Video: The Hidden Value of Middle Managers

Management expert on the source of creativity and energy most CEOs ignore—and other leadership missteps plaguing Canadian business

Written by Deborah Aarts

“In every organization, there is this quiet mass of people in the middle. If if you want to get ideas and creativity, you should be focused not so much on upper management and what they’re doing, but on the vitality in the middle-management group.”

So says Doug Williamson, CEO of Toronto professional services firm The Beacon Group, in a video interview conducted during the recent Leadership Forum hosted by PROFIT’s sister magazine Canadian Business.

Williamson argues that most CEOs pay too much attention to developing the capabilities of——in depth).

“All those people in all those cubicles actually have ideas and energy,” says Williamson. “I think it’s a forgotten class of corporate citizen.”

In the video, Williamson also weighs in on the other key factors that impair the ability of Canadian businesses to lead effectively

On the perils of ignoring “followership“:

“We diminish everyone who’s happy to be a follower when we overemphasize leadership.”

On Canadian complacency:

“We’ve had really good fortune in Canada to be located north of the U.S. border, and we’ve had good fortune in natural resources, so we haven’t had to scrap in business the way we scrap in hockey. If you add onto that the natural Canadian conservatism and that Canadian DNA to find the middle ground—Read more on Canada’s innovation gap.)

On what SMEs must do to succeed:

“The majority of Canadian businesses are small- and medium-sized… We need to think about how we actually tap into the makeup of the Canadian business marketplace and help those companies begin to export more. They’re not doing it now, because they’re squeezed. Yet the Canadian brand, Canadian values are very well received overseas. If only we could find a way to get entrepreneurial Canadian companies into new markets, I think we’d have a magic potion.” (Psst: Here’s a good place for export-minded firms to start.)

On just how valuable that Canadian brand really is:

“Our brand has deteriorated, there’s no question about that. It’s not too late, but I think we missed an opportunity with the economic downturn. Canada was in much better shape than Europe or the U.S. If we’d seen that window of opportunity and filled the vacuum because we were stronger we would be in a better position. I’m worried we’ll go down even further because we’ve missed that opportunity and other companies are accelerating at a fast pace.” (Some companies—Toronto’s Canada Goose—
Watch the entire video here.

How do you tap into the potential of your middle managers? Do you agree with Williamson’s assessments of the state of Canadian leadership? Share your thoughts by commenting below.

Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com