How can mid-level managers effectively motivate, lead, and inspire their teams in a deeply oppressive and toxic company culture? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
As a mid-level manager who is in no position to change corporate culture, your most important job is to guide each team member to find their best in all the bullshit.
You can only do this by:
1. Acting as the human shield for your subordinates from as much toxicity as feasible. Communicate only as much as your team needs to know to do their jobs, and abstain from sharing all the crap that goes on over their heads.
This requires you to withhold certain information that you feel is eating you up inside, but not suitable for "venting" to subordinates. Vent to a third party (executive coach, therapist, trusted friend with no stakes at the corporation), not to subordinates. Listen to your team members' frustrations and vents/rants, without denying such problems exist or adding fuel to the fire; your job is to help them get off the fear and anger that sit on their chests, and find out ways to move one step forward.
2. Really get to know how each team member is responding to the toxic environment, specifically to help each find their individual purpose and meaning in surviving and thriving despite such toxicity.
This requires you to spend quality time to truly understand what makes each of your subordinates "tick" and why they have chosen to stick around. Some of your team members may need more hand-holding during this uncertain time, while others may see this as a personal challenge, and still others may have seen enough to know how to "ride through shit-storms". Each of these motivations require a different type of interaction from you.
3. Create short-term visible metrics of success as a team and as individual contributors. This is especially critical when a toxic environment sucks the joy and enthusiasm out of even the most optimistic of your team members. Sometimes people need to see that they can succeed, and see this quickly, to stay motivated to weather another crisis beyond their control.
This requires you to look at measures of success at both the team level and at the level of each of your subordinates. If you have spent the time with each team member, you will have information needed to create individual metrics of development and accomplishment. Really encourage team-based metrics and get people to celebrate a collective victory. Sometimes a victory can be as simple as "We have survived this day!" to as specific as "We have solved X many problems within our budget."
You have to do the same with your own motivation.
What keeps you focused on the path forward even when forces beyond your control threaten to drag you down?
What makes you willing to deliver your best in spite of the bullshit?
Find the time to build yourself up and develop yourself in the face of toxicity, so you can continue to be effective for your team members.
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