Opinion: Activating change in passive management – technology

By Shabnoor Shah

As organizations grow, we discover many internal realities and challenges in terms of teams and leadership that limit company growth. As the teams expand, they discover that there is a management problem – those in the middle of the management structure are seen as blockers. In financial services, for example, there is a tendency for managers to lean toward job security, which leads them to be more risk-averse or less experimental. A position that does not bring progress or innovation. In the rapidly evolving world of technology, where speed and agility are key factors, having a management layer that is slow or unable to keep up with change is not sustainable. However, it is necessary to find out the real reason behind the freezing of this middle management.

The answer is hidden in organizational culture, particularly in hierarchical organizations where middle managers struggle to gain autonomy or authority to make decisions but remain responsible for project outcomes. Another challenge is the lack of cross-functional collaboration, which stimulates more isolated ways of working. These situations are punctuated by dynamic power struggles in which managers seek to stay relevant. If middle managers are harmed by the ecosystem around them, how can they promote change?

Understanding the environment

It is easier for managers to gravitate into company culture and adopt “automatic” behaviors rather than opting for “conscious” or “proactive” behaviors. It is necessary to stop observing and think about the organizational culture of the company and how it is properly applied. This pause and watch process allows managers to not operate from a fixed mindset and think outside their usual thinking patterns, and consider strengths, values, skills and opportunities for personal or professional development. In this way, new behaviors and new ways of working are achieved, they are more collaborative, responsive to feedback, take more risks and consciously challenge the status quo to make a positive impact on the organisation.

Enhance cooperation and feedback

In some organizations, the ecosystem may seem blocked at the level of promoting change. However, managers should identify their closest teams and invite them to be part of the process of finding new solutions – integrating open decision-making and open practices, creating transparency and opportunities for collaboration, and opening channels for feedback. It is necessary to increase the visibility of the work and change the efforts developed by the teams, which increases motivation and credibility for new projects. Something that can be done through regular communication that creates a sense of accomplishment and appreciation.

Culture begins with managers

It is important to demystify the meaning of organizational culture and how it affects business results, customer success, and employee satisfaction. Managers have a great influence on the sub-culture of the organization, they can foster a positive organizational culture, and adopt an open leadership mindset. Now, more than ever, employees seek empathy with their CEOs, to be consulted about the future, not only in decisions that affect them but in a broader vision of the organization.

building influence

The ability to influence, at any level, is the core competency of middle level managers. However, as a leader, the challenge is to develop important strategic and personal relationships with colleagues, stakeholders, clients, partners and your own teams, more than meticulously managing people and tasks. Developing the ability to influence and build trust will ensure that managers have a seat at the table, and that they and their team participate in the decision-making process. Influence means becoming a thought leader. This implies a direct contribution to moving the needle of organizational culture. Without influence, this ‘sleep management’ is unlikely to be disturbed.

These practical steps can have positive effects very quickly and can inspire executives to consider more seriously the long-term benefits of investing in an open organization. It takes years for companies to develop their open culture, but it’s also true that time is not a luxury. Open leadership is built on transparency, inclusion, community, collaboration, and adaptability – while these traits cannot be embraced overnight, they can help develop a sustainable organization that is more resilient, responsive to change, and able to navigate through time and complex challenges.

Open Global Leadership Coach, Red Hat

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