Employee Empowerment and Team Building

Desiree Craig

Group Product Manager at Bolt



Empowering teams by giving up some control can never be easy. How can one transform their leadership style while still energizing and engaging people? Transitioning from an IC to a manager made me realize that the role offered utterly different challenges. As the IC, I would have specific deliverables; I was responsible for some clear outcomes. Although it was not my first time as a manager, it was significantly a different role, and one of the challenges was essentially the fact that I had tied the value of my work directly to my output. However, in this case, my production and contribution towards the organization were not as straightforward as they used to be because I was now responsible for managing a team to deliver on certain goals.

The biggest challenge for me was finding ways to empower my team, while getting comfortable with the new opportunities available to me to provide value to the organization. This was difficult to do because I was used to my previous way of working. Soon enough, it became clear to me that the reason behind the problem was because I was stuck in my comfort zone. For instance, it was easier for me to spend time working on things that had more clarity, than spending time figuring out things that were more vague and less defined. f figuring out all the others.

Actions taken

First of all, the whole process was frustrating. However, the good part was that it did not take me long enough to identify that I was frustrated. All I had to do was get out of my comfort zone, but the question was how? I had to learn to get comfortable with letting go of the reins and working through others. In other words, I had to get out from being an “IC” to being a more supportive leader and truly empower others to complete their goals.

I also had a person as my mentor with whom I could talk when such issues arose. Looking back, I think speaking to my mentor was one of the best decisions of that time. My mentor would point out the possible reasons that would contribute to the problem. I still saw myself as an IC while focusing on my complex role instead of the growth goals and opportunities that this new role presented me with. I then took responsibility in terms of changing the situation.

Besides, I completed a few courses on leadership in order to learn more about how to manage teams. One of the best learnings from the course was on better understanding the role of a leader. In essence, after the course, I had more knowledge about aligning people, directing them, and inspiring them so that they would work in different ways. I figured that my role as the leader was more about being a few steps ahead of everyone else while focusing on the bigger picture or strategy. At the same time, I had to align everyone to solve more tactical problems which meant we were constantly working together to achieve our business goals.

I assessed my team members based on their strengths and aligned their strengths with the goals set for our department. Followed by that, I performed a SWOT analysis to map that according to our goals. The SWOT analysis gave me some interesting findings that I communicated back with the team. To my surprise, the team felt truly empowered because they had more ownership of the work that we were doing.

Finally, this led me to better appreciate the unique qualities of the team members I had because I could then view them based on the new lens. That made me realize that I had really strong people in my team. Some people had outstanding project management skills, who would drive all the other teams to collaborate. Not to forget about those who had strengths in design. They would focus on the creative aspects, figuring out the best UI experience. Others were great with internal stakeholder management, who would take care of the complex stakeholder relationships.

What had previously been missing was the element that I was focusing more on the execution, as against inspiring everyone around and helping them feel like they wanted to achieve the vision independently. They had to create a vision for themselves, looking forward to something and working towards it. It was truly a stronger motivating factor, because it came from within.

Lessons learned

  • As a team, your output should always be in multiples of the inputs that you had. So, if a team has three people, and there are two more added, then the output should be exponential.
  • Be honest with yourself. There will be struggles in a new role or a new organization that you have to face instead of turning away from them. Be proactive in wanting to solve any challenge that may come your way.
  • Take personal development seriously because it never stops. Commit to making time for yourself towards this. Make use of the new resources and knowledge that you may have acquired that will improve not just how you work but also that of the people that work with you.

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Desiree Craig

Group Product Manager at Bolt

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