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August 2004 

Stuck in the Middle


"A clay pot sitting in the sun will always be a clay pot. It has to go through the white heat of the furnace to become porcelain."
                                                                                                  -  Mildred Witte Stouven 


Have you got the skills to make your middle management position the role of Power in your Enterprise?

The next six months the focus is on setting up an environment that allows your organization to recognize you as a valuable asset. How you view your role can make a drastic difference on how successful you can become either in your role or moving to the next level.  



Key elements for building success:

  • Understanding your Manager and their drivers

  • Building a power base 

  • Selecting and defining a key project

  • Creating a support structure

  • Taking Action

Each of these areas requires a conscious effort to maximize your chances of success. How you approach each one can make all the difference.

Reasons why you want to invest the time and effort.

Here are two real examples of where your manager can either help or hurt your career:

Sam’s (not his real name) mentor was the CEO of his organization. Sam’s career was in high speed and several years ago he was given a VP role, reporting to the CEO. At the beginning of this year, the CEO’s contract was not renewed and in the new structure, Sam is now a Director reporting to a new VP.  His power, position and earning ability all drastically reduced.  Sam was a key driver in making significant cost reductions that positively impacted the bottom line, yet somehow his value was lost in the restructure.

Kathy (not her real name) was constantly locking horns with her Director.  In meetings with his peers, the Director would openly criticize Kathy and another employee that reported to him.  He would make statements like “the only reason the are still around is that they have expertise needed to move the company through some tough challenges over the next several years.”  As part of planned changes, they were reassigned to another Director.  The new Director soon discovered that they both brought value to the team and organization, but needed support to develop their potential.  They are now off the “fire” list and are working with their current Director on development plans.

Ready to get started?

Before you start you need to understand your relationship with your manager. Ideally it would be great to pick your boss, however if you are not in that position, knowing where you stand gives you a better chance of success. 

Answer the following questions by thinking of concrete examples that support your perception.

  1. Is your boss climbing the corporate ladder or happy where they are?

  2. How does your boss align himself/herself within the organization?

  3. What are your boss’s top three objectives?

  4. Does your boss guard his territory within the organization?

  5. What type of communication style does your boss have?

  6. Does your boss understand and support your development?

If you are not sure, go find the answers before you start working on a designing a plan to improve your relationship.


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