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Tomorrow's Leaders

Tomorrow's Leaders

Middle managers are key to every organization; they are pivotal to its success. Middle managers are the team builders, firefighters, peace keepers, and conduits of vision. They are the communicators between senior executives and those executing the day-to-day, moment-by-moment work. Most importantly, they are our senior leaders for tomorrow.

The titles vary from industry to industry, organization to organization. Be it manager, director, or newly-appointed VP, these are roles that take and make important choices, challenges, and opportunities for implementation.

So how do we best keep these future leaders motivated, supported, and set for success? Organizations have a responsibility to help with the training and up-skilling for these new positions.

Based on my corporate experience of developing and building teams, as well as being an executive/leadership coach, here are some guidelines I have developed.

[Related: Self-Awareness Tips for Leading With Positive Impact]

Know the potential pain points of your new role.

Team building and leading.

Understand the possible combinations of performance: the under- and over-achievers, team conflict, team motivation, and team cohesion. Identify what the internal resources are from HR and LND for team building and assessments.

The sticky-wickets.

These are those situations where the going gets tough. Whether it is a full-blown crisis or more an internal fire, know the resources, the ethics, and the legal parameters which could come up. Who in the organization can guide you on this?

Managing up and across.

New managers need basic tools to help them understand upper management and direct bosses’ expectations and communication preferences. They also need to have strong communication skills and emotional intelligence to build collaborative relationships with their peers and senior teams.

Time management.

Switching the mindset from doing to managing can take a bit of practice and skill. Strong time management skills can be helpful when new deadlines and expectations are identified. This includes knowing when and how to delegate.

Training and skills.

Those who are newly promoted may already know where they would like to expand their skills or what new skills they may wish to dive into. Organizations need to provide resources for new learning that goes beyond an internal database full of various webinars.

What education resources can be tapped into? And how does the new manager prefer to learn? Mentorship? Classes? Self-instruction? As a new manager, there is limited time to spend on a webinar, so identifying skills to expand, skills to learn, and how best to learn them shows a company’s commitment to future leaders.

[Related: Four Ways Managers Can Support Women’s Leadership Development]

Coaching and mentoring.

Not every organization can afford an internal coach or even an outside coach for high performers. But they can bring in coaches who are skilled at teaching basic coaching skills for newly-promoted managers. Mentors can also be appointed. What is important is to give new managers the guidance so they can develop their own leadership voice and management style.

As managers develop and build their teams, they will appreciate the strength of coaching. Studies show that coaching can provide results:

70% benefit from improved work performance, relationships, and more effective communication skills. 86% of companies report that they recouped their investment on coaching and more. -International Coaching Federation 2009

Most coaches will agree that there are four key coaching competencies that will help managers succeed.


Really listen to what is going on. Not listening to reply to what is being said, but listening to understand, to read the situation, and to hear between the lines of what is happening. Listening is an art and requires practice.


Ask a lot of questions. Avoid "yes" and "no" questions, but learn to ask open-ended questions. "Yes" and "no" questions are often used by questioners for their own information and are not always a bigger understanding of what is going on and what is involved. Questioning is a powerful tool bringing better clarity and understanding.


Be front and center. This means not being on your phone or distracted by other things, but having a focused presence so that the person you are speaking with not only knows they have your attention, but that you are there to understand them. You listen with deep curiosity.


Use understanding and compassion, and pay attention to eye contact and body cues. Ask permission to interrupt if you need further clarification. But honor them with the understanding that this time is for them and their voice. You are here to listen, question, and understand.

Organizations have a commitment to help those who are newly-promoted succeed. By providing tools and support, it is an investment in both the success of the individual and the organization itself.

[Related: Make Your Team a Place People Want to Work]


Christine Alvarez is the VP of Integrated Ad Sales Marketing at Discovery Communications. She creates integrated marketing campaigns for advertising clients that run across television networks and digital properties.

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.


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