THE BLOG
12/18/2013 10:05 am ET Updated Feb 17, 2014

10 Things Managers Are Afraid to Tell the CEO

Listen up, CEOs. Here are 10 things middle managers want you to know, but are afraid to tell you:

10. Your corporate values don't mean anything. Those corporate values you make your employees post in their workspace or wear on their security badge don't mean anything if you're not modeling the values yourself. Don't encourage middle managers to tell their employees to live your corporate values unless you're visibly acting them out yourself. And be honest with yourself about it. If you don't, it costs middle managers their integrity, and that's no way to lead.

9. Collaboration won't automatically happen by pulling work from home programs. (Or by creating open office environments.) Instead of sending everyone back to the office or funding an elaborate real estate build-out, invest in helping teams rethink how they work together.

Soft skills development (think team-building, meeting management, and giving feedback), performance management (think holding people accountable, project management, managing to results), and giving people some autonomy (think workplace flexibility, and creative/innovation time) will go farther to improve collaboration.

8. You can't do more with less. We know you cut heads during the worst of the economic downturn, but the economy is recovering. Profits are on the rise. Your understanding of resource and workforce needs to improve as well.

People are not machines and there aren't 24 hours in a workday. Note: telling your HR and OD people to offer stress management workshops is not the solution. You need to invest in capacity planning and hiring the number of people you ACTUALLY need to run your business.

7. Relationships build business. Remember the old days when we used to go to lunch? Most of your organization has stopped taking lunch, going out for drinks after work, and building friendships among work peers. Silo'd departments and cube walls aren't the only barriers to relationship building in your company. Tell everyone in your company that you expect them to stop and chat in the hallway, to start every meeting with 10 minutes of personal sharing, and to take time out for lunch. Note: This won't work if you haven't addressed number eight.

6. Stop ignoring the impending brain drain. The workforce will retire. Everyday more and more Baby Boomers are eligible. You can't stick your head in the sand. Analyze the composition of your workforce to determine your retirement liability [and don't punish the guy (or gal) who runs the numbers for doing so -- yes that's really happened].

Tell your HR or OD leaders that one of their Q1 goals next year is to put a plan in place to transfer the knowledge of all pending retirees. Then, reconfigure work to keep from losing them completely. Phased retirement, anyone?

5. Investing in technology doesn't mean that anyone knows how to use it. Elevate the vision you have for IT so they're not just in charge of selecting and deploying technology, but also fostering creative use -- to build teams and to engage remote and global workers. It's not enough for your IT folks to set up a buffet of tech options. They need to engage managers on how to employ technology to improve collaboration, productivity and efficiency.

4. The world is changing; you need to change too. Today's business challenges can't be solved with yesterday's thinking. Be open to new ideas and empower employees who have them. Then role model the change you're implementing.

Is telework an option for employees? If so, you need to work from home yourself from time to time. Did you reduce your office footprint by implementing hoteling and open work environments? Then you need to work among the people too (at least sometimes). It's good for you.

3. Investment in training and development is critical to the success of your future. Managers were trained back when times were good. Skill sets and competencies have changed dramatically in the last five years. The skills your leaders need to lead your company into the future are different than the skills that got you there.

2. Culture matters. You need to attract new generations of employees. In late 2011, a PwC survey found that personal learning and development was the most essential benefit Millennials wanted from their employers. Second was flexible work hours. Cash bonuses came in third. Millennials want to work in environments that utilize today's technology. In other words, they want to work in environments that allow them to be flexible, with options for when and where they work.

1. Recognize that talent is not a cost center. Start investing in them like they're an asset, rather than a liability. Increase their engagement in your organization and you'll increase productivity. They are the key to unlocking innovation, improving customer service, and growing your business.