Inspirational Infusion

#71 — February 1, 2015

Strategy is about making choices.

— Michael Porter 

Welcome, Inspired Travelers!

Every day leaders make choices that affect everyone they touch — employees, clients, customers and organizations. And yet, when making some of the most important choices, they falter. They fail to ask the deep questions and often take the easy way rather than being patient and forming a more strategic decision. I know. I’ve done it too!

Perhaps nowhere is a poor choice more visible and more damaging than in the selection of a mid-level manager who does not really meet the business needs of the role they are being asked to assume. All too often, leaders settle. “The labor pool in our area is limited.” “What do you expect for the money we pay?” “I’m so short-handed that I can’t wait any more.” I hear these excuses for bringing the wrong person on board far too often. What other rationalizations have you heard — or used?

When we make choices that do not meet our business needs, everyone suffers — including the person who has just joined the team. Without the skills, understanding or good cultural fit, most will fail. And within a year, after the damage has been done, a new search will begin … again. How do we stop this cycle of mid-level manager mayhem? Well, refine and define your search by focusing on needs that are difficult to identify on a resume. What do exceptional mid-level managers focus their time and energy upon:

♦ People. If the focus is really people, managers will:

a. Use “we” rather than “I.” These managers also know and use people’s names!
b. Use stories that hold human interest as a way to teach.
c. Use humor liberally! Especially when they laugh at themselves.

♦ Time. If the focus is really time, managers will:

a. Meet deadlines consistently. This is a matter of respect as much as execution.
b. Self-edit when time is sensitive. This is a matter of respect as much as efficiency.
c. Meet the time constraints of others. This is a matter of respect and sensitivity.

♦ Results. If the focus is really results, managers will:

a. Keep meetings and presentations on point.
b. Keep the business result at the center of conversations.
c. Keep distractions to a minimum.

♦ Support. If the focus is on support, managers will:

a. Provide their expertise without reservation.
b. Provide data that will help produce the results.
c. Provide personalized help to those they manage.

Selecting mid-level managers is one of the most critical tasks a leader must do. Be careful. Research. Define your needs and select carefully. Most importantly — don’t settle! Too many people are depending on your decision!

Be Magnificent! Have an Inspirational Day!


Deborah Darlington regularly supports her clients as they face decisions that involve technical, interpersonal and corporate cultural skills and behaviors. Give her a call at 215 260 1611 or email her at and let her support you!