resistant to change. My article on understanding the four Fs in identifying the different types of middle managers in the change process and how to help them become willing participators in change explores this. You might also like to read my article the Yays, No-Way-Josés and the Sways in change which identifies the three camps those involved with change group themselves into.