What do you do when you’re stuck in the middle? How’s that working out for you?
At certain times we all find ourselves trying to sort something out — the intermediary between the Bosses and the Doers, between two teams we’re supposed to help to merge together, between the Customer and the Organisation.
X wants something from Y, but they’re asking YOU.
And guess what? Y wants something from X, but who do they come to?
Some people do this FULL TIME — for a living!
What Barry Oshry calls Middle Space is the most complex in organisational life.
There are more ways to get it wrong, and they resemble the ways to get it right.
Those moments when we’re ‘in the middle’ are the most fraught.
*Align up, and act as an enforcer for the powers that be?
*Align down, and speak up for the poor downtrodden masses?
*Become so bureaucratic that nothing at all gets through you?
*Try to keep everyone happy, and run between both sides carrying messages and negotiating like the Flash… until you burn out?
It doesn’t end well… everyone thinks Middles are ‘well meaning’ but ‘wishy-washy’.
The challenge is to stay out of the middle. Step back, look at the situation, think ‘how can I help THEM to sort that out?’
More in the comments!
What’s your default strategy when you are in the middle?
The challenge here is that the ways of succeeding in the middle space ‘ are varied and resemble the failure modes:
- be a Top when you need to tell the team to deal with it and crack on
- be a Bottom when you need to tell the bosses it’s not gonna wash
- bring the two sides together to talk when they need to work it out between themselves
- or coach them to approach each other in a productive way
The key, though, is *maintaining your independence of thought and action*.
In the face of situations — even a role title — which says ‘my JOB is to get in the middle here’ — step back. Think. Consider your options.
AND — in the face of feeling you have nothing in common and no reason to spend time with OTHER people who are ‘in the middle’ (who quite clearly have a TOTALLY DIFFERENT philosophy to you) — COMMIT to spending time talking about these things with fellow Middles — and you might just become a POWER for the organisation!