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Team Building - Middle Management
by Andrew E. Schwartz

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In discussing the middle management role, a simple analogy serves to illustrate the position's importance. Middle management is akin to the ignition key which harnesses the power of the car for the driver. They serve as the link between the controlling part of the system and that part of the system that provides the force for action. To convert this analogy into business terms, we see the middle manager as a team leader as well as one who reports as an integral part of a larger team. The middle manager fills the gap between upper-level management and the working class.

One of the most important functions of the middle manager is to create a workplace atmosphere conducive to a higher production rate. Many experts believe that this can only be done and maintained through team building. Tony Daloisio, Ph.D., second vice-president of Connecticut Mutual Life, has stated, "Only teamwork will get you and your organization where you want it to go." Teamwork, in a somewhat formal definition, is that condition in which each individual's efforts unites to create a cumulative optimum. In simpler terms, it's all for one and one for all. Yevgeny Zamyatin, author of the novel WE, presents a more dramatic description of teamwork. "[Y]ou feel yourself a part of a great, powerful, single entity. And the precise beauty of it - not a single superfluous gesture, curve or turn."1

As a team leader, middle managers must perform two main functions which place them at a focal point within the company. First, they must organize and develop a working team of employees so that they function as a harmonious unit. Workers must be trained and placed so that their various skills and functions supplement the efforts of others. Team-leading middle managers must consider themselves responsible for making their workers feel as satisfied with their jobs as possible. This usually includes valuing their ideas and opinions in an outward manner, listening to complaints and commending a good performance while even-handedly reprimanding a poor one. In addition, a leaders, middle managers must recognize the very different natures of people in order to balance group personalities. Skills and work ability are only half of what comprises a good worker. Emotions play a large role in every facet of an employee's life.

Does teamwork really work?
Just as with any group concept, it takes the right type of atmosphere, members, and management. Within the same corporation, the implementation of teamwork strategy may work in one plant, while a similar strategy wrecks a total disaster in another. For example, General Motors adopted the Japanese idea of team building for two of its Californian plants, one in Freemont and the other in Van Nuys. After two years, the Freemont plant showed a low level of absenteeism and a much higher production rate. But after only a few months in Van Nuys, employee unrest was prevalent, and talk of revamping the system had begun.

Andrew E. Schwartz, CEO, A.E. Schwartz & Associates of Boston, MA a comprehensive management training and professional development organization offering over 40 skills specific programs and practical solutions to today's business challenges.

Copyright, AE Schwartz & Associates. All rights reserved.
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