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How to balance being a responsive manager

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“Pay attention to me” was the response from an employee when asked what can the manager do to be more supportive. I remember being taken aback by the response and mused for a moment as I thought of the authenticity of the comment.

Managers wish they could give all the people on their team more attention, but sometimes certain employees seem to demand more than a fair share of their time. Today, we’ll examine three suggestions from Linda Hill, professor at Harvard Business School and the co-author of Being the Boss: The 3 Imperatives for Becoming a Great Leader; on how to balance being a responsive manager with the need to get your own work done.

The first step in dealing with a team member who needs extra handholding is to figure out what’s driving the person’s neediness, says Hill. “You should try to diagnose what’s going on.” Maybe this person “worked for a micromanager in the past.” The cause might also be “insecurity” or lack of confidence, “some people have a fear of what could go wrong,” Hill explains. Sometimes employees are just looking for recognition or feedback on their performance.

Hill also suggests that you speak directly with the employee. You should use a tone that is kind, patient and accommodating. “Say, ‘You’ve been coming in a lot for XYZ. But all these informal check-ins are not an efficient use of time for either of us. What’s going on? How can I better support you?” You could even make it about you, says Hill, “which allows the employee to save face a little. She suggests saying something like “It’s my perception that I’m in your work too much, and I’m worried I might be bottleneck.” Boost your employee’s ego, she says. “Say, ‘You should have the autonomy you deserve. You are competent.”

Once you’ve said your piece, listen carefully to how your employee responds. Building an excellent customer service-centered brand begins internally with quality leadership.

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