Change direction

Pockets of Excellence: How Middle Management Can Lead Change

On September 2nd, we launched our first episode of Pockets of Excellence where we defined how middle managers can create teams dedicated to excellence. Our primary goal is to create a dialog around what positive work culture is truly based on, and provide middle managers and team members with actionable steps they can take to impact their own work environment, and possibly affect the larger organization.

John Graham of Ego Free Media and Shawn Murphy of Switch & Shift joined me, as well as Liz Wiseman and Ben Putterman of the Wiseman Group. We are creating series of short videos to highlight the nuggets of wisdom our panelists imparted – there was a tremendous amount of “good stuff” throughout the discussion. If you are interested in viewing it in full, please reach out to us.

Here are the most salient points of what we learned in our discussion:

  • The middle of a vast organization can feel like a powerless place. A leader must make a conscious decision to lead despite
    The Optimistic Workplace

    what is going on around them. Leaders who bring out the best in their employees do it by being thoughtful about their leadership. Middle managers must lead deliberately.

  • Change, and even a company’s values, don’t really trickle down from the top. Change really happens in more of a guerilla warfare sort of way, with middle management leading that change.  
  • There is a BIG difference between a pocket of excellence and a pocket of resistance; great middle leaders align their goals with the company’s, and their direct superior’s own goals.
  • Top executives have learned to jump out in front of the parade; if you have created a middle pocket of excellence that turns out a high level of performance, it’s likely that the top executives will jump out in front of you. Let them. Changing a company culture means leaving your ego at the door.
  • You can be a better leader than your manager if you consciously decide to; getting lazy and giving in because they aren’t a great leader is not the answer.
  • There’s a huge difference between a change maker and an activist; you will not change a company by going to battle with your superiors, and eventually you will find yourself on the outside looking in.
  • It’s your job to learn the goals of your superiors and the top level executives.
  • Individualism doesn’t play well inside a large organization; the company’s goals must remain more important than your own.
  • Start small, be humble, and learn to appreciate and recognize incremental change. Consistency is key because no real change in organizations is revolutionary.
  • Be wary of creating pockets of good versus pockets of excellence; this is not about creating a happy workplace with no stress. Excellence must be connected to performance, or you may very well create a happy but unproductive team.
  • Language is powerful. You must present your ideas in a way that speaks to the organization’s goals and not your own. Only then will you get buy in from the people you need aligned with your goals.


The next episode of Pockets of Excellence will air on on November 3rd at 1pm EST – come check us out.


Did you like today’s post? If so you’ll love our frequent newsletter! Sign up HERE and receiveThe Switch and Shift Change Playbook, by Shawn Murphy, as our thanks to you!

Amy is a Writer, Editor, and Content Strategist with a background in Sales and Sales Management. She created The Millennial Think Tank to debunk much of the hype around GenY and has deep insights into all 3 generations. She also writes on Sales, B2B, and Diversity Issues. Amy lives in Florida and PA with her modern day Brady Bunch family.

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