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Brighton School of Business and Management Student Newsletter April 2010

Contributions from you, our students, are very welcome if you have information, advice, website links, or ideas that may be of help to other students please send them to us.

In response to a number of requests from students, this month’s newsletter focuses on the role and responsibilities of the middle manager. Approximately 60% of our students are in this group, with 20% more aspiring to be a middle manager, and the remaining 20% managing middle managers as part of their own role.

The following articles have been recommended by our Management tutor team.


Management Traditional Interpretation

For the full article, and others, visit:

There are a variety of views about this term. Traditionally, the term “management” refers to the activities (and often the group of people) involved in the four general functions listed below. Note that the four functions recur throughout the organisation and are highly integrated and overlapping:

1) Planning
including identifying goals, objectives, methods, resources needed to carry out methods, responsibilities and dates for completion of tasks. Examples of planning are strategic planning, business planning, project planning, staffing planning, advertising and promotions planning, etc

2) Organising resources
to achieve the goals in an optimum fashion. Examples are organising new departments, human resources, office and file systems, re-organising businesses, etc.

3) Leading
including setting the direction for the part of the organisation, groups and individuals they are responsible for and also influencing people to follow that direction. Examples are establishing strategic direction (vision, values, mission and / or goals) and championing methods of organisational performance management to pursue that direction.

4) Controlling, or coordinating
the organisation’s systems, processes and structures to reach effectively and efficiently reach goals and objectives. This includes ongoing collection of feedback, and monitoring and adjustment of systems, processes and structures accordingly. Examples include use of financial controls, policies and procedures, performance management processes, measures to avoid risks, managing quality standards, etc.

Another common view is that “management” is getting things done through others. Yet another view, quite apart from the traditional view, asserts that the job of management is to support employee’s efforts to be fully productive members of the organisations and citizens of the community.

To most employees, the term “management” probably means the group of people (executives and other managers) who are primarily responsible for making decisions in the organisation. In a non-profit, the term “management” might refer to all or any of the activities of the board, executive director and/or program directors.

Another Interpretation

Some writers, teachers and practitioners assert that the above view is rather outmoded and that management needs to focus more on leadership skills, e.g., establishing vision and goals, communicating the vision and goals, and guiding others to accomplish them. They also assert that leadership must be more facilitative, participative and empowering in how visions and goals are established and carried out. Some people assert that this really isn’t a change in the management functions – rather it’s re-emphasizing certain aspects of management.

Middle Management

For other definitions, see:

That tier of managers that answers to and carries out directives from upper management. Middle managers, such as a department manager, are closely identified with managing an organization’s day-to-day operational

Management Quality: the Role of the Middle Manager

For the full article, and others, visit:

Management Quality has a strong impact on customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction and the efficiency, productivity and development of the organisation. The overall responsibility for management quality lies with executive management, but they often leave it to the HR function to put policy, programs and processes (methodology) in place. But policy and programs must be implemented in the line organisation, mainly through middle managers (managers of managers).
Middle managers who fill this role address all critical success factors pertaining to management quality. They are role models who interpret and represent the established management policy and make it alive to their reporting managers and their staff. They are key persons in communicating and tracking different kinds of goals and in making information flow up and down.

The middle manager role has frequently been declared “extinct” and/or redundant in modern organisations, and reduction of staff has taken a severe toll among middle managers. Unfortunately, the decision makers often forgot that the management quality tasks then must be handled in some other fashion.

This key role of the middle manager is rarely well understood until compared to the role of the newly appointed manager. The new manager must change his/her ways of going about the business. Rather than achieving results on his/her own, he/she now must do it through the excellent performance of the staff. The manager must focus on maintaining and improving the total competence of the group and that of each individual. These are cornerstones of good management and a main theme in all new management education.
At the time of promotion to the middle management level the conditions are once again changed. The new middle manager now has to attain his/her objectives through efforts of the larger organisation, and in particular by working through his/her reporting managers.

Compare the situation of the first line manager with that of the middle manager:

 The first line manager must:

The middle manager must:

Develop employees and staff the group

Develop and appoint new managers

Introduce new employees to their tasks

Introduce new managers

Conduct appraisal and counseling

Appraise and counsel managers

Provide a motivating environment for his/her staff

Provide a motivating environment for managers and staff

Develop the professional competence of the staff

Develop managerial competence

Deal with underperforming employees

Deal with underperforming managers

Thus, the middle manager bears a great responsibility for maintaining and developing management quality.

Middle Management’s Role in Managing Change

For the full article, and others, visit:

It is tough to be a middle manager. On the one hand, you are pulled by the force of demands from senior management.

This is the force that demands seamless and sometimes unquestioning execution of organisational strategy. It requires you to toe the company line, even when you believe the line is flawed. An outlet for those who have unsuccessfully tried to influence organisational direction is to exit the company. A more common but insidious alternative is to remain and become a mindless conveyor of decisions from the top.

On the other hand, you contend with the pressures of frontline supervisors and employees who, in addition to typically wanting higher pay and better benefits, are opinionated about how work is performed and often resist unfamiliar systems, technologies, and processes. In the short term, pressures from this group are generally easier to manage as middle managers can assert their authority and use sanctions, or fear of sanctions, to gain compliance.

The dizzying pace of change in corporate entities further complicates the already difficult existence of the middle manager. Innovation, technology, and globalisation are forcing companies to take unprecedented steps to stay afloat. Business strategies are overhauled and thousands of jobs are reshuffled in the process. To ensure the organization that emerges remains nimble, concepts such as “flat organisation” and “de-layering,” which essentially translate into reducing the size of middle management, are introduced.

Conversely, constant change presents a unique opportunity for middle management to reinforce its value to the organization. Middle managers are extremely instrumental in creating the agility that enables an organisation to swiftly respond to its environment. No matter how many times the business plan changes, they are to elicit the support, commitment, and optimal performance of operational supervisors and personnel requisite to maintain a forward momentum.

Middle managers must recognise that change management is an integral, inescapable part of their role and that they play a key role in enabling the organisation to benefit from change.

New Survival Skills for Middle Managers

For the full article, and others, visit:

In the best organisations, middle managers play three roles beyond their everyday jobs – they: 1) identify, codify and transfer existing knowledge; 2) help create new knowledge; and 3) champion change.
The new role of middle managers represents a leadership paradox. Middle managers are expected to exert influence without authority. However, these are new skills for middle managers to develop. Like senior executives, middle managers must invest in their self-development and reinvent themselves for the times.

In conversations with over a thousand middle managers, Deepak Sethi, vice president of executive and leadership development for the Thomson Corp., identified six critical skills needed to lead effectively from the middle:

Self-awareness. Leadership requires self-awareness; yet self-awareness cannot come from self alone. Even the most successful managers have blind spots. It is therefore important to tap trusted sources of feedback. Senior executives can validate the process for middle managers by themselves asking for, and acting upon, honest feedback from colleagues and subordinates.

Bird’s eye perspective. Middle and front-line managers, often mired in work, can lose sight of the big picture. This limits their ability to transfer or create new knowledge. It is important for them to understand their organisation’s strategies, the industry they are in, their competition. Senior executives need to provide learning opportunities for others and to explain the role that middle and front-line managers play in each area.

Emotional competence. Psychologist Daniel Goleman has done all of us a favour by defining “emotional intelligence” as a significant leadership issue. Many careers get derailed because of a lack of empathy and fundamental people skills. Middle managers need to cultivate these skills through conscious practice – and honest feedback.

Advanced Communication Skills. Effective persuasion and communication are essential tools. Senior executives, who generally excel in these skills, need to give middle managers opportunities to make presentations to the senior teams. Providing a safe practice field has the added benefit of giving middle managers exposure and recognition.

Career management skills. The key to managing one’s own career is building a network both inside and outside the company. Sethi likes to say that his network is worth more than his net worth. With career management comes the self-confidence to take on the leadership role. Senior executives need to understand and support middle managers who want to take charge of their careers. It is a win for all when managers work for an organisation because they want to, and not because they have to.

Continuous learning. When we change, our world changes. It is helpful for middle managers to know how they learn and to seek out opportunities for learning. Senior executives need to invest heavily providing the right developmental opportunity at the right time. Executives also set a powerful example by helping an organisation learn from its mistakes.

If middle managers master these skills, they will not only help their organisations flourish, they will also enhance their own careers. Organisations will begin to look for innovations within the ranks of middle managers before rushing to outside consultants. As senior executives establish new expectations of, and provide new resources for, middle managers, organisations will begin to create a new psychological contract based on mutual respect and interdependence.
It takes the efforts of the whole organisation to be successful. Senior executives have to help create the right climate, and that demands changes in both style and substance. But senior executives can’t do it all – the front line and the middle must seize the moment, initiate leadership, and behave as owners.

Featured BSBM Courses

For those aspiring to become middle managers, many of our Level 2, 3, 4 and 5 qualifications could be suitable, depending on your personal experience and existing qualifications.

However, the most popular, and most attractive to employers, are our:

Level 5 Short Professional Management courses

Higher National Certificates HNC

Higher National Diplomas HND

Certificate in Management Studies CMS

Diploma in Management Studies DMS

 to see full details of these, please visit our website

Study Resources of the Month

As this issue has focused on Middle Management,here are some recommendations related to that topic:


High Impact Middle Management: Solutions for Today’s Busy Managers

Lisa Haneberg. Publisher: Adams Media Corporation

The Truth About Middle Managers: Who They Are, How They Work, Why They Matter

Paul Osterman. Publisher: Harvard Business School Press

The Changing Face of Women Managers in Asia (Working in Asia)

Rowley and Yukongdi. Publisher: Routledge    * also available as an EBook

On our website we now have a direct link to the Amazon Management Books section, to use this go to our Study Bookshops page.

Student Recommended Resources

Asian Indians who have achieved great success in the West, our thanks to Sunita

 useful information on some of the leading business gurus our thanks to Niki

Advice from the Gurus

“You have to perform at a consistently higher level than others. That’s the mark of a true professional. Professionalism has nothing to do with getting paid for your services.”

Joe Paterno, Penn State University Football Coach

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

Charles Darwin, Naturalist and Author

Useful Study Links

Each of the websites listed here have a range of articles, reports, case studies, discussions, best practice checklists, and links to other sites

A list of articles on general management and strategic management topics. * For articles on specific areas of management, such as marketing management, production management, human resource management, information technology management, and international trade, see the list of related topics at the bottom of the web page.

A list of Management-specific sites, each with its own list of additional links.

A list of business and management-related websites, each link with a list of additional links.

Leadership and Management articles and reports, with many links to related business and management topics.

A list of articles on general management and strategic management topics. ?With articles on specific areas of management, such as marketing management, production management, human resource management, information technology management, and international trade, listed at the bottom of the page.

Packed with explanations, examples, articles, on Management methods, models, theories, and concepts.

Free management and business library.

Business and management information database.  

Management information and articles.

Wide range of materials, case studies, examples, on most business and management subjects.

High quality articles and explanations on the main management models and theories.  

Free information on most business and management topics.   

Information and advice focusing on improving management performance.

An encyclopedia of business and management information.

Comprehensive coverage of most business and management topics.

Huge range of articles on management models, theories, concepts, approaches.


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