5. The Excellent Middle Manager – other common traits

Across the interviews conducted with the selected models – in addition to the HAWKEYE model – there are a number of commonalities across all cases. These commonalities are summarised in the following 6 subsections on the outstanding leader experiences, the models’ beliefs and values, the models’ representation systems, the models’ eye movements, the models’ physiology and the models’ META programmes.

5.1 The Excellent Leader Experiences

Great leadership is the result of a combination of skills, experiences and the ability to navigate complex and dynamic leadership situations. Through our case interviews and observations, we have had the amazing privilege of listening to their stories about their own leadership experiences and learning from their lessons learnt.

During our interviews, we were inspired by the fascinating stories these leaders shared with us. They spoke of pivotal moments when they faced big challenges, had to make important decisions or motivate their teams to achieve extraordinary results. Their stories reflected their skill, empathy and ability to create a positive and engaging work environment.

A common thread in these extraordinary leadership experiences was the ability of middle managers to understand and adapt to their employees’ needs and motivators. They were able to read body language, expressions and mood states to adapt their leadership style and approach to each individual employee. They were responsive to employees’ concerns, ambitions and goals, and were able to create an environment where employees felt seen, heard and motivated.

Another notable factor in these leadership experiences was middle managers’ ability to create a space for dialogue and reflection. They emphasised the importance of listening and asking relevant questions that led to deeper conversations about employees’ potential, career aspirations and personal development. They were skilled at creating an atmosphere of trust and openness where employees felt comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas.

These excellent leadership experiences demonstrate the importance of developing an awareness of employees’ individual needs and motivations. By creating an inclusive and inspiring work environment, these middle managers are able to bring out the best in their teams and achieve extraordinary results.

In the coming sections, we will deepen our understanding of these outstanding leadership experiences and explore the NLP beliefs, representational systems and meta-programmes that underpin their success. We’ll dive into the specific strategies and approaches these leaders utilise to drive engagement, motivation and outstanding performance in their employees. By learning from these inspiring role models and their leadership experiences, we can enrich our own and others’ leadership practices, which is the goal of this book.

5.2 The models’ beliefs and values

The role models share a number of common core values and beliefs (in NLP language called BELIEFS) in relation to being an excellent middle manager.

The following commonalities for the Excellent Middle Manager can be summarised:

The Excellent Middle Manager:

  • Sets a clear goal, goes for it and achieves it.
  • Always meets employees and business partners with trust (until proven otherwise).
  • Always listens and is present, is on the ball.
  • Gains an overview through dialogue with the employee and takes their world as a starting point
  • Follows up on cases with the involvement of the employee.
  • Consciously conducts a daily dialogue with all employees.
  • Is always open and welcoming.
  • “Likes people to develop”.
  • Rests in oneself, radiates calmness and is in balance (symmetrical physiology).
  • Always honest and tidy.
  • Maintains eye contact and focus.

These commonalities also align well with the Case companies’ leadership foundations.

5.3 The models’ representation systems

Most models’ primary representation system is the visual, memorised (Vh) …. they look up to the left. However, some models are primarily auditory (Ah) … they look off to the left. The secondary representation system is the kinesthetic (K) with some internal dialogue (Ad) in a few models. Most also maintain good and intensifying eye contact with the interlocutor without being too intrusive. The eye contact gives the impression that “I am listening and interested in hearing and understanding what you are saying, I am ready”. This is emphasised by the models’ pronounced use of raised eyebrows (au2), slightly dilated eyes (au5), furrowed eyebrows (au4), smiles (au12 and au13) during the conversation/interview. This is complemented by natural but also distinctive use of arms and hands to emphasise the content of the language. However, there is no common pattern for the models, who seem to have their own gesture strategy. All models also have a rhythmic and varied voice with natural pauses that follow the rest of the verbal and non-verbal communication. The Excellent Middle Manager communicates verbally and non-verbally in a completely congruent manner.

5.4 Models’ eye movements

The models’ eye movements vary greatly.

One model’s eye movements fluctuated between looking up to the left and out towards his GDS image (tilted up 30 degrees, 45 degrees to the left) and then down about 45 degrees to the right, turning left 15 degrees and back again.

Another modeller had the following eye movements:

The person had very good eye contact – focussed and looked directly at the interlocutor and included the interlocutor’s world in the conversation in several examples.

A third model’s eye movements went from bottom right (K) to straight up (A) in the centre and slightly upwards (approx. 20 degrees) V with good eye contact and focus without staring (au5).

5.5 Physiology of the models

The physiology of the models generally manifested itself in the following ways during the interviews:

  • All models’ breathing was calm and rhythmic. All models breathed primarily from the chest, with two models often breathing into the abdomen. One model took a noticeable deep breath just before each answer, which was especially pronounced for more personally sensitive questions.
  • All models use their arms and hands extensively in their non-verbal communication. The movements naturally follow the linguistic content in line with the speed of speech and vocalisation. Each model has a characteristic movement pattern to concretise, delineate, show step by step.
  • The head moves naturally in smooth movements in time with the eye movements, maintaining good eye contact and focus on the conversation and both interviewer and interviewee. One of the models kept the head slightly tilted to the left. Almost all models used FACS au2 in their non-verbal communication.
  • The position of the legs varied. Some models sat with parallel legs throughout the interview, others switched to crossed legs.
  • Almost all models mostly kept their body slightly bent forward with their arms resting on the armrests and their hands folded or gesturing. Several, however, periodically moved the body slowly from slightly leaning backwards (towards the backrest) and forwards with arms on the table, often with folded or gesturing hands.

All models had a rhythmic voice with a moderate and varying rate of speech, with natural, in some cases longer pauses and a soft tone of voice (pitch dropping at the end of the sentence (commanding).

5.6 Metaprogrammes of the models

In the vast majority of case interviews, five META programmes in particular are common to the models:

The five primary META programmes for the Excellent Middle Manager are:

    • Both in bilateral conversations and in conversations with teams.
    • As soon as they observe a task, they “grab the bull by the horns” and get to work.
    • Proactively searches for observations that can be used to create results and develop the team professionally and personally.
    • Including problems that need to be solved
    • Development points that point forward
    • Gathers information from staff, colleagues and customers every day
    • Here, personal conversations are used very actively
    • Performance appraisals are taken extremely seriously (There are no huddles for appraisals. React immediately and have the conversation as soon as possible
    • Both in bilateral conversations and in conversations with teams.
    • They prioritise the team and make decisions based on the team’s results.

Another characteristic is that the Excellent Middle Manager has the ability to vary the application of the META programmes based on the context in which the models are currently being used. This is true for all of the META programmes studied.

The ability to straddle the extremes of the META programmes and the ability to vary them contextually is crucial to the communication skills of the Excellent Middle Manager.