How To Develop Middle Managers (When Everyone Works From Home)

how to develop middle managers

Now during this time of crisis and upheaval, companies need great leadership operating at every level of the organization more than ever – particularly in the ranks of their middle management layers. Therefore, we should be inquiring about how to develop middle managers when everyone is working from home.

Also, just like before these tumultuous times came on, great leadership is fostered and developed over time, not in a single day. Nothing has changed in that regard… the only difference is that in the past, there was the possibility of live, onsite interaction between mentors, trainers, and students.

How then do we take on the important task of developing leaders from inside our own ranks, when so many of us are working remotely, and without a clear sense of when, or even if, we’ll be back in the office again?

The good news is that the basic moves of leadership training have not changed in a fundamental way. We just need to be creative about achieving it virtually, in zoom or bluejeans meeting rooms.


The Decision To Develop Leaders Is An Act Of Leadership


The process of developing your managers into great leaders begins with an act of leadership.

That act of leadership is deciding to prioritize your managers’ growth and development at precisely the moment that many of your competitors may be adopting a wait-and-see posture to the unfolding of social, political and economic events.

Moreover, initiating training for your managers at this moment communicates a powerful message of regard; that you value them now more than ever – and that the company’s best way forward through uncertain times is intertwined with every person in the management tier being developed to their fullest potential a contributor to the company.

In other words, for everyone to join closer together, and for each to be the best they can possibly be.


Build The Team (via Virtual Seminar)


The leadership development process unfolds over three stages, and the first is to start building a team out of the managers who run the different departments of your business. So, bring them together for a virtual leadership training seminar in order to initiate the process of developing your managers into aligned and collaborative leaders.

Remember, as we mentioned above, how you present and frame the leadership development initiative is an excellent moment to model what the company as a whole is aiming to accomplish: which is to develop high performance leadership at every level of the company – The Missing Link in most companies -, beginning with the middle management layer.

Lead with authenticity and humility. Share with the managers that in this new era of working from home, new ideas and approaches will be required. The company will also need to further develop the capacity to innovate new ideas and approaches. This strikes to the heart of why you are prioritizing the managers training and development at this time: because in order to innovate and adapt, everyone must be brought to the table, to have a say and share their ideas, if the company is going to endure and thrive in this volatile and rapidly changing world.

How you frame and introduce the new initiative is incredibly important – so however it is done, consider leading with authenticity and humility, as a way to engage and inspire enthusiasm for the program.

The initial stage of building the team begins with a leadership development seminar that introduces core ideas and initiates the process of everyone getting aligned with each other. This process will continue into the weekly meetings that we highly recommend you schedule on a recurring basis at the same day of the week and time. The focus will be creating bonds of openness and trust.


Build the Skills (i.e. Meet Regularly & Follow Up)


Now, with a group of people made up of highly-invested individuals who have taken personal responsibility for the group’s success, it is time to advance to the second stage of the program, which is to begin building the skills each will require to thrive and excel in their leadership role as a manager.

A sample of the types of skills that are trained at this stage:

  • Understanding behavioral styles and personality types
  • Speaking extemporaneously
  • Developing executive presence
  • Delivering and receiving feedback


Build Presentations


After six months of steady training and reinforcement, your trainees have established personal bonds with each other that virtually ensure robust interdepartmental communication and collaboration going forward into the future – which is a huge value-add on its own.

Your managers / leaders in training have all watched each other grow, and supported each other in developing as leaders. Each has achieved substantial skill improvement in multiple categories…

Now it is time to enter the third and final stage of the training process – to challenge your leaders in training to apply their skills and teamwork on group projects intended to innovate new products, services, processes or strategies that make the company better… and to present these innovations to senior leadership.

Divide the members of the group into small teams, and schedule the date of the final presentations… and let them get down to work.

As the focus in this stage is on iterating ideas and forming presentations, weekly sessions can be allotted as group work time. Coaching may or may not be needed, as different groups may have their own struggles and challenges, essentially growth opportunities, during this final stage of their development as high performance leaders.

On the day of presentations, be sure to celebrate the group’s accomplishments as a company… and enjoy the process of sorting through the outstanding ideas and pitches presented!

On the day of presentations, be sure to celebrate the group’s accomplishments as a company… and enjoy the process of sorting through the outstanding ideas and pitches presented!




It is an incredibly vulnerable time for everyone at this time of writing. In the face of so much uncertainty, consider taking action by developing high performance leadership within the middle tier of your company. Your people stand to greatly appreciate the investment of thought and resource into their professional development, while the organization stands to benefit from tapping the full creative potential of its human capital. Finally, even if people remain working virtually for the foreseeable future, everyone at the organization stands to benefit and derive great meaning and satisfaction from participating in an open, values-aligned, caring and collaborative work environment.

Thanks for reading, and please get in touch if ready to explore opportunities for your company hidden in plain sight during this time of crisis.

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