Bridging the Gap: Engaging Middle Managers in Implementing Strategy

One of the big challenges that family businesses face is taking the high-level strategy their leadership team has developed and pushing it down through the organization.

Research from McKinsey shows that 70% of change management programs fail – primarily due to employee resistance and management behavior.

As a family business advisor, I often work with middle management teams to implement strategy.

It’s become evident to me that there is a gap between leadership strategy development and middle management strategy implementation.

In this article, I’m going to share some perspectives and techniques to help you bridge that gap.

Let’s start here: if you want your strategy implemented, it’s essential to get your middle managers on board.

Middle managers are the backbone of the organization and without their support, it’s challenging to achieve success.

On the other hand, if you can get middle management on board, you can accomplish anything!

Here are 5 tips on how to do that.

1. Create Understanding and Clarity

It’s essential to create understanding and clarity around the strategy. And not just about WHAT you’re doing, but also WHY you’re doing it.

However, it’s not necessary to get everyone to agree with it.

A lot of leaders get stuck here, believing that their managers need to AGREE with the strategy.

They don’t necessarily have to agree with it, they just need to understand what’s going on and do their part to get it implemented.

2. Instill a Sense of Ownership

I’m not a big fan of the term “buy in” because it implies that you’re selling something.

I prefer to think about it as having a sense of ownership.

When middle managers have a hand in the creation of the strategy, they’re more likely to get onboard with the changes.

3. Build Trust and Respect

When you have trust and respect, your job as a leader becomes so much easier.

You can disagree, have candid conversations, and explore different options before making decisions.

4. Get Them Involved.

This is the most impactful thing you can do.

When you involve your middle managers in the strategy development process, you create a much higher level of clarity and understanding.

Instead of having something “pushed down to them” they are part of the conversation, and they get a lot more insight into how and why decisions are made.

When you ask for their input and perspectives, they feel trusted and respected. And they feel like they are a part of it – which leads to that sense of ownership.

Then, if you must make a decision that they don’t agree with, at least they will understand how the decision was reached and will be less resistant to implementing it.

5. Balance High-Level and Low-Level Perspectives

As an executive leader, you need to maintain a balance between understanding your own role of seeing things from higher up and bringing the future to the present – while at the same time, having a good understanding of how the other people in the organization feel, what they do, and how they do it.

This ability to balance between flying at a high level and then dipping down lower to understand how others in the organization feel and what they do is what separates good leaders from great leaders.

It’s essential to understand when to switch between the two perspectives.

Getting middle managers on board with strategy is critical to the success of every change management project in your family-owned businesses.

To get their engagement:

  • Create clarity and understanding not just about what you’re trying to achieve, but also why you’re trying to achieve it.
  • Instill a sense of ownership and build trust and respect by involving them in the strategy development process and asking for their input.
  • Balance your high-level strategic leadership perspective with understanding how others in the organization feel and work.

By doing this, you get your middle managers on board and bridge the gap between strategy and implementation.

And when you can do that – anything is possible!

Would you like some assistance getting your middle managers on board with your strategy?

We offer training and development programs to help middle managers understand strategy and their role in its implementation.

Book a free consultation with us to learn more about how we can help.

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