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Resiliency — the Ability to Bounce Back

Deadlines
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Psychological Safety
Embracing Failures
Team Reaction

19 July, 2021

Bogdan Chebac, Engineering Manager at Gorgias, shares how he adapted to difficult experiences and drew support from the team despite tough setbacks.

Problem

My work was related to a team, where I was given leadership over the delivery side of the application and supervision of engineering that we were working on curating people. People also tested it to make sure it was fine. I was very eager to prove myself within the company. That was one of the biggest challenges I faced; trying to prove myself. I spent as much time as possible in the group offering career management, project management, risk management, and unfortunately did not spend as much on relationship-building. I was trying to maximize those 8 working hours out of my whole day, and in theory, that sounded great.

However, in reality, my team felt that I neglected them. I was busy creating workshops and training sessions for the team that was deemed as the basic stuff. I was a little clueless as my team expected me to spend time getting to know them personally or to see them as who they really were. I was working from a different city, and that made things more difficult — i.e., not enough 1:1s. Naturally, the team felt neglected and started to think that I was neglecting them for non-essential stuff.

Furthermore, we had some issues within our team, where we had a specific tight deadline that needed to be addressed. The project manager along with the team learned that two weeks before the delivery, they forgot to add one of the features on the tools that we were using to track our work. It meant that we were not going to risk Jira.

I called to share our plan and to ensure that we found out that we were missing a feature, which put our deadline at risk. It escalated when senior leadership found out it was not good for us, especially the directors. It demonstrated that the team was doing a lousy job and I was not managing the project efficiently. We hit the release by making people work overtime, which they were willing to do, but did create a lot of stress to the team.

I was the person responsible for this as I was too far from the team, not delving deep enough into issues and preventing those missing features. It caused frustration among some of the team members, and they shared that with me. Some of them did not want to share with me because feedback is a gift at the end of the day, and you give it to someone you care about. My team did not want to give me a chance. They tried to complain about me but it did not help me improve.

I was receiving a lot of praise before all of that happened, but when all of a sudden this failure appeared, everyone started complaining about me as a manager. I was able to do everything right and took care of the team, however, I was somewhat devastated when I heard that some people did not feel that I was doing a great job. Some people were feeling bad, and it was my responsibility to improve them and their work lives.

Actions taken

All I did was listen actively and I tried to hear back from everyone. I knew that I messed up, and that was when feedback played its role. It is impossible to improve if you don't get any feedback. At one point, I decided that it was time for a change in myself.

I did not hesitate to apologize to everyone during the 1:1s with each member of the team. Moreover, I made it clear that I needed their support to grow. By being vulnerable in front of them, the people who were having a hard time opening up, shared their real frustrations with me. My vulnerability had allowed them to be real and talk openly in front of me. In all honesty, it was one of the hardest phases of my career.

Going back to when we missed the feature, which caused the overtime; that was when I created a roadmap, released a plan and shared it with the whole team. This was my way of resurrecting the situation. Then, the product manager made sure that people looked over it in detail and knew what we were to remove. I did take care of all their needs and made sure that problems got resolved because I did not want to repeat my mistake. Of course, it was a matter of time and energy when I had to connect with everyone on a personal level, but I had to do what I had to do. Besides, the remote environment made it worse.

My actions helped to improve the situation a lot. It made people feel that I was closer to my target, but in my head, I was not. I stopped doing training or workshops outside the team for 2 - 3 months. Instead, I delegated a lot of the tasks so that their focus remained on me. Finally, I got the support I needed on a day-to-day basis, which put me in the spotlight of the senior leadership. They started to build their trust on me again because they saw how I could align the product based on what was needed.

Lessons learned

  • Try to absorb information that comes your way. For example, with my current team, we did not use Jira, but we used the inner, and I ensured all my projects were laid out in a place where it was easy to share it with everyone.
  • Learn to plan and organize. It’s never too late to prioritize the important things in the team, like the 1:1s. Be there with your team, even if it is not physical presence, but talk to them, build a deep-rooting understanding relationship. If needed, talk about their lives, learn what inspires them and create a friendly relationship with them.
  • Never make your team members feel neglected. You might think that they have all your attention, but in actuality, they might need a lot more help. So, go on, ask them questions, communicate and be more responsible, instead of keeping a low-level view.

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