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Building trust as a new Manager

Neelima Annam

Vice President, Engineering and Planning at Carelon

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Problem

The growth journey of a manager can sometimes feel like a roller coaster ride. I learned to tailor my management style over time having gone through various experiences that felt like steep inclines and descents. I have had the opportunity to lead teams of engineers alongside a combined mix of other functional team members like Business analysts, Project managers, Quality Engineers and Product Owners during the last 15 years. This has afforded me visibility into different kinds of talent, personalities and mindsets and a key learning that regardless of the type of team we lead, Trust happens to be a core foundational element upon which all other leadership and management successes take root from.

I have found that building trust with team members I have directly hired, or folk that start with one of the teams in my organization is much different from how it is done with teams I have inherited.

In one of my previous jobs, I had a few team members that had been directly reporting to my manager before I joined the organization. Being new to the company, I had a lot of things to learn and come up to speed on. During this time, one particular member of my team found it easier and more efficient to just go directly to my manager (his former manager) for the day-to-day work and decisions and was just unwilling to catch me up or even keep me in the loop. I sensed resentment and a continued feeling like an outsider where this particular team member was concerned. I remained patient for a while, but this sidestepping happened quite a few times, and it reached a level where I got cut out of important communications and I knew I had to take some action to remedy the situation.

Actions taken

I decided to be direct and brought it up with the team member and he just said, I lacked the background and context and he was seeking the most efficient way to get his work done. I put myself in his shoes and realized there was no malice - he was merely seeking the fastest way to go about his work. Coming up to speed and being part of the communication flow was my problem to solve and I had to go about it without placing a burden on my team. I had to earn their trust by learning fast and then offering them the same support they were receiving from their former manager.

So I discussed this situation with my manager and sought his help. I put in extra effort to ramp up on the history of the products that were being developed and the context around all of the ongoing work. And I requested that my manager route my team members back to me if they approached him, and allow me to step in and fulfill the responsibilities of the job I was hired for. My manager was very understanding and supportive of this request. He realized that while trying to be helpful, his actions were encouraging the behavior of leaving me out of the loop. Finally, things started getting better with my entire team.

I took lessons from this experience that I was able to apply forward as I grew in my own career. When I onboard new managers into my organization now I am not only thinking about what the new person needs, I am intentional about setting them up for success by changing my own actions to give space for new managers to step in.

Lessons learned

  • People will keep doing what is convenient for them. By setting expectations, it will become easy to untangle those minor conflicts that shouldn’t have been there in the first place.
  • Trust has to be earned and it is done differently for different people. Sometimes it is by showing you care, sometimes it is via direct and honest communication, sometimes it is by being vulnerable or just by showing you are willing to work hard.
  • Your teammates will not automatically start trusting you just because you are their manager. Ask your team members how they want to be managed and do not shy away from this. You will be dealing with a number of personalities; respect everyone and acknowledge the differences.
  • While we place a lot of emphasis on onboarding new members into our teams it is just as important to set expectations with existing team members, so we set up the new person for success.

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Neelima Annam

Vice President, Engineering and Planning at Carelon


Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyCulture DevelopmentEngineering ManagementPerformance ReviewsFeedback TechniquesCareer GrowthCareer ProgressionSkill Development

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