man wearing necktie and mobile tablet in hand. business cartoon.

This is a summary of discussions I had with some professionals in the tech sector. The nature of these discussions was all focused on constructive criticism for their top management (CEOs, Presidents, etc). It boils down to a nice, compact list of 10 things middle managers want their CEOs to know, but are afraid to tell them.

10. Forget about values; those knick-knacks and schwag are meaningless. If you want to build up loyalty and team cohesion, then you had better not be driving in to the office in a car that costs ten times your middle managers’ average annual income. If you’re not setting the standard by being an exemplary role model who lives up to the shiny values printed on every piece of corporate communications, then your efforts at raising team unity may be doing more damage than good.

9. Cooperating and collaborating occur most naturally when their is a real team chemistry; a bond between the team members and their managers. Try to figure out the methods that work best for the different teams within the organization, catering to each group’s needs as necessary. This is not a one-size-fits-all process. To get the best results from this part of the business system, make sure you take the time to do this right. Some groups need more team building time and tasks, others need to manage many meetings. All of them deserve solid feedback. Managing the performance of the teams over times helps middle management to be more accountable and to encourage it from their teams. This drives better project management, and can have a dramatic impact on results, year-on-year. Done well, this also can increase the responsibilities that each employee is willing and able to take on, and this often leads to a surge in creative and innovative new solutions. When those pieces are all added up, you have a great formula for a collaborative spirit.

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8. Stop using “the economy” as your excuse not to invest. The economic hardships of the past decade are largely behind us (even if not entirely), and you need to start to let it flow a little more. Your most dedicated and loyal employees, those who stuck with you through hard times as well as easy days, deserve to receive more than just a token nod of appreciation. They deserve a real reward. And they will appreciate that more than another shiny toy from an office gifts catalog that they really don’t need. And if you want to increase your overall bottom line even more, start hiring more people. And then more. And so on. In most businesses, your investment in people to grow your business, if done correctly, is the surest way to keep growing.

7. Business is built on trust. Do you recall stepping out of the office to go eat lunch… anywhere else? The nature of cut-throat, cutback-centric, cost-reducing management is what prevents your employees from having social interactions with each other, and really getting to know each other as people. They have stopped going to happy hour together. They have stopped going to lunch together. They behave in a way that is increasingly sterile, rarely communicating with each other outside of work issues. You don’t have to go to the extreme and have everyone sharing their personal feelings during meetings. You can, however, loosen up the format of some meetings that don’t require heavy formality. Of course, if you’re still tight-fisted with every penny, this may not go so smoothly, so fix that problem before this one.

6. Don’t kid yourself. Your best talent is highly prized… by your competition. Don’t let your best and brightest get away due to low standards, or by being so top heavy that your young bloods will be only too happy to accept a better deal elsewhere. You need to carefully balance the nature of your talent pool. Do not ignore the reality of the increased numbers of baby boomers retiring, and bear in mind the growing number of up and comers with decades left in their career, who are full of drive and ambition.

5. Company culture is very important. If people enjoy the culture of their place of employment, they are much more likely to do well at their jobs, and improve the overall corporate performance. Personal development and learning are key traits that the “Millennial” age group wants from the company it works for, according to a study by PWC in 2011. Flexible hours came in second place. Bonuses were in third place. The tech of today is what the worker of today expects to work with. Don’t expect them to smile all day if you have them working on desktop PCs from 5 or 10 years ago (yes, that really happens). Not every company has to have an air of some cool tech company, but it goes a long way to get the best out of your workers if you build a culture that demonstrates that the company cares about the people who make it work from the inside.

4. You don’t need only tech for geeks who can hack their own Google Glass to do a million other things that Google never thought of. You need tech for people at all levels of expertise. Make sure your tech budget is spread accordingly, or else you’ll have a lot of confusion on one end of your workforce, and a lot of frustration at the other. For some companies, this also encompasses the question of working from home or other remote locations that are out of the office. Evaluate whether this makes sense for you, and test it out in small groups, until you know the results accurately enough to decide whether to implement this type of work process.

3. Your managers and workers need to keep honing their skills, so invest in training them to do so. Send them to conferences, workshops, and courses that keep them on the leading edge of major developments in their fields.

2. Your talented team is not a simple line item. Increase their involvement in decision-making and leadership roles, and you will see your company’s productivity rise steadily. Don’t treat people as if they are merely a financial liability. Recognize that they are your leading asset, beyond your product or service. Without their full-fledged committment, you are less likely to succeed on time and on target, in the longer term.

1. The world is rapidly evolving; your business, and you, need to change too. You are not able to rely on old thinking to overcome and thrive past the challenges your business faces today. Permit and welcome new, different ideas. Encourage your employees to voice their opinions. And then, once again, lead by example.

Full disclosure: In addition to cartooning and attempting to put wit to pen, Yasha Harari has worked for a number of start-ups and large companies in the U.S., Europe and Israel.

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