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Three Priorities for Middle Managers

When you retire, nobody will ever talk about what a huge impact your perfect admin record or a stellar Project had on their career.

“PEOPLE, Projects, admin. That order.” It was clear to us where our vice president thought we should spend our time. As middle managers, we were venting about the “busy work” generated from headquarters. We were overwhelmed and unsure what our priorities were supposed to be. But he cleared it up! On a flip chart he wrote: PEOPLE in huge letters. Projects in medium letters. And admin in small letters.

As a middle manager, where do you spend most of your productive work hours? Just like reviewing your bank account tells you something about where your priorities at home lie, reviewing where you spend your time reveals your true priorities at work.

The Admin Trap

It is easy to fall into the Admin Trap. It is always there and there are emails or reminders in your system that keep them front of mind. For some people, checking another admin task off your list gives you an instant dopamine rush because you just accomplished something concrete. The Admin Trap is where many middle managers get bogged down.

The Project Trap

The Project Trap catches you when you are working on something bigger than just admin. It is fun because it may be solving a strategic issue. There may be multiple people involved, or it could be your own pet project. These projects take time. The payoff may not be immediate. But again, when the payoff comes, it is concrete and measurable. The Project Trap, may be sexier than the Admin Trap but it ignores the number one priority of a leader - People.

Prioritize People

Both the Admin Trap and the Project Trap pull us away from the one thing that truly separates the managers from the leaders. The managers manage admin and projects. Leaders don't ignore those things, but they get them accomplished while leading and developing the people they are called to lead.

When you get caught in the Admin Trap or the Project Trap, ask yourself who is getting better while you focus on these tasks. You? Maybe. But the role of a leader is not to ensure his/her own success and growth. That is a selfish motive.

Our definition of Selflessness is:

Putting the needs of others before your own needs, desires, or convenience.

My vice president was reminding us to place the PEOPLE before our own needs, desires, or convenience. For me, I needed that clarity from my leader. I didn’t always work for leaders who believed PEOPLE came before Projects and admin. But, I kept that focus for myself. I always dedicated specific times in my day and week to spend with the people I was called to lead.

Limiting my time on admin and Projects didn’t mean I ignored them. I just needed to be more efficient when I worked on those things. It also forced me to delegate more work, which accomplished the goal of developing the people I was called to lead.

The Admin and Project Traps are stealing your time away from the most important part of your job as a middle manager - PEOPLE. When you prioritize your PEOPLE over the projects and the admin, your Selflessness will build others up and build yourself a lasting legacy.

Remember, when you retire, nobody will ever talk about what a huge impact your perfect admin record or a stellar project had on their career. They will praise you for how you helped them reach their goals and become the leader they needed to be. PEOPLE come first for Leaders of Character.

Dig Deep Questions:

  • How can you change where you spend your time to better focus on people?

  • How will your development of others help you with the rest of your job?


Here is a quick assessment that will take you 5 minutes to figure it out. Nobody will ever see your results but you.

Warning: If you are not going to be honest with yourself this is a worthless assessment.

To take the assessment use the QR code above or go to

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