The Middle Manager: A tough but important role for scaleups

SG Blog Importance of Middle Management 02

Amidst a series of tech layoffs in Singapore earlier this year, some tech startups remain in a fortunate position to be hiring and expanding their teams. Yet, with this growth, comes a set of challenges to groom and retain talent within the company. Nonetheless, as Singapore tech startups begin to scale up, promotions are naturally given and employees move up the proverbial career ladder. 

With that said, a bigger workforce is expected to deliver bigger results. With targets on the line, what then is the single most important thing a CEO can do to maximise a company’s performance? 

It is to build the capabilities of the company’s middle management team, says senior lecturer at MIT, Jonathan Byrnes.   

At Funding Societies’ July and August townhalls, our Group Chief Executive Officer, Kelvin Teo, spoke at length about why and how important middle managers are. Internally, we call them “Leads” instead of “Managers” because they are, as the words imply, expected to lead and not just manage. We’re not a corporate company, we don’t need people to manage, we need them to lead.

Senior managers are required to spend more of their time on making strategic decisions for the business lest a wrong decision negatively impacts the business. As captains of the ship, this means their bandwidth to lead teams gradually shrinks as the ship rides bigger waves and more strategic decisions need to be made, fast. This important task is then handed over to the middle managers, the Leads. 

However, the position of middle management is a difficult one, and often, arguably, not aspired to – they are sandwiched in between their team members and senior management, sometimes with a lot of responsibility but little support and training on how to excel in their roles. 

Because the skill sets of a good leader are different from that of a good individual contributor, our People Experience team has introduced middle management development programmes to equip Leads with enough knowledge and support to grow into their roles and nurture their team members. 

So how to be a good middle manager, you wonder? A simple example is that a Lead is more than just a Slack messenger who passes on a message from senior management to the working group; instead, as someone who sits in the middle, a Lead value adds to both the top and bottom stakeholders by breaking down management targets to make them relevant to his/her team to execute, so that the team member understands how he/she fits into the broader company strategy. 

Here are 3 things to take note of to become capable middle managers: 

1. Managing at the right level (10% past needs, 60% present, 30% future)

Senior managers are required to look to the future, while middle managers need to solve issues in the present. This is because if current issues persist, the future is empty talk. The majority of a middle manager’s time should be used to solve current problems of the company.  


2. Coordinated profitability management (Broad business view)

Leads should be coordinating between different functions and have a view beyond their own function. If you’re a credit manager but only know the in-and-outs of the credit function, it makes little difference between you and the credit officer who reports to you. The critical question for a Lead to ask is: “How can we work with other functions to achieve our targets?”


3. Managing as teaching (Direct reports are capable of 40% of you)

If you’re doing only what your direct reports are doing then you’re not value adding. As a Lead, or middle manager, you must grow yourself. In order to expand your own skill sets, you need to teach your team members to do at least almost half of what you’re capable of. If this is not happening, they’re not growing and the team will be stagnant. 

The importance of Leads will grow more apparent as tech companies begin to scale up. It remains a hard job but companies are making the right decision if they provide resources for middle managers to grow themselves and coach the next level of talent. 

Are you looking for a career in FinTech? Are you ready to make an impact in and through Funding Societies? Check out our careers page for open opportunities today

Disclaimer: The information provided to you in this blog post is intended only for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice on any subject matter. The materials and the information provided are not intended to be and do not constitute an advertisement or solicitation.  In no event will Funding Societies be liable to any party for any direct, indirect, incidental, special, consequential or punitive damages for use of such information by you or any unauthorised third party.

Leave a Reply