Back to resources

Helping Employees Overcome Fear

Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Team Reaction
Juniors

27 May, 2021

Imran Sheikh
Imran Sheikh

Head of Design (Product / UX / Marketing) at Chartboost (A Zynga company)

Imran Sheikh, Head of Product at LiveRamp, is always looking for an opportunity to move the needle, guiding his reports to a more enriching future.

Problem

I was managing a Product Manager at one of my previous companies who expressed some interest in a vertical adjacent to her own. She was afraid, not sure if she could do it. Sometimes, I notice an employee with ambition and potential beyond the duties of their current role - an Engineer who may have talent as a data analyst, under the right circumstances. If they do not follow these interests, they will never realize this potential and achieve what they would have the power to achieve otherwise. Building your employees up in this way makes them more valuable, and increases the value that they stand to offer you and your company.

What is the worst that could happen? Many of my reports have a lot riding on their paychecks. I find that when an employee has a family or is in a situation where their financial needs are not being met, they avoid upsetting their position. People fear failure when their futures are uncertain.

Actions taken

Part of being a manager that others can rely on involves rewarding performance with safety within the company. An employee who is constantly worrying about a position that should not, logically, be in jeopardy is one who is distracted and distant from the work that they were hired to do for you in the first place.

I try to make this ethos clear to my team at every opportunity possible. My message to her: if you never try, you will never know. Failure is not the end of the world; if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, at least we tried. It’s a mental step. If you’re part of a team, that’s the whole point: safety. I let her lead some of our team meetings, creating a new pattern. My mindset is that if a person needs help, be there in the meetings until they are able to do it on their own. Now, she leads the vertical by herself.

Another Product Manager that I oversaw was very customer-focused; I directed him to pay more attention to strategy. Taking some time, even once a month, to check in with your reports with honest clarity, just to see if they’re okay.

I have a simple strategy for helping my team step into more challenging roles: if it works, it’s for you. If it doesn’t, I’ll take the blame. I’ve had managers do the same for me. It gives you a level of confidence. I’m not here to find a pain point.

Lessons learned

  • People are afraid for their jobs, which makes them more risk-averse. People need to have constant learning and sharing.
  • Keep track of peoples’ personal roles. As a leader, you manage an employee's strengths, weaknesses, and expectations. Should I invest? Where would this person’s talent be more useful? Are you mentoring your people or not? How can we get them ready for their next job?
  • Building a team means giving them the confidence that they need to grow. If you have one employee in analytics expressing an interest in data science, and another in the opposite position, cross-functional collaboration becomes possible.

Discover Plato

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


Related stories

10x engineer or 10x impact?

26 May

Hiring 10x engineers is hard for most companies. It’s a tough battle out there for talent. So how should most companies approach building their team?

Building A Team
Leadership
Hiring
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Vaidik Kapoor

Vaidik Kapoor

VP Engineering - DevOps & Security at Grofers

Growing Through Different Engineering Lead Roles

8 May

Weiyuan Liu describes his experience moving up from an individual contributor, tech lead, and engineering manager.

Leadership
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Career Path
Weiyuan Liu

Weiyuan Liu

Director of Engineering at Zillearn

Preparing For Your First Presentation: The Art of Public Speaking

8 May

Weiyuan Liu shares his insights on public speaking, such as how to prepare for your first presentation.

Different Skillsets
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Weiyuan Liu

Weiyuan Liu

Director of Engineering at Zillearn

Here to Make a Recognizable Difference: How to Develop Teams

5 May

Eric Merritt, VP of Engineering at Whitepages.com, divulges on the many complexities of developing teams in management by solving problems according to their needs, and empowering teams.

Leadership
Impact
Sharing The Vision
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Eric Merritt

Eric Merritt

VP of Engineering at Whitepages.com

How to Hire and Build High-Value Teams

4 April

Hendra Wong, Engineering Manager at Inflection, explains his tips for building teams; explaining how to hire, communicate, and set expectations for the team.

Alignment
Building A Team
Meetings
Internal Communication
Collaboration
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Hendra Wong

Hendra Wong

Engineering Manager at Checkr

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.