The Frozen Middle, Continued…

frozen middle, icicles

What can you do to thaw the frozen middle?

Following our post about The Frozen Middle last week, conversations with clients have prompted us to share a few more insights about this conundrum. We want to help you take some positive steps towards hitting defrost.  

The ‘Frozen Middle’ – a term used to stereotype middle managers who block progress due to scepticism about or unwillingness to change 

How can organisations ensure that middle management are engaged and motivated to help deliver outstanding results? Some questions that leadership teams might want to pose include: 

  • Can our managers clearly see how the direction adds value? 
  • Are they personally aligned with the direction? 
  • Are our implementation timelines realistic?   
  • What transformation skills do our managers currently possess?  
  • What about communication style? Can they transfer the message and gain buy-in?   
  • Are there ‘Cultural Architects’ in the business, those that others look to for guidance and direction?   
  • Are these Architects engaged in the strategic initiative?  What resources do they need? 

Beyond questions, there are a variety of initiatives that leaders can undertake, as practical methods to engage middle management: 

  • Clearly define the purpose behind the direction – share the why 
  • Reinforce objectives – outline the levers and the measures 
  • Communicate clearly – provide emotional motivations alongside rational reasoning (remembering that emotional triggers can work better than data when it comes to persuading others about a direction) 
  • Involve middle management early and encourage feedback 
  • Work with, not against, the pressures that strategy creates for middle managers 
  • Upskill early – retrofitting competencies adds un-necessary pressures 
  • Identify your change agents – then let them lead 

Obstacles to moving forward rarely sit with a handful of ‘stagnating change-haters’, it is more likely to be due to a lack of understanding of the needs of the middle management, valuing skill sets, identifying levers to change and ultimately gaining buy-in to the benefits of transformation. Time to hit defrost! If you would like further advice in this area, please contact us today.

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