All it takes is to encourage collaborative communication.

Last week I introduced the concept of the immovable middle, the idea that when driving big change sometimes middle managers are left behind.

And just in case you think I am oversimplifying this by suggesting that all you must do is encourage greater collaboration across your organization, let’s talk about this in real, practical terms. Also, now that many of us are working remotely, I can’t think of many things that are more important to a leader right now.

From a behavioral perspective, you can drive greater collaboration if you build more trust across the organization. A simple way to build trust is by following through on commitments. As a leader, you do this yourself, and you put mechanisms in place to ensure your team is following through with each other. Your behavior is crucial – you practice greater vulnerability. As you develop vulnerability, people will see you as more real, which in turn will create greater trust. If you want greater collaboration, you build trust, and to build trust you must be vulnerable.

The process to do this doesn’t have to be difficult, either. Whether you’re trying to solve a problem or implement a project, bring your middle managers together to talk about their inter-dependencies. Identify how action in one area impacts the work in other areas. Or if a change is made in one area, how might it  impact other areas.

Is it possible to do one of these without the other? Yes, but you will have limited results.  It’s best if you have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish from a process and behavioral perspective. A word of caution – behavioral change takes longer and requires more patience. The velocity of this boils down to the priority the leader places on this change.

One client asked me to help with a major process and system change. It would alter the way most of the organization would perform their work. Upon joining the initiative, I noticed that there were behavioral challenges as well as some isolated functional silos. I worked with the leadership team to improve their messaging, and how they worked with one another. Then I worked with middle managers to understand the impacts they were going to have on each other because of the project. Of course, we had a great team working on this, and in the end, the project was considered one of the most successful in the history of the organization.

If you are a leader who is nervous about working through behavioral issues, you’re not alone. All it takes is a little humility to start. Once you have the foundation for collaboration in place, the structural part will be many times easier. And you’ll be able to move the middle.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article. Please go out to LinkedIn to add your comments.

Dedicated to your profitable transformation,


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