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Nurturing EQ to manage high performing teams

Feelings Aside
Conflict Solving
Collaboration
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Juniors
Career Path

29 August, 2018

Raju Menon
Raju Menon

VP Engineering at Sunrun

While Emotional Intelligence is a very broad topic, I will try and provide a tiny view based on some practical example that I had to face. There is a nature versus nurture aspect to Emotional Intelligence. Some managers have it by nature, while for others, it needs to be nurtured.

Problem

Our line manager came to me to discuss how his lead developer was being too defensive and not listening to his rational reasonings on a new automation framework he had just created to help her and the team.
Some background: The initial framework and test suites created a few years back were getting obsolete due to a fundamental shift in the product architecture. A group of developers, as part of our hackweek project, came up with a proof of concept for a new framework. The idea was for the team to adopt this new framework and transition the legacy test cases to this new framework over a period of time. During this transitional period, when framework deficiencies came to light, the line manager took it upon himself to write an entirely new framework from ground up that was more efficient than the one developed by the team. He immediately set up a meeting with the lead developer and the team to transition and adopt this new framework. He also set up a meeting with me to showcase the new framework and demo its new functionality.

Actions taken

Firstly it was important for me to acknowledge the work he had done and view his demo in earnest. Once I had absorbed the data and the outflow of emotions related to his new framework, we started discussing why he felt there was resistance to his work. Though he acknowledged that his lead developer had also written a framework, and that could be the reason, he failed to understand why she did not objectively see that his framework was better. During our discussions I asked him to spend some time introspecting the issue, from a lens of empathy and role reversal. By the time we had our meeting the next day, he started to see glimpses of how he had gone wrong with his approach to resolving the original problem, and had also introduced a new one. I listened to his thought process, justifications and we had a good collaborative conversation. While I was genuinely tempted to jump in and help resolve the friction, I resisted this temptation, and asked him to see if he could fix this himself, and if needed, I would be more than happy to jump in. He then figured out a solution that resulted in multiple meetings with the lead developer and team. They took the best of both worlds and agreed to use the framework created by the developer with the efficiencies that the he had introduced. He also understood where she came from and the reasons for her reluctance. She had spent countless hours on her own to get the new framework up and running. The final outcome was a good buy-in from the lead developer, a better solution from a framework perspective, and a path forward with an intrinsically motivated and cohesive team Lessons learned Lesson 1: As a leader you have to be always aware of the strategic big picture, team dynamics and roadmaps, but sometimes short term conflicts or roadblocks are actually good in building a stronger and cohesive team. Lesson 2: Give space and time for your new managers to grow in their roles. Do not solve all issues for them (unless it is strategically detrimental or time sensitive for business). It is important to give them an opportunity to figure out a path forward, from these tough interpersonal conflict situations, before you jump in to resolve it. The best long term outcomes result when you guide them into paths of self introspection and help them build their emotional intelligence. Lesson 3: Team Culture is dynamic and needs to be constantly nurtured. A strong team culture acts like a shock absorber for these small pitfalls and roadblocks your team encounters and helps build strong resilient teams. Please read Gautam Prabhu's "Finding startup leaders", which I felt was right on the money for building startup leaders (at least my experiences were aligned with his thinking!). It also provides a right base to build upon for this article.

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