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Stuck In Middle Management? Here’s How To Move Forward

Written by: Kris de Jong, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


You’ve worked hard to get to where you are but now feel stuck in a rut.

As a middle manager, you lead and support your team as best you can, but you’re also obliged to be in sync with upper management and their vision of the culture and strategy of the business. Sometimes there’s a conflict of ideas between the “workers” and the “board,” and it’s your job to try to narrow that gap and maintain a cohesive workplace. I know, I’ve been there.

You feel like you’re on a hamster wheel, frustrated with the limitations of your role and inability to effect meaningful change. You want to have more autonomy and influence on important decisions. You want to reach the next level.

Optimize your mindset.

The first step to getting unstuck is to nurture a growth mindset. When you’ve been in the same job for a while, doing the same things, dealing with the same issues, and interacting with the same people day after day, it’s easy to get caught up in feelings of hopelessness and stagnation. You may have thoughts such as “Things won’t change” or “I can’t seem to get ahead.” This is a fixed mindset, where you think nothing will get better, and there’s not much you can do about it.

A growth mindset is a belief that you’re capable of development and change. Consciously adjust your thinking to be more constructive and helpful to you. For example, “I know I can learn and grow if I make an effort” or “What can I do today that will move me forward?”

Build awareness of your thinking habits, and ask yourself if they’re helping or hindering you. Maximize the helpful thoughts consistently.

Take responsibility for your own career. Only you have the power to get what you want in your working life.

Get clear on what you want.

There’s no point in climbing the corporate ladder if it leads to something that doesn’t excite you, so it’s important to get clarity on your career vision first.

Funnily enough, work satisfaction comes doing something you’re good at and that you enjoy. Who would have thought, right?

Create two lists. In the first column, write down those work areas you know you’re very skilled at. Be objective. Have others praised you for your work in this space? Have you won awards for this type of activity? In the other column, write down the aspects of your current or past jobs that you actually enjoy doing.

Let’s have a look at an example:

Now try to find some commonalities from these lists. This is the space you want to be working in. In our example, intersectional points may be around relationship-building, project management, and business strategy. Play to your strengths.

Think about the big picture first.

It’s always a good idea to think about your longer-term ambitions before the shorter-term stuff, so your plans fit with your desired trajectory.

Your sense of purpose comes from your core values, the things that are important to you and that you don’t compromise on, so make sure you know what they are and align your goals accordingly. Everyone has their own set of values, but some examples are integrity, ambition, kindness, wealth, love, family, justice, freedom. Take some time to think about what values are most important to you.

A “big picture” career goal may look something like this:

By 45: Feeling energized and engaged in my senior executive marketing role, making a real difference to the business, and earning at least $150K per annum.

Make a plan.

Once you have a big picture career goal, you can create a shorter-term goal & strategies plan that will move you towards that ideal job. Think about a challenging but achievable goal, and then write down the most impactful strategies that will help you get there.

For example:

Goal: By 20 December this year: To have secured a Project Manager role in strategic marketing, earning at least $85K per annum.


  • Read about strategic marketing for at least 3 hrs per week (scheduled) and keep a journal of ideas.

  • Make at least 2 new relevant contacts per week through LinkedIn or networking events.

  • Meet with my manager to discuss my career progression by 1 February.

  • Complete at least one online strategic marketing course by 1 July.

  • Initiate and complete at least 1 project at work before 1 August.

  • Consistently learn beyond my role.

Now that you have a great-looking plan in place, it’s vital that you identify potential obstacles and barriers (think mental, logistical, financial, health) and ways to overcome them.

What has derailed your plans in the past? What if something unexpected happens? What if you start to lose motivation or confidence?

Think about how you can deal with these hurdles before they happen, so you have contingencies and are able to adjust some of your strategies to get back on track.

Your plan won’t go perfectly. Look for progress over perfection and learn from setbacks and mistakes. Be tenacious and keep going.

Enjoy the journey.

Remember that owning your goals and working towards them will always put you in a better position than if you didn’t have a plan at all. But there’s also no guarantee you’ll reach your goals. Sometimes we exceed our own expectations, but sometimes we fall short, for whatever reason. The important thing is the intention to get there. Along the way, you’ll have built up a whole lot of skills and experience that will help your career regardless.

Nothing is set in stone. On your career journey, you may discover new and exciting opportunities that you hadn’t thought about before. Don’t ignore these potential new pathways. Keep an open mind, and don’t be afraid to travel a new road if it aligns with your values and purpose.

Make the decision to move your career to the next level. Set your goals and plans. Be disciplined. Be curious. Enjoy the journey.

Visit to book a free consultation, and follow Kris on Kris de Jong | LinkedIn. Read more from Kris!


Kris de Jong, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Kris de Jong is an experienced and certified Executive Life Coach living in Auckland, New Zealand. He studied at the University of Waikato, completing a BSc in Biology and Psychology, and was later certified in Cognitive Behavioural Coaching and Professional Life Coaching. He's also a Certified Practitioner of the Global Leadership Assessment 360 (GLA360). Recently he's become a co-founding ambassador for, a global virtual knowledge exchange platform.

Kris has managed large and diverse teams over the years while building his coaching and mentoring skills. His experience in HR, recruitment, performance, and people management allows him to optimize employee coaching for organizations looking to improve workplace wellbeing.

He's written over 100 articles, published in national news outlets, and featured on national radio.

After achieving financial freedom at 40, Kris started Eclipse Life Coaching and is passionate about coaching and helping people to get what they want in life.



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