Last week I led a workshop for 35 middle managers at a Fortune 100 multi-national. It was a high-achieving, hard-working group. As I shared my belief that today’s leaner companies make it difficult for senior managers to have the time to mentor their direct reports, and that job fluidity means we don’t spend more than a year or two with someone we like and admire, their heads were nodding. I had their attention. As hard-working professionals, they would love a little more guidance, but it seems that their managers often don’t get that. At my business school reunion several weeks ago, I listened while a few C-Suite friends complained about today’s up and coming managers. One said that a candidate, “Was asking about work-life balance in the job interview!” Their feeling was, “Show me you can do a good job, then we can talk about balance.”
How did we get here? A lot’s changed in the last 30+ years. Leaner companies, geographic mobility, technology, greater variety in career path. It all adds up to more complexity and less certainty. Senior managers want people who just put their heads down and do the work. Middle managers would love to, but it’s hard to stay focused when they aren’t sure where it will lead them. The first step is to realize that everyone needs to pitch in. If you are a middle manager, you have to take your career strategy and leadership development into your own hands. And if you are a senior manager, you have to realize that up and coming managers need support.
If you haven’t already checked it out, look at Claire’s Faves on my website. Just a few good resources to get you started.