It is all explored in The Middle, a fascinating new podcast series that invites leaders from diverse sectors to discuss their insights into getting the most from middle management.
Unique insight into established organisations
The Middle is hosted by Stephen Willson, an Associate Professor at Birmingham City University. Stephen boasts over 20 years of experience in freelance management training, specialising in strategy, finance and marketing. He has worked with a range of leading organisations, including Greene King, Premier Inn, Michelin, Siemens and Balfour-Beatty.
His experiences led to the creation of the podcast, which includes revealing contributions from a number of eminent professionals. David Thompson, Chief Constable of West Midlands Police, discusses the pros and cons of digitisation and reorganising middle management. Chief Executive of the Stonegate Pub Company, Simon Longbottom, explores the challenges of keeping a small company dynamic. Other guests include Paul Anderson, a Managing Director at Deutsche Bank, and Selah Saeed, the Chief Executive of the Disaster Emergency Committee.
Revealing contributions from senior leaders
Working so closely with businesses, especially their middle managers, has given Stephen unique insight into the challenges they come up against. “I had privileged access to the frustrations senior middle managers face,” Stephen explains. “Long ago it was impressed upon me that the biggest gains of organisational performance are through improving the contribution of middle management. There were a number of themes and areas I wanted to evidence with contemporary executives from a range of sectors, in order to illuminate a crucial but under-researched topic area.”
This led to Stephen creating The Middle, with each episode featuring an interview with a prominent executive. “I wanted to cast the net wide enough to encompass charitable organisations, publically and privately-held businesses, professional services and fast-evolving product industries,” he says.
The importance of middle managers
There are over two million middle managers currently working in the UK, but Stephen believes their role is still misunderstood. “The conventional view is that middle managers are the layers between the ‘doers’ in the organisation and the owner/executive in charge,” he explains.
“Furthermore, there’s a perception that middle management are blockers and resistors of change wishing to maintain their empires. In reality, middle managers make a key contribution – they mobilise resources, reduce risk and build working relationships. They are managers of managers, constantly influencing and liaising.”
Stephen believes that The Middle sheds light on a wide variety of issues faced by modern organisations. “Common themes that have arisen on the podcast include reporting relationships – which department reports to which director. Another challenge is the greater complexity of demands that increases the ambiguity inside organisations,” he reveals.
Stephen also feels the podcast will be enlightening for SMEs, particularly those looking to expand. “Those looking to grow should be aware of the challenges they’ll face when they look to hire or promote into roles as managers of managers,” he says. “This should help them configure their organisations, so they can get the most contribution from those positions.”
Episodes of The Middle are available to stream now via Apple, Google, Buzzsprout and Spotify. Subscribe to the podcast to ensure you are notified of future episodes.