How to jump from middle management to executive level

Stuck in the middle? 

Why do some managers leap to the executive ranks while others remain crammed in middle management? 

Is it all about results? Maybe there are some politics sprinkled in? Or what about having that “it” factor? 

“Maybe I just don’t have the stuff it takes to make it to the top,” you might say to yourself…

But you’d be wrong.

Here are three behaviors executives repeatedly model that middle managers don’t – aside from picking up the tab at dinner, of course. 

No. 1: efficiency vs. results

Middle managers are trained to make things more efficient. Sadly, many lose sight of the fact efficiency in and of itself isn’t the goal. It’s a means to a goal. 

Middle managers ask, “How can I make this more efficient?” Executives ask, “What business result do I want to achieve?” 

No. 2: strengths vs. weaknesses

Good middle managers delegate their weaknesses. Fill in their gaps. Hire for skills they don’t have. They know diverse teams outperform. 

Executives delegate their strengths. An executive builds a complete team that can outperform without him. He knows the biggest constraint to scaling his organization is himself. 

“To get to 10 employees, executives must delegate activities in which they are weak. To get to 50 employees, they have to delegate functions in which they are strong.”

– Verne Harnish.
No. 3: who vs. what 

Middle managers tend to look at a problem and determine what to do to solve it. No shame in that.

However, an executive looks at that same problem and ask who should solve it? 

 I almost fell into the ‘middle’ trap…

Recently, I gave an update to several leaders in our company where I said, “We’re going to optimize this process to reduce admin time, which will let us spend more time on deal strategy.”

The plan was bold, the impact significant. I was excited to rally the troops. 

Guess what? 

No one cared.

Then I realized my mistake. I was focusing on efficiency instead of results. 

I revised my message. “We’re going to optimize this process to win more business!”

Now I had something.

If you want to make the jump from middle management to the executive level, I believe these three behaviors can help. … Of course, picking up the tab at dinner never hurts, either.

Published by brianhquinn

I write a weekly post to help you grow professionally, elevate your career and Become an "A" Player.