For most managers, balancing workload demands with staff obligations can feel like an elaborate juggling act. On one hand, if objectives and deliverables are not met, you are on the hook. On the other hand, if you don’t pay enough attention to your employees you can be left dealing with performance problems, retention complications, and long, drawn out hiring ramps.
Nobody said management was easy, but then there is the little thing called being accountable to the role. This simply means, if you signed up to wear the management badge, then you need to fulfill the requirements just like you would expect from you staff. That’s where the notion of being a manager who chases versus one who doesn’t comes into play.
The chasing manager is an individual that is constantly near the pulse of his or her team. This manager is on the frontlines, knows what everybody should be doing, and checks in to make sure that people have the resources they need to do their jobs. More importantly the chasing manager listens, responds with urgency, and always gives employees the reassurance that they have air cover when needed. The chasing manager is not, as the concept may imply, a micromanaging, clock watching, dictatorial menace. The term of the ‘chase’ refers to a manager who believes that good management comes from going to employees and genuinely wanting to connect with them regardless of the business conditions or environment.
This is not the case with the chasee manager. This manager is often too busy to ensure a proper connection with their people. Constant meetings, making the folks above happy, and any number of priorities other than staff, take precedent over building rapport and allowing employees to feel confident, embraced, and fueled up to do battle with the constant onslaught of the organizational machine. Employees, therefore, have to ‘chase’ the manager for 1-1 meetings, scheduling time to talk about objectives and development, and deal with the bop-a-mole management style of when said manager is available for five minutes here or there.
Depending on the school of thought, this predicament of worrying whether employees feel chased or if they are doing the chasing is a condition of our global, always-on internet culture. There is too much information swirling around to always remember to be a ‘good’ manager and proactively pay attention to people. After all, isn’t it the energetic and driven employee that asks for what he or she wants?
Research does not bear this out. Take any number of survey research data be it Gallop, CLC, or others and all point to the behavior of the manager as a predictor of employee success. This has been the case for decades and isn’t changing anytime soon. Whenever you have a situation of low engagement, burnout, or other nuclear talent bombs in organizations, first and foremost it has to do with how involved managers are with their people. It’s not enough to say you pay people and they should shut up and do their job. Employees want to feel special – they want a manager who comes to them first regarding how they are doing, to get rewarded, and ultimately to feel like their manager knows how difficult their job is. Employees want a partner, a collaborator, and a bit of a friend as the business demands pile up. Fortunately, it’s not difficult to be a chasing versus chasee manager. Here are three tips to improve your approach:
1. Make time for your people.
Sounds simple enough but we all know the first cardinal sin of employee engagement is not feeling like time with employee is as important as the work itself. A regularly occurring weekly meeting for even 30 minutes can make a difference. Ideally more time than this is required but if you make the first move to A) schedule it and B) ensure that nothing interrupts it, employees will feel like you care enough about them to make the meeting a priority.
2. Follow up on tasks with urgency.
If your employee spent the weekend creating a Powerpoint slide on the state of the business (per your request) then review it and provide feedback immediately. Nothing is more deflating than to drop what you are doing for a manager request simply to have no response or a long delayed response from your manager. The lack of response or blackhole syndrome leaves the employee wondering if you care or if the request was urgent at all. Respect the tasks employees are given and always follow up quickly to tasks asked of you.
3. Non-work related conversations.
All work and no play – well we know from Jack Nicholson in the Shining where that can lead – does not engender a long-term tight knit team unit. You have to spend time as a manager connecting beyond work roles. This doesn’t mean you have to become drinking buddies, but you have to be holistic in your relationship. The better you can leverage a personal sense of connection, the easier it will be to handle whatever the business throws at you.
When managers learn to chase their employees and encourage their contributions and professional growth, the rewards that await at the end of the run on both sides will be richer and more satisfying than could be achieved individually.