“As you read this book, keep in mind that the quality of your manager/team leader is the single biggest factor in your organization’s success.”

That is a quote concerning one the best books that I have read recently called “It’s the Managers” by Gallup.  Overwhelming evidence points to the internal dysfunction is caused by that manager that is out of control, ill equipped, or in a job that they do not have the capabilities for.  Yes, the problem is right under your nose.

Creating the fertile zone

The most important covenant today within any organization is the bond between managers and employees.  Korn Ferry has done extensive research on this point and they label it as a climate zone.  Organizations must realize that the nexus for the effective organization may not be the Leadership Development of the top leaders.  Maybe that focus should be laser focused on the lowest level manager level and rise from there.

This is how I arrived at that thought.  If you think of span of control within, how many level to touch the bulk of your workforce.  We discuss how many layers to touch the customer, it is the same concept.  Based on that theory, lower to mid-level managers have the overwhelming employee facing responsibility for effectiveness.  That being said they should be ground zero for building this coveted group into effective leaders within the organization.

Entry point and each thereafter: DEVELOP

For every level of increasing responsibility there should be a development component.  Do not expect a person to leave on a Friday and come back in Monday as a leader of people.  The risk is astounding but that is what is happening all across the globe. 

The first level of understanding is team dynamics.  What are the stages, how do I navigate the intricacies of a team?  How can I realize that there are common themes in interactions?  This would negate picking up the wrong signals and getting off on the wrong track.

The other area of focus should be giving them the tools they need to lead people, from leadership to coaching.

Bottom up Leadership Development

What I am talking about is the most fertile zone of building leadership capabilities is the first level manager before a lot of the bad habits have been picked up.  Understanding the styles that they may have been exposed to may not be the most effective for them to use.  Understanding that great leaders have mastered styles that are affective across a broad range of situations.  In other words, how do you build your toolkit from scratch so that you are familiar which tool to use in different situations.

There is so much discussion that company culture starts at the top.  Sure, it is tremendously important for those in senior leadership positions to embrace, embody, and champion organizational changes and organizational culture.  However middle managers play a crucial part in implementing and executing organizational strategies and cultural changes.  They create the “climate” within their teams.  Across your organizations the span of control across this sector of managers touches the vast majority of your organizations. 

So how does an organization strengthen the middle? Train and develop mid-level managers and the ones below.  This segment of managers faces a whole new set of leadership challenges as they begin to progress their careers. It’s no longer just about holding employees accountable for their work and their contributions.

The repercussions of bad leadership

Neglecting to strengthen the middle of an organization leads to high turnover, a decrease in employee engagement, lower productivity or poor succession down the line. If you talk about succession planning, this is the garden that it all starts from.  On the other hand, the number one reasons people leave companies are BAD MANAGERS.  It is really that simple.  So if I use the theory of getting to root cause, that is the bullseye.

It is time to rethink the “leadership development” paradigm.  More focus needs to be put into seeding this level and giving them to the understand what and the how to build leadership skills.

Strengthening the middle and lower level leads to better leaders, prepared for managing change, coaching their teams, and the importance of them understanding their role and how important that is.   

Center their development on understanding the team and begin the building their leadership capabilities at the starting line.  This robust and consistent building blocks with allow for a building process will be timely but the focus is building future leaders.

There is a gold mine of opportunity within our organizations that is waiting to be found.  The riches awaits us.

About the Author:

Ron Thomas is the Managing Director of Strategy Focused Group an international consulting firm based in Dubai. He is a visiting executive faculty member at the Global Human Resources Leadership Institute at Howard University School of Business in Washington, DC. He is also a senior faculty member of the Human Capital Institute, covering the MENA/Asia Pacific & Africa Region.