Taking charge when you are not in charge

We were invited to address a group of Middle Management public sector employees on the topic "Taking Charge When Not In Charge."

I share some the insights in this e-mail.


Middle Management is one of the most challenging roles to perform in an organization.

You are given projects and assignments without the requisite resources, time frame or preparation.

You are faced with conflicting priorities that need to be resolved above your pay grade.

You are given a team, not of your choosing, with team members who you wished spent their time elsewhere.

Then you must deal with leadership personnel who wear sound cancelling ear muffs all day.

We could go on, but the spirit of the Middle Manager is that you perform and deliver results regardless of the challenges that you face.

It is in the middle tiers that the battle in won. Without the grit, street smarts, determination and commitment, execution of policy in accordance with the overarching vision would not be possible.

It is in keeping with that mindset that I shared helpful insights.


The insights were framed around the Tao Te Ching invitation to "be like water."



Water is not easily contained. It breaks through barriers and removes obstacles in its path.

Without in any way being destructive, Middle Managers can take cues from water's outcome-seeking mindset.

Refuse to allow distracting impediments to frustrate the achievement of your goals.

Identify and strategically remove obstacles to the lawful, ethical and policy-compliant execution of your duties.

It should be noted that in this mode water is not applying its single droplet strategy. For you to be effective in this mode, you need to rally support.

Rallying support is facilitated by two characteristics of water. It embraces diversity and it does not discriminate.

The capacity to function effectively in diverse environments and to work with others is a critical key to success.

The second characteristic of water provides an alternative to infighting, worries about roles and positions, and the building of silos.

Hydrogen and oxygen are comfortable with the disparity in their respective roles. The focus is on what can be achieved together.

When teams, units and organizations value the contribution of all parties in concrete, demonstrable terms, there is a payoff in terms of performance, engagement and job satisfaction.


Water achieves its impact with another strategy - patient persistence.

We know what one consistent drip of water can do. Meandering streams also provide evidence of what can be achieved with persistence.

In all likelihood, this approach will be available to you and could be a key strategy in your toolkit.

Adopt the Kaizen incremental, continuous improvement approach to increase your impact and deliver results.

  • Discern what needs to be done.
  • Be clear about the path to getting it done.
  • Remove obstacles.
  • Get it done ethically and in accordance with established protocols.


Even as you marvel at the adaptability and flexibility of water, use that as a cue to enhancing your own impact and performance.

Sign up for challenging projects - volunteer if necessary.

Commit to lifelong learning and work on ongoing upskilling.


A transcending insight relates to our ability to transform water simply by changing its environment.

What if you sought to transform situations by changing the environment?

Instead of complaining and being frustrated in a so-called toxic environment, what if you sought to change the dynamics of the situation?

The same applies to performance issues, compliance indiscretions and interpersonal relationships.

Finally, on a personal note, could a change of environment be a difference maker in your life?


  • Our work with teams is multi-dimensional. We rely on the granular insights that we get from our Behavioural DNA diagnostics on the revolutionary FinxS® platform from Extended DISC®.
  • However, we draw on decades of training, coaching, voracious self-study and decades of hands-on experience.
  • Let's have a no-commitment conversation about your team or refer me to the responsible party. Send us an email at info@extendeddiscsolutions.org