There has been a lot of thought from me on this layer of the organization called middle management. Startups will always have a weaker middle management than more established companies unless it really puts effort into creating a strong middle layer in the company.
Why Middle Management is Important
Middle management always gets overlooked when having a startup. Middle management is truly the key between maintaining a strong balance between the vision of the management/founders and company and the core cogs of the infantry that get this vision realized. While the company grows at an alarming pace in the beginning because the founders are directly running the field and their interests are aligned with making sure the company does well, as time goes by, they are not able to do all of the fieldwork and must eventually delegate these roles and responsibilities to the rest of the team.
The team, as time goes by, may not have vested interests in the future of the company. As the company passes the “startup” phase of the company, one of the growing pains will be that more and more employees of the company will more be 100% salaried than a balance between salary and stock, which means more cash out the coffers every month. This also means you have to make sure that all decisions are clearly delegated to the rest of the team. Most teammates at this time will be people receiving a salary and trying to do the bare minimum.
If you have people really going over and out, you either have a person you really need to catch, or it means that you have really motivated the team to overachieve. If you cannot motivate the average team member to do more than you really need to make sure that what needs to be done gets done right. This is where the middle management comes in and makes sure that communication between the management and the infantry is clearly communicated. If you have a weak middle management, then it will be very hard for the company to continue to grow because of the disjuncture between the top management and the infantry (find new work for infantry).
Why Startups Are So Bad At It
Middle management is usually created at startups, not for looking in the long-term interests of the company, but as a result of quick growth. Also, they often get into the issue of creating roles for the people, which is always a bad decision later on. Leaders should always find the people that fit the role, which means looking at a role, what its R&R (roles & responsibilities) are, and then find the best person for that job. What ends up happening is that there are a ton of people who were there at the beginning of the company, and the leaders begin to feel obligated to give these early employees managerial roles, when often they are not qualified for the job.
I guess the key takeaway for the article is that 1) as a startup grows, the company must clearly define a job with clear roles and responsibilities and then 2) find the right person for the job, because the person can fully fulfill those R&R’.
Have a great day everyone!