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Are you a middle manager that's been handed a BHAG?

A Big Hairy Audacious Goal – You’ve got increased productivity to achieve for your superiors, your KPIs, future promotional opportunities, and on the other side you've got your team, people you care about, that you want to motivate and inspire to keep going. That’s a tall order, and it’s all on you.

Sarah E. Graves, Chief Relationship Officer for inviteCHANGE, has 3 tips for navigating this balancing act to make sure you’re feeling job satisfaction and achieving goals in your own role while leading the great team you've assembled.

1. Shift your perspective from portrait to landscape. Remember where you started and shift your vision from the one-you- to the many—your team. You've been a star performer, which is how you got promoted. Now, instead of looking at your life as a portrait and focusing on tasks and achievements just for you, it’s time to widen your lens and look at your team from the perspective of a broader landscape.

Move from tactics, tasks, and achievement into strategy: How can I help this team move and work together to achieve goals? By simply stretching your lens and shifting your perspective from portrait to landscape, you'll begin to access ideas and problem-solving techniques that apply to your whole team. Your ideas and wider view combined with their solutions and innovations support greater ownership by the team, increasing contribution and productivity.

2. Listen. Did you know that as you move up the ladder, you go from spending 45% of your day listening to over 80% when you become a CEO? Your number today is somewhere in the middle, but it’s safe to say over 50% of your day is going to be spent listening. Many middle managers say to me, “Well, gosh, all I did today was listen. Now that the day is over, I can finally get my work done.” But guess what: Listening to your team is your work. What's in their way? What obstacle is keeping them from achieving their goals? Is there a problem with a customer? Are they having a conflict with another team member or someone else in the organization?

By listening, giving them your time, being curious, and accessing their solutions to those problems, you’re stretching and opening to your true job. Listen with your ears, listen with your intellect, listen with your experience and your curiosity, and you’ll find out what else is in there. Many times our team knows the answer but just needs time to pause and become present, and when you pose questions, sometimes the answers suddenly come forward. So be willing to listen more. Identifying and co-creating solutions with your team will leverage more time for you to complete other strategic projects you’ve got on your plate.

3. ABD: Always Be Developing. You used to be focused on ABC (Always Be Closing) but you've got your sales team to do that now. Instead, as a leader, you need to be out in front developing yourself and bringing your team along. So how do you do that? First of all, make sure you're reading books that enrich your life as a manager. Amy Edmondson's "The Fearless Organization" is a great place to start, and I’m also a fan of "Five Dysfunctions of a Team" by Patrick Lencioni. Then listen to some TEDx Talks and share them with your team. Lastly, always have a coach. I’ve had a coach throughout my career and I never would have moved from middle manager to vice-president without that extra pair of ears. My coach was a thought partner, someone who helped me bust my biases and change my behaviour. They kept me accountable and, most importantly, motivated me by challenging me and being my champion.

Hearing myself talk about an employee or a situation that made me feel stuck as a manager showed me where I was being negative or where I could access a new perspective and let go of an old belief. I learned to look at those situations and say, “What part am I, as the manager, playing in this?” The more I could release my judgment of myself, release my judgment of my team and talk to them honestly supported us get to the solutions that would move us forward as a team.

Sarah Graves, PCC

Sarah passionately and practically pursues the development of leaders through intentional, organic growth. She emboldens leaders to create an environment where management is expansive, willing to move with agility beyond comfort zones, and to champion the individual and collective genius within the organization. With teams in transition she inspires connection, realignment and forward progress within the awkward movements of the changing landscape. Her belief is that coaching is as essential an element for an organization as the product or service the company produces. “An employee who grows personally, grows professionally” and coaching seeds growth.
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