Back in the Autumn of 2020, when we were adjusting to new working practices brought about by the Covid pandemic, we published some research into the benefits Middle Managers bring to an organisation – we spoke about Middle Managers as the ‘Unsung Heroes’.

Reflecting on this view now in Spring of 2024 does that phrase still ring true?  Much has changed in the workplace. We now have a much more distributed workforce, work-life balance has become a priority and there has been a strong focus on hybrid working with all its potential variations.  Some employers are also trying to turn the clock back to get staff into the office full-time again.

So what are we doing with our Unsung Heroes?

At times of financial strain in an organisation, the middle manager population has often been perceived as the obvious choice for cost cutting – an option to quickly reduce numbers with little impact by just increasing the spans of control for others.  

However, in many organisations, middle managers are the glue that holds business together.  We should not underestimate the potential value that is added when middle managers are working at their best to support, nurture, develop and engage their teams.  We feel this is especially important when people are more remote from their workplaces  and team colleagues – especially for new entrants to the workplace or new to the organisation.

Middle Manager Super-Powers!

But are organisations helping their middle managers to develop their skills and apply their super-powers.  We think the picture is very mixed.  

As the need for managers to spend time monitoring performance reduces through digital advances within organisations, we would expect managers at all levels to spend more time providing connections  and communicating shared aims and purpose.  Businesses continue to struggle to recruit and retain talented individuals so the nurture that a middle manager can provide to their teams is invaluable and a strong retention tool in the best organisations.  From a business development and transformation perspective, the hotbed of ideas from middle managers should be fully utilised, empowering idea generation and creativity at all levels across the organisation; the future of an organisation does not sit solely with the senior executives to design and deliver.

So, if we recognise the importance of our middle managers, how do we support them to continue to grow in their roles?

To become a strong nurturer of others, middle managers need to equip themselves with the skills of  empathy, strong communication, building relationships with others and influencing both up and down within the organisation.  To do this well, they also strengthen their own, and help others to build resilience.

The best managers build the team and the confidence and skill of the individuals within the team – in this way they build the  talent, capability and capacity within organisations. 

Case Studies

We work with a range of clients with different needs for their middle manager cohorts and have provided a variety of interventions, all building confidence in the ability of those managers to enjoy and to fulfil their roles.  Ensuring our workshops are a blend of theory and practical application through role-play has proved really successful in empowering middle managers to embed these practices into their working lives.

Examples include:

Working with a client who has a relatively new first line manager team, a number of whom have been promoted, we supported them to see the value of adjusting how they spend their time to drive the performance of others, creating shared success beyond completing tasks themselves.  We facilitated workshops on delegation and follow up as well as time management, to ensure accountability within the team is maintained.  

Maintaining a link to purpose and values within an organisation at all levels is really important and with a small business recently merging into a larger organisation, we helped middle managers to see how they could engage their teams in both the local business and wider organisational vision and strategy.  Using coaching based conversations as a base enabled middle managers to see how the development of talent within their areas can really support them going forward.

Alongside building skills in organisation, motivating others and customer focus for both established managers and those who are new to role, we want to continue to build the the superpowers of our critical middle management tier through:

Nurturing – with a focus on understanding the perspectives of others  developing open, clear and transparent communication skills, we can build nurturing ability, enabling middle managers to develop and grow their teams whilst maintaining strong and clear accountability. This is much more than the more traditional monitoring/micro management that some might think of as supervision.

Empathy and Resilience –  To nurture effectively, managers need to engage with empathy, building those connections with their teams and beyond to deliver those shared outcomes.  Individual resilience and helping others to build their resilience by recognising when stress and anxiety have significant influence on decision making or when workloads start to become overwhelming are really important to build a culture of empowerment.

The Power of Influence – whether sharing ideas and working creatively with executive leaders in organisations or managing and developing team performance, influence through empathy and effective communication will support the delivery of strong outcomes, leveraging real empowerment in organisations.


If you are interested in finding out more about how we support middle managers to be the best they can be, please get in touch with Joanne at [email protected]

Joanne Lockwood

As an experienced HR professional, my role is to ensure that clients experience great service whenever they interact with us. I have previous experience, as an HR Business Partner, with a large corporate retailer, experience which is put to good use in my role with Claridade, working on projects in the field of management development, job evaluation and discipline and grievance investigations. As project manager for the various projects we work on, I am very focused on delivering both business deliverables and a great experience for our clients.