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Giving Your Team Space and Support

Rishit Shah

Senior Director of Engineering at Podium

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Problem

"I was working for a company that was going through a period where, unfortunately, it was receiving a lot of negative press. Besides external troubles we also had a leadership team that was churning. Both of these combined caused a lot of internal turmoil and lowered team morale. So how do you keep people focused on their jobs and shipping projects during these types of tough situations?"

Actions taken

"It is during these periods when you as a leader need to show your highest form of empathy. You need to have strong emotional intelligence so that you get projects completed while understanding where people's minds are at. To do this, I recommend giving people space and support." "I was able to support my team by allowing them to speak freely about the issues that were happening internally and externally. Every other week during our team meetings we would talk about the negative press coverage, discuss what was happening with the company, and I would let them open up and share their thoughts and vulnerabilities - rather than judging. If they had doubts about the company, they expressed so. If they were looking for another job, then I let them talk about that. This allowed for each team member to feel like they had a safe space to share in which I supported their thoughts and ideas." "More so, I gave them the space to make their own decisions. I provided frameworks, asked questions, and I wouldn't sugarcoat the reality, but ultimately what is best is to let them think and act for themselves. They were afraid and skeptical so I simply tried to help them understand the underlying cause of their fears or what was triggering their anxiety and think through their priorities, their feelings, and what they wanted to do. I then let them decide for themselves: never told them what to do nor made any decisions for them." "Ultimately, in that period, only one of the 12 engineers left the team. It was a tough and stressful situation but we pushed through the internal turmoil and were able to focus on our jobs and the projects at hand."

Lessons learned

  • "Authenticity is imperative in this day and age. If you sugarcoat than people will discern. The more authentic you are the more vulnerable you are, but the more people are willing to open up to you and be authentic to you as well."
  • "Asking questions and gaining an understanding is more effective than making judgements or saying 'no you're wrong'. Instead, provide information so that individuals have a balanced view of the situation."
  • "As an engineering manager in a tough market, we tend to try to retain people, sometimes viewing people as a number. But there are times where people might not be in the right set of mind and so we need to be empathetic towards that. If someone is in a position that is not good for their long-term health or career then helping them leave is fine."

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Rishit Shah

Senior Director of Engineering at Podium


Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyCulture DevelopmentEngineering ManagementPerformance ReviewsFeedback TechniquesCareer GrowthCareer ProgressionSkill Development

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