How leaders can avoid creating the ‘pounce’ effect with their team.


What is the pounce effect?

The ‘pounce’ effect is the situation created when a leader has team members with requests for information / feedback / decisions but no structured time to raise these requests – so they wait like a predatory cat, waiting to ‘pounce’ on the leader the first time they look free.

Maybe this is you or maybe you have worked for a leader like this?  They want to help, they often use terms like open door policy and fully available – which they are however they are still very busy so as a team member you spend a good amount of energy trying to best time your ‘pounce’.

You want to be respectful but you need something to move the task forward and that something is sitting with your boss. Hang on – she’s off the phone, he’s at the water cooler, she looks like she is getting a coffee, he is walking towards my desk.

Ready. Set. (Grab my list) Pounce.

The ‘pounce’ effect is born out of good intentions on both sides but in the end creates stress – stress for the leader as they know people are waiting for them / watching them with requests and stress for the team member as they keep one eye on the boss looking for opportunities to get their input.

One solution is structuring times when the leader will truly be available or better still structuring times with the staff members to discuss things they need.  When the staff member knows that there is a time (relatively soon) where they have the boss’ undivided attention they are often happy to work around their issues and then come forward with a list that can be dealt with efficiently.  They are calmer and the leader can go to the toilet without fear of being jumped on the way.

The exception – of course there are always exceptions, primarily when things are on fire. Then don’t wait. Good communication between the leader and the team member should make it easy to identify what can wait and what needs to be dealt with immediately.

Most roles have tasks or aspects that need the team person’s full attention.  Time needs to be blocked out for these tasks and putting some daily structure in place will help with that in many cases.

It works both ways though.  Leaders can be a major distraction for their team by doing the same things.  The concept of flow is very relevant with many of the more challenging tasks people need to complete and nothing breaks your flow like your boss coming to your desk with a request for something that is now urgent for them.

So, leader’s check that you are not one of the main breakers of your team’s flow and efficiency.

Whilst there are likely many solutions here, adopting some structured time or blocked time for ‘arranged pouncing’ will help both the leader and the team.

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