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Reaching Out to a Struggling Peer

Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Team Processes
Cultural Differences

21 June, 2021

Kushal Dalal, Director of Engineering at Suzy, took it upon himself to pull a new colleague out of a rut, acting as a culture buddy, welcoming his peer into the company officially.

Problem

I was working as a senior engineering manager, and we had another engineering manager join in another department, marketing technology. I saw them struggling with some of the nitty gritty of the job. They were looking for help, but hesitant to ask for it from others.

I decided to extend a hand. I invited them out for a coffee and offered myself as a culture buddy. I wanted to understand what they were looking for and where they felt that they were unable to perform. They were reluctant at first, but eventually began to share with me what they were dealing with.

Essentially, they felt as though they were being misdirected in terms of priority. They were a new face in a new place, struggling to acclimate to the culture of our company.

Actions taken

I had been working at the company for a while before they had joined, so I knew a good amount about how things operated within those walls. We were in a lot of common meetings, and, though we managed different types of work, I could see where they were having some issues. Due to a lack of delegating ability, they would often be so busy that they showed up late to these group meetings.

They were struggling to navigate which tasks were really important, and which ones could safely be delegated or put off for a few hours or days. I shared with this person a bit of what I was doing as far as planning was concerned. I gave them a bucket model; you can sort through what is important and what is less important in this way. From here, it would be easy for them to delegate some of the work to their team members.

I was able to get them to be prioritizing things more effectively. I taught them how to say no in a way that, within the culture of the company, was acceptable. They were communicating more effectively with their team than before, as well as with our peers in product and other departments.

I, myself, try to sort through my responsibilities in terms of when they must be met. I have created a small chart for myself with everything that I need to do on it. I go down the list and decide what must be done today and what can wait for later. I also make note of what I will do myself and what I will delegate to others. I advised this person to use the chart every morning to plan out their day.

After a while, this person became totally independent, doing everything by themselves as a leader. Delegation and empowerment became two things that they really ended up excelling in.

Lessons learned

  • In the real world, people just want to have things done. You have to be able to prioritize accordingly.
  • Always have an end goal in mind when planning out your day, week, or month. That way, if something unexpected comes up, the most important things will already be taken care of.
  • You need to learn how to ask others for help when you need it. Always reach out to a peer or a manager if you’re struggling.

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