The Conscious Manager - 10 tips to craft a productive and positive working environment.

Managers are often seen to be successful in organisational life. It’s a prized position in our society. It elevates your status amongst colleagues, peers and friends. There is an idea that any move up the ladder is a good one; more money, responsibility and status. That has to be a good thing right? Well it depends who you ask. It is more than possible that employees are promoted to managerial level for long service and often not necessarily for any skill as a manager.

Imagine the following scenario; founders come up with an idea, succeed in getting investment, and before long they have hired two or three people. Very quickly those founders become managers. Almost without knowing it. They instantly become guardians of people’s career and to a large extent their wellbeing too.

In some instances people find themselves in the role of manager without expressly asking for it, have you ever heard someone say ‘well, so and so left and I was the only one who could do it…so here I am’. Sometimes those people thrive – sometimes they don’t.

It’s possible to argue that being thrown into the deep end like this is a great learning experience. But what about the seriousness with which managers understand the extent to which they can both positively and negatively affect a person’s mental health. This is crucial for any modern organisation that wants its managers to be successful.

Never before has management been a bigger responsibility than it is for some today. There is a rising tide of mental health issues amongst young people who are entering work and more people are in work with a mental health condition than ever before. In fact, 300,000 people leave work every year as a result of a mental health condition, that’s the equivalent of the whole population of Newcastle (Stevenson Farmer Review of Mental Health and Employers, 2017).

There are also myriad responsibilities that come with the job that were perhaps a lesser priority 10 or so years ago. Thankfully mental health is now becoming a priority. In fact, the front line for good mental health is often in the hands of managers. However, not every manager need go on a mental health training course. There is something more human and more essential in being a manager and that is about being as conscious of yourself as possible.

The Conscious Manager is a person who strives to understand their own intention and impact on themselves and others at work. Ask yourself, am I truly intending on advancing the success and wellbeing of my team and are my actions positively impacting on that? This is the first key step to becoming a Conscious Manager.


10 tips on how to be a more conscious manager:

  1. Be aware of what you’re bringing into work everyday. This is not about your gym kit. It’s about an argument with your spouse or a family issue. To be a conscious manager, be sure that you are not taking out on your team any frustrations that are best dealt with elsewhere.
  2. Think of yourself as a mirror. Work on reflecting back the essential and important parts of your team. Remind them of successes, listen at depth to their issues, summarise for them so they remember.
  3. Say “no” appropriately. This might sound counterintuitive, but saying no with a good reason helps a team to know your limits and not to abuse any generosity on your part. It also demonstrates you have a mastery of your work and models confidence and resilience. Strong boundaries can help a person to feel safe and contained.
  4. Be kind to your team. If you need to provide critical feedback do it privately and deal in facts. Invite the person to be involved in curating any remedies and form a new way back from their mistakes.
  5. Understand that despite any of your own insecurities your team will listen to your words and those words will have greater power to inspire and guide than perhaps you might think. Notice the words you use with certain people. Conversely, negative or critical words will have potentially huge impact on self-esteem, especially if someone is more sensitive. Be extremely careful with feedback that is personality based and don’t say things you can never take back.
  6. Where appropriate take a non-directive approach to your team. To be a conscious manager, make an effort to let them come up with solutions as much as possible, as it will give people a clearer sense of purpose.
  7. Give feedback in real time. Give it accurately and use actual experience. E.g. don’t say; ‘well done, good job!’ It lacks specificity and a person is often left unclear on what is good. Tell them precisely what they did that had an impact.
  8. Make your interactions important and of good quality. Simple things like addressing them in emails properly will have a subtle but important impact and if a meeting is short, keep it short and focused, not distracted and filled with your own issues.
  9. Confess! If you make a mistake at work and say something that is wrong or hurtful – apologise and own it! This is a tip top issue. If teams know they can fail and be supported they will become a stronger team because of it and crucially, they won’t live in fear at work.
  10. Most importantly, model something for yourself that mirrors what you want of others – this is about shifting culture in your team and reducing the scourge of presenteeism. If you want someone to trust you, trust them with something. If you’re feeling unwell and unable to be at your best at work then give yourself permission to do what you need to recuperate and tell the team you’re doing so. It models self-care, the cornerstone of good mental health. 

This is a more highly conscious attitude towards the role of manager, one that supports good mental health at work. Indeed, it points to a wider perspective that empowers managers to be at the centre of their teams mental health. That is The Conscious Manager.

Robert Rees is a Director of The Grove Practice in London. He is a Psychotherapist and Executive Coach and co-founder of The Grove Practice At Work. If you are interested in how TGP Coaching can help your managers and teams with their mental health then please download our brochure here or get in touch with us at [email protected].  

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