Effective Middle Management

Posted on 23rd January 2013.

Much has been written by experts on the subject of management and in particular middle managers. For many BACH members one of the reasons they were promoted was because they were good at organising and planning their subject and could demonstrate the transferability of these skills to a management role within FE or training. They are often promoted without having any formal training and are then left to get on with the job, sometimes without the help and support they need. One of the many strengths BACH offers its members is the ability for colleagues to share their challenges with other (and sometimes more experienced) managers. Feedback from conferences has repeatedly stated the benefits members feel when they hear colleagues talk about how they have overcome a problem or have delivered a grade 1 Ofsted Inspection.

Management training goes a long way to help individuals improve performance and delegates often come away from a training event buoyed up and ready to implement what they have learnt – until they get back to their desk and find 150 emails, staffing and student issues, a note from the Principal’s secretary saying that the College is hosting an employer evening and would like the manager to attend. The list goes on.  Putting the management training into action then is lost, or is it?

Below is my view of what moves managers from average to excellent. Many middle managers cope with whatever is thrown at them. This ability sits within their personality and cannot solely be acquired by training. They always respond to all forms of communications (not just selecting those from the hierarchy) and stay on top of their workload. Sadly my experience of some middle managers is that all too often communication goes unanswered, which results in people feeling that they are not being listened to. Excellent managers always find time for staff and students as well as attending the meetings that go with the job. They have the ability to prioritise their work, excellent communications skills (including report writing, which I feel is sadly lacking in many managers within Construction). They are able to implement what they say and not just talk innovation. Excellent managers are able to articulate varying points of view, even when it differs from their line manager or Principal (Avoid being a sycophant!).

Excellent Managers have all the text book related skills and are very well equipped with emotional intelligence. They are great leaders and can carry the staff at all levels with them through reasoned arguments. They approach issues in a logical way and are rational when it comes to dealing with contentious issues. It normally follows that they are also very nice people carrying the respect and confidence of their peers.

Many managers say that they do have the time to stay on top of their subject or initiatives which present themselves in a variety of different ways. Scanning the web, reading ministerial reports and staying in touch with professional and lead bodies for the sector, enables them to have a good grasp of their environment and stay ahead of the game, thus retaining a competitive edge. It is so refreshing when managers show initiative and make it happen without being asked by the hierarchy.

The section on management in Ofsted Reports will often highlight what makes an outstanding manager. Even though this information is available, the sector still shows areas which are failing and producing unsatisfactory results. I contend that it is the quality of middle managers that makes a difference to the achievement of an outstanding grade. I concede that one should not exempt the senior leadership team from their role in poor results.

Ray Dowd

President BACH

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