Oxbow Bend, Snake River

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Managing the Middle

Matt Moore

Here’s a startling statistic to consider: 87% of middle-managers “wish they had received more management training when they first became a manager.”

A major benefit of the hospitality, recreation, and tourism industries that we often tout to our site’s users is that opportunities for advancement are regularly available. If someone shows up with an optimistic outlook, positive attitude that lifts up those around them, and a solid work ethic, they will generally find opportunities to move up into leadership and management positions in pretty short order.

But one underlying reality, which the statistic at the top speaks to, is that the potential for upward mobility is often correlated with high turnover in those middle management positions. Moving into a management position comes with a lot of positives, like additional benefits, the opportunity to build your resume, and the ability to shape the experience of others through leadership. However, management roles also carry some challenges, like increased stress, unclear expectations, lack of communication from upper management, and higher opportunity for burnout (which can ultimately spread to all staff, and result in higher turnover).

It’s a pretty grim statistic, but keep in mind: it doesn’t have to be the reality. That statistic represents a massive opportunity.

We know that success from one season to the next depends largely on the preparation and support provided to mid-level managers. Building and maintaining a supportive, positive, inclusive company culture is critically important, and that effort starts at the upper management level. But if your middle-managers are not properly trained and provided with ongoing support to help them build confidence in their roles, they can become burned out, disengaged, and lose interest in seeing themselves or anyone else succeed in your organization.

So as you look to your next season or hiring cycle, think about ways that you can create stronger management layers on your team. Initial training (e.g. pre-season managers’ training) is critical for everyone, not just first time managers. It provides everyone the opportunity to learn about the challenges ahead, build relationships with those that they’ll be in it together with, and for you to provide tools to instill confidence and to communicate how you will be there to support them along the way.

Equally important is ongoing training and support. This can take the form of bi-weekly Managers Meetings to get together as a group to discuss how the season is going, address broad challenges, provide updates and perspective from the upper management’s point of view, and just to vent. It can also be provided through regular one-on-one checkins to ask for and give feedback, to make sure that managers understand what your expectations are, and that you understand what their challenges and frustrations are so that you can identify ways to help them succeed in their roles.

Your managers want to do well at their jobs. They want to grow as leaders, and they want to see the people they’re leading grow in their roles as well and enjoy the time they spend with your company. That’s why they accepted the increased responsibilities that come with those positions. Sustaining their motivation and desire to do well and see their teams do well is a reality that you can create through deliberate focus on training, supporting, and communicating with those critically important members of your team.