Leaders need to communicate face to face with middle managers.

Leaders need to step up and communicate face to face with middle managers to build trust and fuel growth – that’s one of the findings in our report with the Chartered Management Institute, The Middle Manager Lifeline.

The research looks at upwards and downwards communications within organisations. Good communication is a two-way process, which should ensure that information flows effectively both up and down the organisation – and the vital conduit is the middle manager. Whilst two thirds of middle managers believe they have the opportunity to communicate ideas and opinions with their leadership team – a significant minority express immense frustration with how upwards communications operate in their organisation.

One respondent said: “Communication needs to be open and two-way. Senior leaders need to demonstrate that they are actively listening and considering the views of line managers before explaining the decisions they have reached – and being prepared to describe why.”

Making communication a priority

Less than half (48%) of middle managers believe the leadership team makes communication with them a priority and 32% don’t think leadership give them the opportunity to feed back and to challenge the organisation’s approach. Almost the same proportion (31%) don’t believe their leadership team works hard to gain and / or keep their trust, or that their leadership team works closely with them to communicate their vision and business strategy.

Promisingly, 80% of middle managers said they’d seen their business leader in the last 3 months. But … 48% said they’d had only two or fewer meaningful interactions with their business leader over the past 12 months. The word meaningful is the key here.

The outcome of this is that many middle managers are disengaged …which is enormously damaging to an organisation.

Challenges

The practicality of meaningful face to face interactions is of course challenging for leaders in larger companies or those that are geographically dispersed.

Using tactics such as focus groups (featuring a cross section of middle managers) and intranet surveys starts the ‘listening’ process. Use outputs and insights from this to design roadshows or events where the leadership team are face to face, up close and personal with their middle managers.

Using the event to help create cascade communication plans is also effective. Working with managers to understand what the challenges might be and how to overcome them in a team brief situation will make sure they feel involved which will start to build / rebuild trust.

You can find out more by downloading your copy of the report here.

Or check out the infographic of key points here.