Skip to main content
Commsy creative stuff straight to your inbox


Supporting line managers: nurturing the chimp within 

< Blog home

Supporting line managers: nurturing the chimp within 

Have you read The Chimp Paradox?

If you haven’t, you should. It’s a game changer.

As comms pros, we have a responsibility to support others with their communication skills.

We’re always on the lookout for creative and interesting ways to do this.

And this model is a winner. In a recent post we discussed how to help build organisations full of great communicators, not message regurgitators by supporting line managers, arguably the king cogs in the chain of communication.

Confidence improves communication

We talked about the need to help line managers by cascading confidence, not communication.

One way to do this is to go back to basics, ensuring that solid fundamentals are in place. Because when we know what we’re doing and we are in control, our confidence will soar.

That’s where The Chimp Paradox can help.

Steve Peters is the creator of The Mind Management programme for confidence, success and happiness and is famous for helping sports stars like Sir Chris Hoy and Ronnie O’Sullivan to achieve their goals.

He’s the author of The Chimp Paradox, a mind management model that describes how The Psychological Mind is made up of three separate brains: Human, Computer and Chimp.

Training the Chimp

The Chimp element controls emotions; it has a mind and personality of its own and is an extremely powerful machine. The Chimp can be your best friend and your worst enemy. Emotional behaviour and angry outbursts like road rage or heated personality clashes are all driven by our inner Chimp.

The Chimp is ever-present and must be managed appropriately. By helping line managers to recognise, nurture and train their Chimps, they can harness its strength and power to improve confidence, remain motivated, remove anxiety and communicate more effectively.

Peters dedicates an entire chapter to communication, explaining that:

‘If you don’t set time aside and work on communication then don’t be surprised if you don’t improve’.

It’s an obvious point, but all too often effective communication is taken for granted as line managers are expected to possess the necessary skills to communicate productively with employees.

While much of the way in which we communicate may be second nature, subconsciously doing what we’ve always done, it’s worth returning to basics and considering how we can sharpen skills when we focus on nurturing our Chimps.

It’s amazing how much we can improve with a little tweak and a gentle nudge here and there.

The presentation and packaging of communication

How we present a message is critical to effective communication. There are multitudes of ways in which messages can be packaged and to simplify things, Peters divides them into four groups; body language, intonation, use of words and ambience.

There are important takeaways we can remember from each of these four areas:

Be aware of body language

Body language is generally chimp-to-chimp, so miscommunication can signal all sorts of messy and emotional mishaps. According to some researchers, body language can account for over half of the message that is being conveyed so it’s a vital factor when line managers interact with employees.

  • Simple considerations such as respecting body space, not crossing arms and being aware of our facial expressions can all help to improve communication without even saying a word.

Reflect on intonation

Around one third of our communication focuses on voice intonation and this can be broken down into three parts: speed, volume and emphasis. Speaking too quickly or loudly will alert the Chimp in the other person while speaking slowly will have the opposite effect, relaxing the Chimp. Taking things to the extreme may also have a negative effect as speaking too slowly or quietly can be frustrating.

  • Help people listen and absorb messages by speaking steadily, using appropriate volumes and considering the impact that emphasis will make.

Choose your words carefully

Slight changes in words can alter the entire meaning behind a sentence. Picking the wrong word can have major consequences because the words we use have emotional connotations attached to them, unsettling Chimps.

For example, consider the difference between ‘I want you to…’ and ‘I would like you to…’. A very minor change can have a dramatically different effect. The first is a command, the second is a suggestion. The latter will almost always be better received by a Chimp than the first.

  • Listen in, discuss and suggest minor tweaks where appropriate. By taking the time to change some of the words we use we can transform the way people react.

Understand the effect of ambience

The ambience of a person is a mixture of their demeanour, stance, mood and the way in which they interact with others. Often we don’t consciously think about this but our Chimps are all over it. The ambience we display can sometimes entirely outweigh any message we are trying to get across.

  • Unless we’re aware of how we’re coming across, we can’t make a conscious decision to improve it. Encourage line managers to think about the how they present themselves to others, also known as Chimp Management!

The skill of effective communication takes time and effort to develop and maintain.

We can support line managers by observing, coaching and gently developing the subtle nuances that make all the difference to successful, confident communication and well-informed, contented Chimps.

I recommend you grab a copy of The Chimp Paradox, get stuck in, and share it with your line managers. Share it with everyone.

It’s a fascinating read, a life-changing mind management model and an essential tool for all communicators…

And their Chimps!

“I feel like they own and care for the project as much as we do! I would not use anyone else for my creative work and think Alive is ahead of the game.”

Jo Hobbs — Communications Manager

“Thanks for all your help. We are delighted with the campaign, both in terms of the creativity and messaging but also the thought taken over the rollout of the materials. All looks absolutely fabulous!”

Sarah Crowdy — Campaign and Media Officer Communications, South East Water

“We went to ‘Alive’ for ideas on how to run a specific employee program in Europe. Alan and his team were brilliant in coming up with fresh, creative and practical approaches. The team took charge and executed brilliantly. We are pleased with the progress made so far and hope to have the same level of partnership and commitment going forward.”

Sobha Varghese — Tata Consultancy Services

“Alive helped us create a video of our response to the floods of winter 2019. Our Chief Officer received messages from all round the country praising us for it and was really pleased with both the video and the response to it.”

Alexander Mills, Communications Manager — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“We had the privilege to work with the Alive team. It was our first time to be involved in creating an animation for our patients within paediatrics. The team were approachable, friendly, creative and very accommodating. Your vision for what you want to create, is at all times acknowledged, appreciated and accommodated by the team. They worked effectively and with great passion towards our project and worked not only alongside health professionals but also our patients who really enjoyed the experience of working with the Alive team. It has given our team the confidence and inspiration to do further projects in the future. We highly recommend Alive and their exceptional team.”

DR ELENI ATHANASAKOS, Lead Paediatric Clinical Scientist — NHS Barts Health

“‘The short animation developed in co-production with clinicians and young people is outstanding! Informative, developmentally appropriate, vitally fun and engaging. We are really grateful for the expertise of the Alive with Ideas team for their innovative approach in building children’s health literacy.'”

Kath Evans — Director of Children’s Nursing at Barts Health

“Our mission was to update our brand visuals to better reflect our innovative and forward-thinking organisation. After receiving numerous pitches from different branding agencies, Alive stood out with their clear passion and understanding of our identity and goals. We thoroughly enjoyed working with the Alive Team to create an engaging new brand that we are immensely proud of.”

Lianne Springer — Communications and Engagement Lead

“Alive wowed us during the pitch process and they didn’t stop wowing us throughout the whole project. Every person we worked with at Alive were so friendly, knowledgeable and clearly passionate about what they do. They have worked with us to really understand what we do and have created a new brand and website that really stands out from our competitors. Thank you!”

Louise Burnard, Head of Marketing and Communications UK — Be | Shaping the Future

“I think the team have done such a brilliant job, particularly with responding to our requests. It's one of the best mental health videos I've ever seen. Very proud to be associated with your exemplary work. Thank you so much.”

Dr Anna Batho — Clinical Psychologist – Critical Care, UCLH

“We have worked with Alan, Caroline and the wider Alive With Ideas team for many years. In that time, they have provided a dedicated service that is second to none. We appreciate their attention to detail and creative approach to bringing our brand, communications and stories to life. And would recommend them to anyone looking for creative communications support.”

Georgia Beech — Internal Communications Specialist, Ocado Group

“This is brilliant. I wanted to give my heartfelt thanks to all of the team who worked on this. You all understood exactly what we wanted to communicate and why, and then managed to do it in a way that was far better than anything I could have imagined. I’m a bit choked up to be honest!”

Sarah Wright, Head of Communications and Campaigns — NEA

“Each time I work with the team, I am always stunned at the effort and creativity that goes into each detail and am always eager for the end result. The team is extremely accommodating and always provide a fresh approach to our projects that elevates our communications materials!”

Alana Khaytin, Communications Specialist — Braskem America

“What I really appreciate about Alive is that they work with us as partners, and care as much about getting it right for our patients as we do.”

Sara Langston, Patient Engagement & Marketing Manager — italk

“Alive are unique in how much they deeply listen and invest in you and your ideas. I have not come across a company that listens as much as they do to ensure your needs are understood and met (actually - they always exceed my needs and expectations). Everyone I recommend Alive to has an equally brilliant experience. When you work with Alive, you are not only getting some genius creativity brought into your life, you are also hanging out with some of the best examples of human beings I’ve ever known.”

Steph Tranter, Hybrid Exec Coach & Psychologist —

“The (Alive) team were able to creatively pull together and document (in just over 2minutes) everything our service has achieved over the last few months, from thousands of prescriptions deliveries to hundreds of phone calls made to the vulnerable. The final product was so powerful and reflective of what our service has and continues to achieve. It couldn’t have been better received within the service – thanks Alive for once again helping us to communicate our vision!’”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire & Rescue

“We worked with the team at Alive to create our staff recognition video.
At a time like this, its never been more important to share the amazing work that our staff have done and continue to do on a daily basis under very difficult circumstances. We wanted to shout about this and recognise that when the time came, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue stepped up to the plate. We didn’t want an ordinary thank you post on social media or a basic email sent out internally, we wanted something special. Enter Alive. ”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“Our company is fun, we have great brands, but most importantly we’re all about our people – and I wanted an agency who would understand that and help us bring it to life through our website and other comms. Straight away I felt that Alive ‘got’ us and provided the creative inspiration exactly where we needed it, as well as the technical expertise to deliver a well-functioning website.”

Keren McCarron, Head of Corporate Affairs & Communications — KP Snacks

Thank you so much. Incredible work done at incredible speed by incredible people.
Outstanding work as ever and what a turnaround. As for the concepts – wow. These are that good it would be an insult to describe them as just good. It’s a joke, quite frankly. This is exactly the Alive effect I was after. Right now I feel like I am living in an Alive With Ideas wonderland. Thank you!”

Jack Grasby, Campaigns Manager — SYFR

“If you are looking to improve creativity and build teamwork, I highly recommend a session like this for your team. No matter where you are in your creativity journey, a workshop like this can give your team a boost of energy and ideas to invigorate their creative thinking.”

Amy Lilja, IC Manager — Hennepin Healthcare

“Alive were there to help when we were working every hour to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. They gave us the creativity, ideas and support we needed to deliver campaigns which empowered our residents in the most difficult time most of us have ever seen, personally and professionally. The team understood what we needed, worked closely with us and delivered fast without any compromise on quality. Working with Alive has been a joy in the darkest of times and I have no doubt will have helped to save lives. Thanks team x”

Julie Odams, Assistant Director of Communications & Customers — Derbyshire County Council

“We got 'Alive' involved to help us shift mindsets across our organisation and they delivered! Using simple, clear and creative ideas the team have delivered us a campaign which has seen a dramatic increase in idea sharing and development. They’ve also played a significant role in creating a culture of shared success. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with again, in fact, we already are!”

Gavin Buckle — B&Q
Alive logo