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The lynch pin of any organisation is their Middle Managers – they are the unsung heroes who try to implement dictates from above to some colleagues who are unhappy/change resistant/fearful, whilst motivating them to do the job more efficiently in an “agile” and more productive manner.

The communication skills of Middle Managers are therefore vital, yet we find that few organisations have a clear policy of identifying need and training these managers in the skills and knowledge they require to communicate effectively with their direct reports.  Some people have natural empathy and charisma with great listening and Socratic questioning skills and high emotional intelligence; They are able to balance self-awareness, resilience and conscientiousness with motivation, decisiveness and adaptability making them great people to work with.  Others do not have these skills and implement change and policy in a directive, apparently uncaring manner.

Measuring and, where necessary, enhancing these skills should be part of Management skills development but we all know this does not always happen.  It is also important to support, review and develop these essential Lifeskills.  We all know the old dictat “if you don’t use it you lose it” and we have found that to embed a new communication style or any new behaviour, takes regular practice, encouragement, feedback, more practice and more encouragement until it becomes the natural way to ask great questions, listen non judgementally and then help create desire to get the task done.

‘Back to work’ Interviews come under this approach – instead of being a tick box exercise, they can become an opportunity to identify new ideas, state of  health, work or attitude issues with the outcome being a colleague who feels he/she has been heard and if necessary signposted to organisational support/training available.

Whilst working with organisations to measure Wellbeing/Stress, using the HSE Standards approach, we have noticed that Middle Managers exhibit less Wellbeing and more Stress than any other group. This indicates that organisations have a duty to support these individuals by engaging them to enhance communication skills, be aware of their emotional intelligence and how to develop it, as well as learning coping strategies to manage the extensive pressures many experience.  One strategy does not fit all and often bespoke solutions are sought, resulting in improved mental and physical health which is a benefit for the individual, their team and ultimately the organisation.

I love a win / win / win!!!!!



Ann McCracken is a Director of AMC2 and the vice president of the International Management Association (ISMA UK) – the professional body for stress management Practitioners.

She specialises in developing a positive and resilient working culture in organisations by introducing effective strategies in performance and wellbeing at all levels. The effectiveness of such a positive working culture is measured and assessed using AMC2 Corporate Diagnostic innovative surveys which include measurement of psychosocial factors, stress and wellbeing. Having initially trained as a scientist, she carried out research with DEFRA and consultancy in the NHS.

She spent 10 years in Education before retraining as a stress management practitioner in 1996. She is the author of Stress Gremlins©, regularly writes/broadcasts and is an external lecturer at Westminster University. She is also a Key Note/Motivational speaker/Conference Chair.

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