In part one of our series on defining company roles, we talked about how the C-suite can build a more resilient company and keep their employees happy. In part two, we’ll discuss how senior managers, who often act as the link between the C-suite and the rest of the enterprise, can do the same. Specifically, we’ll discuss how knowing and fully inhabiting one’s role as a senior manager can help address the staffing shortages so many companies are seeing today. 

Company Roles: A Quick Refresher

Everyone has a part to play in the human systems that make a business run, and knowing one’s role helps those systems run as smoothly as possible. Ill-defined roles can leave people feeling stuck without the proper information and unsure of what to do in their job. And when that happens, it’s hard to enjoy your work. 

In the previous installment of this series, we broke down company roles into three main categories: 

  • The Technician: Performs specialized and focused tasks as part of their work.
  • The Manager: Supervises others, encourages, and directs.
  • The Leader: Oversees all functions and sets strategy for the enterprise.

Each of these roles requires a different skill set and allows a person to contribute to their enterprise in different ways. As people move up through the organization, they learn to utilize these skill sets in ways that fit their current role. 

Where Senior Management Fits In

While the C-suite’s job is to focus on the big picture, senior management consisting of department directors has to have one eye on that world and the other on the day-to-day workings of their business. Often, directors will act as support to the CEO in creating and implementing high-level strategy. 

One of the most important strategic elements for senior management to focus on today is how to solve the staffing shortage problem. The Baby Boomer generation is retiring in record numbers, creating more openings than companies know how to fill. Unfavorable work environments are also driving people to quit in such high numbers that it’s being dubbed “the Great Resignation.” 

So how do senior managers get ahead of this problem and avoid a negative work environment? How do they make their workplace somewhere people want to stick around, and even seek out? It comes down to being an effective leader and strategist.

Creating a Succession Plan

If enterprises don’t adequately plan for staffing shortages, they’ll be left scrambling to put out fires, forcing them to react instead of respond. It’s part of the senior manager’s role to know their people well enough to identify who can step in to fill a high-level position when someone leaves, or who could be developed to take on those positions when the time is right. 

Being in constant communication with mid-level managers will help a director keep up with employee sentiment. It also makes it easy to identify likely candidates for promotion, as directors gain greater insight into their mid-level manager’s skill sets in the process of empowering them to grow in their own role. 

A regular system of communication, planning, and helping employees grow lets senior managers avoid getting stuck in a cycle of purely reactive problem-solving. It also means they’ll be less likely to fall into the trap of hiring people to fill jobs as quickly as possible with little to no guidance, who then get fed up and quit.

Empowering and Educating Others

When the business is constantly losing staff, this can create a hectic environment where all of senior management’s time is spent solving problems. The work piles up because new hires don’t know how to do it, so the temptation is for middle managers to handle the work themselves. 

But doing that causes a disconnect between them and senior management, and between middle management and staff. If a senior manager is stepping over her mid-level managers to get things done, they will soon feel disempowered. 

Likewise, staff below them might end up getting two different sets of directions from two different managers, without knowing which one to follow. That creates confusion, especially if no guidance is in place that staff can adhere to. Confusion breeds resentment, which eventually leads to people quitting, which starts the cycle over again without resolving the root cause.

Savvy senior managers trust and guide their mid-level managers. By teaching them to solve challenges at their level, directors involve middle managers in the problem-solving process and empower them to do their jobs well. More tasks can be delegated once you create a better working environment.

Effective Leadership

Knowing when to pull back can be tricky for senior managers, but it’s necessary. At the director level, most of the working day should be spent on growth-oriented tasks, not the minutiae of the day-to-day. In the same way that you wouldn’t expect the dean of a university to work the admissions counter, the director of a department shouldn’t be regularly performing clerical tasks such as answering phones.

It’s also a senior manager’s job to look out for this behavior in their department’s mid-level managers. If you see them being overly involved in minutiae and doing too much on their own, you have to bring them out of it. Acting as a check is one more way senior managers can help those below them thrive in their role by focusing on the tasks they’re really meant to be doing. 

Advancing in Tandem

Director-level management has to work together with their colleagues to advance the carefully planned, interlocking strategies that move the company forward. Knowing their role, knowing when to step outside of it, when to pull back, and when to delegate, is crucial. That means: 

  • Being a master communicator, continuously engaging with fellow directors and mid-level management to keep strategies on track and everyone on the same page. 
  • Monitoring people to see who can step in or be developed to take on a new role when vacancies arise. 
  • Helping their staff operate effectively in their own roles. 

Being a good leader means constantly learning and improving. Sometimes that requires guidance and structure from an outside expert. Bellewether supports organizations with practice structures that include strategic role definition and organizational structures. Let’s engage to help make your business better.

This article is part of a series on the importance of defining organizational roles for the overall health and success of an enterprise. It focuses specifically on Senior Management’s responsibilities within that framework. For information on additional job roles discussed in this series, click here: C-suite Executives | Middle Management