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January 29, 2020

Key Elements of Leadership Training for Midlevel Managers

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Rising to midlevel is an exciting promotion for leaders. Having honed supervisory skills and specialty expertise in team leadership roles, the move into midlevel management requires a more strategic approach that expands their scope of influence dramatically. To equip them for their new role, leadership training for midlevel managers needs to be flexible and in-depth. Here are some key elements to keep in mind to prepare your new managers to rise to the challenge.

Shift topical focus to high level strategic and interpersonal skills

Midlevel managers' primary development needs are strategic management and interpersonal communication. Assuming they have already honed core supervisory skills, they now need to build critical and strategic thinking skills and to develop their networking strategies, emotional intelligence, coaching capabilities, executive presence and communication skills. Leading a department also requires talent management skills, including employee experience, recruitment and retention strategies, employee engagement, learning culture, team dynamics and managing training for team members.

Shift development mode to longer-term, intense blended programs

Given the kinds of topics noted above, training and development techniques need to intensify. Seldom are mid-level strategic and interpersonal skills well addressed with a single training event; they require longer-term, ongoing development. This can be quite a challenge given managers' demanding schedules.

Therefore, consider crafting blended, longer-term development programs that alternate level-setting eLearning or reading assignments, intensive live cohort activities, practice activities and on-the-job application and development projects all spread out over time. This gives rising leaders the foundations they need and the opportunity to put developing skills into practice in the workplace.

Opportunities to practice tricky interpersonal conversations are especially valuable. In addition to face-to-face programs, this skill development can be supported by a series of discrete activities where managers record responses and get feedback on video. In this way, they can practice articulating difficult conversations around coaching, handling issues, providing effective feedback and more. These practice activities allow leaders to gain experience with these more difficult communication challenges without waiting for the conversations to pop up in real life.

Managers at this level will also appreciate access to peer-to-peer learning as it builds a leader's network across the organization and enhances their understanding of broader organizational goals and challenges. In addition to occasional face-to-face classes, you can enable peer interaction by opening up communication channels, assigning high-value group business projects and allowing managers to build their networks using tools for peer sharing and Q&A. Also consider membership in professional organizations, job rotation, committee and task force assignments and the like as an integral part of leadership training for midlevel managers. Formal and informal mentoring would also be welcome at this level.

Shift perspective to include the broader organization

As people move up the ladder, their view of the larger organization expands. It's important to empower midlevel managers explore the whole organization and its position in the industry—its competition, challenges and plan for moving forward. Video interviews, department overviews, strategic planning documentation, internet links, recommended reading and other on-demand resources can be quite useful here. Motivating leaders to develop their internal and external professional networks will be beneficial to achieving this shift in perspective.

The move to midlevel management holds many challenges as the scale, scope and potential for impact of the job all expand at the same time. While these leaders no doubt have skills that allow them to manage their own learning, formal developmental support for this transition will set them up for success.

Connect with an Absorb LMS representative today to learn more about how an LMS can support your organization, including your managers.