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To raise nurse managers' critical awareness of practice problems; uncover practice constraints and improve work effectiveness.Nurse management requires skills and knowledge, underscored by emotional intelligence. The research improved participants' practice and personal insights.Purposive sampling targeted nurse managers interested in improving their practice. Three experienced female nurse managers met fortnightly in a group, for 1 hour, for 10 meetings. The methods included: writing and sharing de-identified journal reflections; critically analysing practice stories; identifying a thematic concern; generating action strategies; and instituting and revising the action plan.Phase One resulted in the identification of the issue of ‘being drained by the intensity of nurse managers’ work'. The participants adopted five strategies: debriefing problematic situations; deflecting multiple requests; diffusing issues; naming dysfunctional behaviours; and regrouping. In Phase Two, participants implemented and revised the action plan strategies, which resulted in them feeling less drained by their work.Strategies can lessen nurse managers' sense of personal depletion. However, strategies cannot guarantee success every time because the emotional intelligence is integral to nurse management.Action research and reflection assist nurse managers to improve their practice and develop their emotional intelligence.