What if you’re the middle manager and your boss is making your staff miserable? What if his or her actions are wreaking havoc on everyone’s work life balance? Do you confront him or her with constructive criticism? Or, do you direct your staff the way you want and ignore your boss’ behavior?
Yesterday, I got up close and personal with Leading Women in Broward, an initiative led by Laurie Sallarulo of the Leadership Broward Foundation. About 50 women were at the program and I heard some pretty interesting answers to the questions above. The discussion centered on managing up and down, taking risks, balance work and family and ascending to leadership.
I learned that work life balance is a constant struggle for all business women at all career stages, and that being successful in most careers will require some politicking and risk taking.
Here are some things successful women shared that I found helpful:
- Have a mission statement. Make sure it includes what you live by now and what you aspire to live by. Stay focused on it. Keep it on your computer desktop so you can remind yourself what you should be focused on when you stray from your mission or find yourself climbing the ladder up the wrong wall?
- Leaders eat last – When you put your people or your team first, they become the kind of team that wants to follow you.
- Take risks – Have the attitude that you will try things. If a risk goes south, recognize it, get out and don’t be afraid to try again.
- Speak up carefully – sometimes you have to manage your boss. That means picking your battles, pausing and thinking carefully about the outcome you want to achieve.
The highlight of the program was Jackie Travisano, executive vice president & COO of Nova Southeastern University. Jackie shared her amazing story of becoming a single mom at a young age, pursuing her MBA degree, working as an accountant, remarrying, going to work in her husband’s business, landing jobs in higher education with progressively more responsibility, and making lots of tough decisions and personal sacrifices along the way. Today she manages thousands of employees and 11 departments. She also reports to NSU’s president and is accountable to all university stakeholders.
Here is her advice on managing up and down:
- When you’re at a crossroads, listen to your gut. Don’t let fear take over when you can achieve greatness.
- The key to managing lots of departments is to hire great people. No one leader can compensate for an underperformer.
- Only attend meetings you need to be at. Let your people handle as much as they can.
- Lean In, but listen. Don’t react to those above you until you have truly listened. Find the right time to speak and do so confidently.
- When life doesn’t work out as planned, that’s okay. It’s great to have goals, but let life happen.
- There will be sacrifices that come along with leadership. Having the right ear can help make changes that make the workplace better for all.
- Have a sounding board, a champion, someone who will encourage you to reach for the stars.
What have been your experiences as a middle manager? How do you handle upper level management when those below you are complaining? When is it worth the risk to speak up? And, what do you think is the key to being a good leader?