How to Drive Engagement by Empowering Those in the Middle of Your Org Chart| Insights from Michael Brenner

There’s an important cog in the company’s wheel – or maybe this person is more like a hub – that often gets overlooked when it comes to the tone they set for an organization: the middle manager. 

It is an important role that truly understands the day-to-day inner-workings of the office environment and the business at hand. And that makes those in this position vital to keeping engagement levels high. They’ve “been there, done that” at a high enough level to be promoted and lead teams to carry out the tasks on your most important priorities.

Managers have the challenging burden of translating corporate initiatives from the organizational layers above to the teams who report to them. While that structure is in place to prevent chaos, it can also prevent teamwork. It can cause silos. One department may not understand what the others do – and how they can work together with better engagement. 

The job of managers in the middle is not to simply relay information from the executives above them. Their real power comes from the ability to inspire others to act. They must create team environments that work across departments to get the job done. 

So what gets in the way?

The Problem with Standard Org Charts 

Organizational charts have existed for over a hundred years as a way to provide a visual structure to the corporation. 

Organizational charts lay out, in the most basic terms, through a series of boxes and lines, where employees sit within the greater hierarchy of the company. They tell employees who is above them, below them and beside them.

Org charts clearly define how decisions get made at the top and disseminated to the staff members below. This “command and control” structure is vital in the military where it was borrowed in order to ensure clarity in situations where life and death are on the line. 

Org charts present a few challenges in the modern world:

  • In today’s digital world, information doesn’t flow in a straight line; it doesn’t wait for the boss to approve it.
  • Org charts also place more emphasis on the hierarchy of an organization and less on the humanity. It is often the front line staff who are dealing with customers and partners on a daily basis
  • Instead of inspiring team work, org charts create damaging personal competition to see who gets the next promotion.
  • These challenges result in increasingly disengaged employees who are not actively serving you, your customers, or the top executives.

Hit the “Bullseye” Instead of the Ladder


There is a better way to represent the complicated relationships, complex lines of communication, and power structures that play out every day. I call this new type of org chart design, “The Bullseye.”

  • The Bullseye reminds all employees why they’re at work and who they need to serve: the customer. 
  • Because the design is a target instead of a complex series of boxes and lines, it breaks up tension between departments and peers and leads to deeper employee engagement at all levels.
  • Most importantly, it makes it easier for middle managers to encourage every employee’s focus to the same center target point. This motivates everyone to concentrate on the same goals, and the same priority.
  • Middle managers can create a culture of collaboration and communication with their peers and among the individual contributors. 

Given the nature of power structure, employees don’t necessarily focus on vertical growth as the real endgame of the workplace. This leaves little reason to communicate good ideas among peers or to middle managers in other parts of the company.

Instead, it allows middle managers to play the pivotal role of inspiring their teams to deliver experiences customers want, in a way that provides value to the business. Success for middle managers lies in supporting their teams to make an impact and communicating that value to corporate leaders. 

The Bullseye is a Mindset, Not a Re-org

Many middle managers I speak to explain how they don’t have the power to change the structure of the entire organization. Or even their own department!

And that’s ok. Because The Bullseye is a way of thinking. It’s a mindset that doesn’t require HR’s approval. This mindset org means shifting how you communicate your company priorities, manage goals, and how they all relate to customers. The simple trick to make this shift happen: start asking one simple question of everything your team does:

“What’s in it for the customer?”

Ask this question of your team. They will begin to ask this question of their peers in other functions. And before you know it, you’ve created a movement of employees who will make a bigger business impact by applying their passions and expertise in service of your customers.


About Michael Brenner:

Michael Brenner has been recognized as a Forbes top CMO influencer, a Top Business Keynote Speaker by the Huffington Post and a Top Motivational Speaker by Entrepreneur Magazine. He is CEO of Marketing Insider Group, where he has worked with more than 75 brands in building effective content marketing and employee activation programs.

Michael is the best-selling author of 3 books including Mean People Suck – how empathy leads to bigger profits and a better life, The Content Formula, and Digital Marketing Growth Hacks. Michael enjoys sharing his experiences and client stories to inspire leaders like you into action that creates impact. Learn more at MeanPeopleSuck.com.