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Excellent leadership is innate to some people. But if you’re looking for a new middle manager, they must be able to show how they’re adept at their role. The best leaders cannot act on their instincts if they are unable to articulate themselves well. That’s why we put communication skills front and centre when we screen new management candidates.

Here, we’ve compiled four core signals that someone is good at speaking their mind, dealing with staff and customers, or translating a brand-wide agenda.

If you’re in the midst of a hiring plan, these are the reliable traits of a natural communicator.

1. They can give examples of engaging a team

A leadership candidate must identify times in which they’ve remained the guiding hand on a workforce, and how they brought everyone in line to achieve a common goal. What was the objective? Where might staff have diverged from it? What part did the candidate play in the team at large, and how did they use their words to steer those beneath them?

Bringing KPIs into the fold doesn’t happen easily. Ask your shortlisted managers about the ways in which they engaged people of all ages, affinities and demographics to reach for the same target.

2. Different communication tools are used

By the same token, the ideal management candidate understands that one team member may learn or communicate better through a certain method – and that their colleagues may prefer a different approach entirely. Effective messages are adapted to those who are meant to receive them. In the face of digital technology, this has never been more relevant.

Fantastic middle managers experiment, use a diverse mix of communication tools, and think about age variation: a WhatsApp group makes more sense to use with young workers, instead of those in their 50s or 60s. Older staff may prefer a face-to-face sit-down, or a phone call if you’re off-site for the day.

3. They’ve collaborated with other managers well

If you have, say, a team of 15 general managers, you need to be confident that they can agree on the best approach for their team. They therefore have to work well together, not just as an isolated unit. Perfect people translate the top-down brand message to other managers, as well as staff and themselves.

Ask the candidate to explain how they’ve done so in the past. Managers should also measure the results of their communication – for instance, by tracking customer satisfaction, sales or reviews before and after they’ve given a pep talk.

4. Rewards are as important as reprimands

If someone does a bad job, they should be brought to task for it. Yet the opposite is true too. An amazing performance must be recognised, or else there’s no incentive. A prestigious middle manager knows how to compensate a good day at work.

Vouchers, bar tabs, physical prizes, tickets for sporting events or entertainment… There are countless things to offer in order to motivate an employee. But this also extends to personal feedback. Simply saying “nice job” on occasion can be enough to lift the moods of those around your candidate. So ask them to express how they reward someone.

SPE Connect can, of course, help with any management hiring strategy. We have decades’ experience in area, regional and mid-level leadership. Contact us for more details.