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The Humanity of Middle Managers

I’m frequently asked about the CEO’s role in creating and maintaining a humanity-focused culture. And it’s true:  leadership is key to creating culture. If the C-suite commits to organizational values that promote the building of trust, the creation of real, personal relationships with colleagues, and the value of purpose and meaning of work, really good things can happen.

If you have that kind of C-suite AND you provide middle managers—the tip of the spear in all things within an organization—with the support to create a more humanity-focused culture, then magic might happen!

The irony of using technology to create more human relationships and cultures at work is obvious. And yet that’s where we are. If we let technology innovation, Big Data, and its cousin, predictive analytics, make it harder rather than easier for us to relate to each other more humanly and more humanely, we’ll have missed an epic opportunity to improve our business outcomes in dramatic fashion.

And if we miss this opportunity it will most likely be because we neglected to set up our middle managers for success. Technology can’t replace an encouraging smile from, a fist bump with, or a behavioral example set by a supervisor. An app can’t replace the potentially positive power of the bond between a manager and their employees in getting on the same page of a change initiative, a growth plan, or an innovation agenda.

And yet, we’re notoriously bad in arming middle managers to be effective relationship builders, early adopters, behavioral examples, and approachable partners with the human business of our businesses.

If I have one piece of advice for HR leaders—heck, for all leaders—in 2017, it’s to provide training, development, coaching, and support for your middle managers. If they aren’t equipped with skills and abilities to create more personal relationships with their employees, if they aren’t approachable, if they aren’t trustworthy, if they aren’t human, you’ll get what you got in 2016. And as good as 2016 was, 2017 needs to be better.

Middle managers are the tip of the spear for everything good within your organization. Ensuring their competence in the human side of their managerial responsibilities could be the difference between a good year and a great year.

Read more 2017 talent predictions by other thought leaders.