5 Skills Middle Managers Need to Become Better Leaders

5 Skills Middle Managers Need to Become Better Leaders

We’ve all heard and likely executed, the notion that the example and company culture starts at the top with senior leadership. While it is tremendously important for those in senior leadership positions to embrace, embody, and champion organizational changes and organizational culture, middle managers play a crucial part in implementing and executing organizational strategies and cultural changes.

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Are Managers Motivated to Give Accurate Performance Ratings?

Are Managers Motivated to Give Accurate Performance Ratings?

Research has highlighted three key non-performance factors that can distort the performance ratings managers give to their employees.1 While rating subordinates, managers consider the negative consequences that can occur when providing accurate ratings, the organizational norms surrounding how they are supposed to rate, and the potential of fulfilling self-interests. These three factors add to the complexity of how managers are motivated to rate, and they lend support to the idea that managers are not always motivated to rate their subordinates accurately.

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How To Avoid These 5 Common Leadership Pitfalls

Leadership teams have the ability to shape and drive their organization when they can be effective but with individuals coming from many different backgrounds and roles, challenges are bound to arise. Differing opinions lead to conflict, distrust amongst team members, ineffective communication techniques, lack of accountability, and destructive criticism. All potentially result in setting your team up for failure. In order to address these potential pitfalls, you need to identify them first. Here’s 5 common leadership pitfalls and how to avoid them:

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Span of Control: How Many Employees Should Your Supervisors Manage?

Span of Control How Many Employees Should Your Supervisors Manage supervising employees effectively ideal span of control

How many employees do your supervisors manage? Has your organization considered the effects of what narrow or wide supervisory and managerial spans of control mean for your employees and the levels of support and empowerment they receive on-the-job?

Have you considered how your decisions regarding the number of levels of reporting in your organization and given to your supervisors and managers influence job satisfaction, communication practices, and your overall organizational culture? The structure of your organization matters for these reasons and more.

Defining span of control

Span of control refers to the number of subordinates that can be managed effectively and efficiently by supervisors or managers in an organization. Typically, it is either narrow or wide resulting in a flatter or more hierarchical organizational structure. Each type has its inherent advantages and disadvantages.

Narrow Span

Advantages Disadvantages
  • Have more levels of reporting in the organization, resulting in a more heirarchical organization
  • Supervisors can spend time with employees and supervise them more closely
  • Creates more development, growth, and advancement opportunities
  • More expensive (high cost of management staff, office, etc.)
  • More supervisory involvement in work could lead to less empowerment and delegation and more micromanagement
  • Tends to result in communication difficulties and excessive distance between the top and bottom levels in the organization

Wide Span

Advantages Disadvantages
  • Have fewer levels of reporting in the organization, resulting in a more flexible, flatter organization
  • Ideal for supervisors mainly responsible for answering questions and helping to solve employees problems
  • Encourages empowerment of employees by giving more responsibility, delegation and decision-making power to them
  • Tends to result in greater communication efficiencies and frequent exposure to the top level of the organization
  • May lead to overloaded supervisors if employees require much task direction, support, and supervision
  • May not provide adequate support to employees leading to decreased morale or job satisfaction

Optimal span of control

Three or four levels of reporting typically are sufficient for most organizations, while four to five are generally sufficient for all organizations but the largest organizations (Hattrup, 1993). This is consistent with ERC’s survey findings as well. Ideally in an organization, according to modern organizational experts is approximately 15 to 20 subordinates per supervisor or manager. However, some experts with a more traditional focus believe that 5-6 subordinates per supervisor or manager is ideal. In general, however, optimum span of control depends on various factors including:

  • Organization size: The size of an organization is a great influencer. Larger organizations tend to have wider spans of control than smaller organizations.
  • Nature of an organization: The culture of an organization can influence; a more relaxed, flexible culture is consistent with wider; while a hierarchical culture is consistent with narrow. It is important to consider the current and desired culture of the organization when determining.
  • Nature of job: Routine and low complexity jobs/tasks require less supervision than jobs that are inherently complicated, loosely defined and require frequent decision making. Consider wider for jobs requiring less supervision and narrower for more complex and vague jobs.
  • Skills and competencies of manager: More experienced supervisors or managers can generally be wider than less experienced supervisors. It’s best to also consider to what degree supervisors and managers are responsible for technical aspects of the job (non-managerial duties).
  • Employees skills and abilities: Less experienced employees require more training, direction, and delegation (closer supervision, narrow); whereas more experienced employees requires less training, direction, and delegation (less supervision, wider).
  • Type of interaction between supervisors and employees: More frequent interaction/supervision is characteristic of a narrower.  Less interaction, such as supervisors primarily just answering questions and helping solve employee problems, is characteristic of a wider. The type of interaction you want your supervisors and managers to engage in with their employees should be consistent with the control they are given.

In addition, special consideration should be given to the direct reports of executive and senior management levels. Typically, the number of direct reports for these individuals are lower than supervisors and managers as too many direct reports at these levels can complicate communication and lengthen response time for crucial decisions.  

Sources:

  • Bell, R. R. & McLaughlin, F. S. (1977). Span of control in organizations. Industrial Management.
  • Davison, B. (2003). Management span of control: how wide is too wide? Journal of Business Strategy.
  • Gupta, A. (2010). Organization’s size and span of control. Practical Management: Transforming Theories into Practice.
  • Hattrup, G. P. (1993). How to establish the proper span of control for managers. Industrial Management.
  • Juneja, H. Span of control in an organization.

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10 Things Successful Supervisors Do Differently

how to be an effective supervisor how to be a supervisor becoming a supervisor 10 Things Successful Supervisors Do Differently

We've all had good supervisors and bad ones, and chances are we remember the characteristics of both pretty vividly. The good ones probably stick out as people who have made a positive impact on our work lives and who made us more successful in our careers. The bad ones probably showed us the type of supervisors that we don't want to be and the mistakes we don't want to make.

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