Back to resources

Building Trust or Doing a Reorg

Leadership
Psychological Safety

27 February, 2021

Amitav Chakravartty
Amitav Chakravartty

Ex CTO at Vaycayhero

Amitav Chakravartty, ex-CTO at Vaycayhero, shares his dilemma: should he restructure his malfunctioning team or build trust with them.

Problem

As a senior engineering leader, I was assigned a team that was deeply demoralized and barely functional. People were leaving the team, and everything was falling apart. I felt that the circumstances were so dire that no repair would do any good. The only reasonable way out was to start everything from scratch by reorganizing the team. Or perhaps, I should take a more taxing approach and try to build trust with the team.

Actions taken

I was hesitant to take any action at first because the big release was just around the corner, and I was new and could see how the team was distrustful toward me as a new person who joined their clique. Many managers would take a shortcut there, firing a number of people and turning things upside down. But this was not what I did.

I wanted to get to know the team better, learn about their pain points and challenges. I wanted to better understand what was causing them to be so unmotivated that leaving the team was their only option. To encourage them to speak up, I had to create a psychologically safe environment. I started creating it by talking openly about my own failures, times of despair, and times when I couldn’t find an ounce of motivation to get through a day.

People started to open up and share their concerns. The team had multiple managers who all failed to help the team what they needed the most. They thought they weren’t represented well to external stakeholders and that there was no clarity on the direction the team should take.

I decided to address their concerns most diligently. I reshuffled the team cross-functionally, did some redefining of responsibilities, and opened up communication channels; the immediate effects were soon visible. To be able to delve into such a large undertaking, I had to gain trust with the team. Establishing psychological safety helped, but my efforts to deal with their main problems were also helpful. Once I gained their trust, nothing would stand in my way.

Lessons learned

  • As a manager, you will have to make the first move. You will have a myriad of choices in front of you, and making the right one is crucial. Perhaps, in different circumstances, I would have made a different choice and restructured the team. Think it through, and make the right choice.
  • Before introducing any change, gain the trust of the team that would be affected. Share with them your own pain points or failures, or anything that will help them better connect with you. It is important to explain that their state or situation is not uncommon for many teams or many companies and that many also successfully overcame the same challenges.
  • Empathy is crucial. To gain trust, you need to connect with people and be able to yourself in their shoes. For some people, it comes naturally; others need to practice.

Discover Plato

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


Related stories

Leaving Room to Say Things Suck — Leadership Lessons from “Ted Lasso”

17 August

A major sign of trust, comfortability, and vulnerability is for someone you lead to be able to say something sucks.

Building A Team
Company Culture
Leadership
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
John Hartley

John Hartley

Senior Engineering Manager at Curology

How to Maintain Happiness: The Underrated Aspect of Creating Team Dynamic

2 August

Jonathan Ducharme, Engineering Manager at AlleyCorp Nord, encourages the importance of a workplace environment that cultivates mental wellness.

Personal Growth
Company Culture
Leadership
Internal Communication
Psychological Safety
Jonathan Ducharme

Jonathan Ducharme

Engineering Manager at AlleyCorp Nord

Scaling a Team in Two Parts: The Product and Manager

2 August

Viswa Mani Kiran Peddinti, Sr Engineering Manager at Instacart, walks through his experience scaling a team, product and his skills as a leader.

Managing Expectations
Product
Scaling Team
Leadership
Meetings
Viswa Mani Kiran Peddinti

Viswa Mani Kiran Peddinti

Sr Engineering Manager at Instacart

Congratulations you're an Engineering Manager! Now What?

29 July

Congratulations, you have just been promoted to an engineering management role. Once you are done celebrating the promotion you have worked hard to earn you might start to ask yourself, now what do I do?

Leadership
New Manager
AJ St. Aubin

AJ St. Aubin

Director Software Engineering at The RepTrak Company

Leading A (Distributed) Team? Foster "Above the Line" Behaviors.

12 July

No online tool will address your team's ability to connect, collaborate, and deliver results if the individuals don't bring the right mindset to work.

Changing A Company
Building A Team
Company Culture
Leadership
Ownership
Ram Singh

Ram Singh

CTO at REAL Engagement & Loyalty