There are plenty of books on how to start – projects, relationships, making money, and enough on when to quit or how to finish – think conscious uncoupling! What there is less advice on is how to manage the middle. Which when you think about it is weird – because the middle is where most of us spend most of our time and where progress is or isn’t made.
This is also true of careers, where for most of us mid-career is that long stretch between “What’s this all about?!”, to “I’ve got this”.
What’s more, the well-meaning advice we get in the mid-career is not always that helpful. It usually focuses on what we should be doing and how we should do it – useful things to know at the start. But when we’re in the middle, we’ve already tried some stuff and we have a sense of what works and what doesn’t for us as well as the way we lead. What we need in the middle is:
Confidence that we’ve got this – even if it doesn’t feel like it right now
Clarity that although it may seem messy right now, we know we're heading in the right direction
Commitment for the long haul because in the middle is where it wavers, and this is where we need to be able to remind ourselves (and those we lead) why we started and why it matters to continue.
The problem is that when it comes to developing mid-career leaders, the focus is often on teaching what and how. And, while we can all benefit from learning to do things better, this comes a distant second to helping those at mid-career gain confidence, increase clarity and reignite commitment. And what’s more, when we master the middle the end goal is inevitable ;-).