The New Influencers – The Middle-Suite

Jenna Cosenza, Associate Director of People Strategy & Development at Momentum Worldwide shares her insights on what the influence of the day-to-day managers, mid-level leaders, and ‘doers’ of the workplace.

“The days of culture being set by water fountain conversations, in-office ping-pong tables and overheard leader conversations are long gone. There is a new cultural influencer that cannot be overlooked – the middle-suite. The day-to-day managers, mid-level leaders and “doers” of the workplace. For much of the workforce of today – especially those just starting their career – their manager is their one connection to the rest of an organization and the most important relationship they will have.

So impactful, in fact, that 69% of people state that their managers had the greatest impact on their mental health, more than the impact of their doctor (51%) or therapist (41%) (Forbes)! Managers have always been a role model, but their stretch into influencing requires a new focus for employers on how they support the true frontlines of the people experience. At Momentum Worldwide, we’ve gone through a major refresh on how we harness this influence. Some of the insights we discovered can inform how you can prioritize your middle-suite to attract, retain and connect your talent.

  1. Define what it means to manage people. In new roles, we can often fail simply because there are no expectations set for us. The same goes for managing others – what does that really mean for your organization? Employers must define the skills and behaviors you expect to see from managers, give examples of how this is done well, and offer training for individuals to grow and succeed.
  2. Provide training opportunities. Whether it’s internally developed or through partnership with great vendors, there needs to be a strong training offering for your managers. Ideally, there is a mix of on-demand resources that can be used to help them navigate the day-to-day and synchronous learning experiences that develop them into stronger managers.
  3. Create space for a community of managers. Outside of formal training opportunities, another great way to learn is through peers. While you are always growing skills that can be used as a manager, there are simply some situations that you need to experience. That’s where a community can play a beneficial role. While it may be your first time implementing a performance improvement plan or promoting someone, more experienced managers can share their best practices (or biggest mistakes!).
  4. Measure performance as a people manager. Along with setting expectations is holding people accountable to them. Performance reviews should not be restricted to evaluating revenue growth or work product accomplishments. If part of your role is managing others, you should have feedback on how you are performing in that aspect of your position. Through direct report feedback, evaluate behavior and skill; and through team attrition and growth, evaluate impact.
  5. Evaluate your systems and processes to enable successful managing. Some of the biggest barriers to managing successfully are time, authority and clarity (or lack thereof). Ensure managers have the time to manage – even if that just means opening a job code for people to bill their time. Provide the authority for managers to make decisions and own their role. Communicate organizational changes or updates to managers first so they can be prepared to manage team conversations.
  6. Hire and promote for manager potential, not work performance. Finally, when selecting people for manager roles, look for manager potential, not just previous performance. We too often promote individuals based on their success at tasks versus their ability to manage and lead others. Use your manager expectations to define interview questions and promotion criteria for these roles.

In this new age of work, organizations that do not prioritize and leverage the middle-suite will feel the impact on their ability to attract and retain talent. We launched a People Manager philosophy, polled 130 attendees and found that…

  • 83% took a job because of the manager they would be reporting to.
  • 69% have left a job because of the manager they were reporting to.
  • 91% agreed that their current manager has an impact on whether they choose to stay with the agency.

Simply put, any strategy related to your talent must include a focus on the middle-suite to engage people and actively embody company culture.”