The hidden heroes: Why middle management training is key to success
Interviews / Opinions

The hidden heroes: Why middle management training is key to success


In the bustling offices of BrightStar Industries, employee burnout was crushing morale. Long hours and tight deadlines left employees feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Yet middle managers were oblivious to the signs of burnout.

They chalked it up to temporary stress or a lack of motivation. Not knowing what else to do, they continued to pass on demands from senior management. In turn, team members gave up trying to cope. They became disengaged. Productivity tanked, and turnover skyrocketed.

Many things could have prevented this scenario. One of the most important? Middle management training.

A strong training strategy can fix problems before they put employees’ well-being—and the company’s bottom line—at risk.

The crucial role of middle managers

Middle managers are the glue that holds organizations together. They bridge the gap between senior leadership and frontline employees. They help communicate and implement the company’s vision and strategies throughout the organization.

They also play a big role in building your company culture. One study found that managers are responsible for 70% of the variance in employee engagement.

Finally, these frontline leaders keep your workforce strong by supporting employee growth and development. They offer mentorship and coaching to help people flourish in their roles.

Challenges middle managers face

With all they do, middle managers face some serious challenges. In their day-to-day work, they’re dealing with balancing priorities and handling conflict. They’re also responsible for coaching their teams and dealing with employee burnout.

Aside from these, managers may face some very specific obstacles.

For instance, new managers transitioning from individual contributor roles might struggle. They’re often promoted based on their exceptional performance. But leading a team requires an entirely different skill set.

Individual contributors focus on executing tasks. But middle managers need to think critically about the bigger picture and align their team’s efforts with organizational goals.

Growing teams come with another hurdle. They mean growing responsibilities in things like:

  • Overseeing projects
  • Setting team goals
  • Managing budgets
  • Handling personnel issues

Juggling the increase in responsibilities can lead to overwhelm and stress.

In today’s remote work era, middle managers also face the challenges of managing distributed teams. Communication and collaboration are more complex. And building a strong sense of team can take some outside-the-box thinking.

Middle management training: The key to organizational success

How training helps

Effective training addresses the above issues head-on. It empowers your team leaders by giving them the skills they need to lead with confidence.

And the right training strategy doesn’t just affect your mid-level managers.

The ripple effect of their new skill sets will be felt throughout the organization, leading to a more focused and motivated workforce.

Some of the benefits of investing in middle management training programs include:

  • Improved employee engagement and satisfaction
  • Enhanced decision-making and problem-solving abilities
  • Increased productivity and efficiency
  • Better alignment with organizational goals

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How to provide the best training for middle managers

Helpful training takes some thought and research. But a successful middle management training strategy is well worth the investment.

Consider the following steps as you develop your own.

Focus on key skill sets for middle managers

The first and most obvious step is choosing the right courses. Ensure your team learns leadership essentials by training them in two types of skills:

1. General management-related competencies

Your managers face a specific set of challenges. Focus on teaching them to manage teams, projects, and resources. These are skills that will help them oversee the day-to-day operations. And adapt to dynamic business environments. Consider including courses on skills like the following:

  • Strategic planning and execution
  • Performance management and feedback
  • Project management
  • Budgeting and financial analysis
  • Data analysis and interpretation
  • Conducting effective performance reviews

2. Soft skills

Because middle managers bridge the gap between senior leadership and frontline employees, they’ll also need soft skills. These are the interpersonal skills that affect how people work together. They’ll help mid-level managers empathize with their team members.

Soft skills allow them to communicate effectively across the organization. And to provide their teams with the necessary support and guidance. Soft skills courses for middle managers might include:

  • Effective communication and active listening
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Conflict resolution and negotiation
  • Coaching and mentoring
  • Effective virtual communication
  • Teamwork and collaboration

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Consider different delivery methods

Even the best content won’t have an impact if it’s not accessible or convenient. You’ll be catering to different learning styles and busy schedules.

So take your employees’ preferences, schedules, and locations into consideration. Here are some key delivery methods to keep in mind as you plan out your training:

  • Interactive workshops and webinars: Interactive training lets middle managers ask questions and engage in group discussions. You can use these sessions for knowledge sharing between team leaders. Or for skill practice so they can apply their knowledge in a safe and supportive setting.
  • Peer-to-peer learning communities: Give your managers a dedicated platform for learning from one another. This might include social media groups or online forums where people can share experiences and best practices or ask questions.
  • Self-paced and flexible learning: Offer self-paced learning through a learning management system (LMS) to accommodate busy and remote schedules. Ensure middle managers can balance their training with their managerial responsibilities. Anytime, anywhere access to training gives them time to absorb the content, so they’re more likely to apply it.
  • Coaching and mentoring: Pair middle managers just learning the ropes with experienced coaches or mentors. They can offer valuable insights, share their expertise, and provide feedback on the managers’ progress. One-on-one interactions create a safe space to discuss challenges, set goals, and get tailored advice.

Employ best practices for coaching and mentoring middle managers

A successful middle management training program requires a thoughtful approach. Here are a few best practices to help you ensure your training is effective:

  • Identify individual development needs: While general management skills benefit all your managers, consider individual learning needs too.
  • Conduct one-on-one assessments: Identify strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement. Then align your strategy with what your team needs.
  • Establish goals upfront: To know how effective your training is, you need a clear idea of what you want it to achieve. Work with middle managers to determine what your training should do. This will give you a good target and promote a shared sense of direction and purpose.
  • Provide ongoing feedback and support: Regular and constructive feedback is a cornerstone of effective coaching. Take time to acknowledge managers’ progress. And offer guidance on areas that need improvement.
  • Offer practice opportunities: Help people remember the skills and use them with confidence by letting them practice. Review the skills in dedicated team review sessions. Run simulations and role-playing exercises or assign projects to help people get comfortable with the skills.
  • Ask for post-training feedback: Find out what’s working and where you can improve by asking learners about their experience. Run post-training surveys, interviews, or focus groups. Ask your managers whether they found the content relevant. Was the training engaging and clear? Do they feel confident in their ability to put the skills into practice? This feedback will help your L&D team make improvements for an effective middle manager training program.

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Training managers for the present and the future

Continuous learning is important for all your employees. But it is especially important for middle managers as their roles continue to change over time.

A strong middle management team is the driving force behind a motivated, engaged, and high-performing workforce. So don’t limit training to addressing their current roles. Support your managers by investing in their career growth.


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