Back to resources

Actions That Help Leaders Grow

Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Meetings
Performance

15 September, 2021

Bertrand Dubaut
Bertrand Dubaut

Director of Engineering at Zivver

Bertrand Dubaut, Director of Engineering at Zivver, explains how it was tough to grow an open dialogue culture and describes how to mitigate it.

Problem

Cultivating an open conversation culture can be challenging because people are more reserved in their thoughts. As a manager, I tend to experiment a lot in my management style and get great candid opinions out of direct reports, and I realized that it was not something easy. I realized that some people might as well open up during 1:1s and coaching conversations, but the best was when they had "a plate in front of them."

Over the years, I found that people do not always feel safe or comfortable sharing how they feel with their manager. In today's world, everything is different — it is no longer a one-way street where the manager would speak, and the team would directly listen and report to it. It is more like a conversation, especially for the coaching conversations for performance reviews. Most of the time, what interests a manager is how their team members are doing and what is in their minds. Previously, I took some of them for a walk around the building or to the meeting room for chit-chat, but nothing worked out as wonderfully as when I did take them out for lunch. Sharing a plate is one of the oldest ways to discuss things, and it works just as well for 1:1s, as when we “break bread” with our colleague!

So, how can a manager have free-flowing conversations with their team members?

Actions taken

I tried multiple approaches: formal chats in a meeting room, a walk around the block, etc. When I see a dip in someone’s performance, I do not draw conclusions from it. I would take matters into my hand, just how we solve problems together at home in a family, and then call a meeting. I began by having breakfast meetings with them, but it did not really work out. I realized that they were not fully awake during the mornings, and would not really want to open up, plus the commute, so I had to change my approach.

A monthly lunch is usually where I get more into the nitty-gritty of things that help me have the right impact. When you are new in an organization, you will find yourself not being able to mix with others. People come to you with words of authority, like — should I do this? Can I do that or if I do this what will happen etc. That allowed me to tell them I do not want you to use this vocabulary with me and tell me more about what you intend to do. Do it and after that, we could have a conversation regarding the ramifications. Instead of giving permission, I wanted to change the narrative.

For a moment, I did not leave any stone unturned to help others grow in their careers in any way. Instead of saying what they should be doing, I communicated my experiences with them, so that became a learning curve for others. Plus, before jumping into any decisions, I weighed the pros and cons and tried to be rational. Before I was a tech manager, I used to be an athlete, and I had been coaching teams. It was not easy to get a group of teenagers to do anything on the field, and it was almost the same as managing a group of engineers.

This made them become terrific actors, and now they are able to take the absolute spot-on decisions and proceed. So, in the end, it is just finding the right environment for the outcome to happen, like the delivery and the predictability of the team, all the way down to having the right information and content to help people drive their careers.

Lessons learned

  • Don’t force growth down people’s throats if they don’t want to. Not everyone desires to become a Staff Software Engineer within 3 years of joining a company! Someone can be just fine performing well at mid or senior level, and that’s fine! I think that would be the advice, make sure that you understand what your people want out of their job.

Discover Plato

Scale your coaching effort for your engineering and product teams
Develop yourself to become a stronger engineering / product leader


Related stories

What Makes a Great One-on-One?

25 October

Shubhro Roy, Engineering Manager at Box, establishes a steady rhythm of mentorship by planning bi-weekly one-on-ones with his direct reports.

Meetings
Leadership
Feedback
Shubhro Roy

Shubhro Roy

Engineering Manager at box

The Journey Into Management

25 October

Shubhro Roy, Engineering Manager at Box, thought long and hard about making his move before finally breaking in as a leader in his own right.

New Manager
Feedback
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Shubhro Roy

Shubhro Roy

Engineering Manager at box

An Engineer’s Place in Product Creation

25 October

James Andrew (Andy) Vaughn, Principal Technical Product Manager at AppFolio, speaks on the mutually beneficial partnership between product managers and engineering leadership and its relation to a harmonious product development organization.

Roadmap
Different Skillsets
Reorganization
Toxic Atmospheres
Internal Communication
Meetings
James (Andy) Vaughn

James (Andy) Vaughn

Principal Technical Product Manager at AppFolio

Take Opportunities to Think Like a Product Manager

25 October

James Andrew (Andy) Vaughn, Principal Technical Product Manager at AppFolio, speaks on his fascination with high-performing software and how it led him to create a feature for a company that increased sales.

Performance
Customers
Internal Communication
James (Andy) Vaughn

James (Andy) Vaughn

Principal Technical Product Manager at AppFolio

How to Hire, Train, and Align a Technology Team

25 October

Maulik Bengali, founder and CTO of Ajackus, shares how he scaled his technology team from 18 employees to 80 within 18 months.

Hiring
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Cultural Differences
Career Path
Maulik Bengali

Maulik Bengali

CTO at Ajackus

You're a great engineer.
Become a great engineering leader.

Plato (platohq.com) is the world's biggest mentorship platform for engineering managers & product managers. We've curated a community of mentors who are the tech industry's best engineering & product leaders from companies like Facebook, Lyft, Slack, Airbnb, Gusto, and more.