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Tips For Your First Leadership Role

Leadership
Embracing Failures
Team Reaction
New Manager

19 July, 2021

Bogdan Chebac
Bogdan Chebac

Engineering Manager at (Undisclosed)

Bogdan Chebac, Engineering Manager at Gorgias, shares his experiences listening actively during the 1:1s and organizing his team effectively.

Problem

It was my first time being in a leadership role. Even though I informally worked at that position throughout the years, that was the first time I was assigned a demo and I was responsible for my whole team. Regrettably, the problem that I encountered was thinking that everyone had the same goals as myself. I was experienced, and I worked hard through my path — i.e., being in an engineering team, I was responsible for filling and working with developers. For engineers, I was there to handle their career growth, resolve any blocks, guide them from a technical perspective, and give them a general sense of direction.

At first, people started cancelling their 1:1s with me. In that regard, the time they spent with me was rather low because they did not seem to enjoy it. I assumed that everyone was just on the same page as me; or they were trying to achieve the same goals as me. There is no question on how much I am driven by career growth, and being an overachiever, and that was perhaps one of my biggest mistakes. Later, as soon as I discovered that I started bringing in changes to it so that they looked forward to the sessions with them. When we tracked the team’s performance, we saw a massive improvement.

Actions taken

I pushed my agenda onto my team, thinking I would do them a favour. I made them give presentations, allowed them to go to conferences, and learned different online training pieces. It sounded great and created opportunities, but then again it was not something that everyone wanted.

Some people were happy the way they were and did not want to grow, while others wanted to work and gain more experience and get more comfortable in their skin. So, I thought the presentations, workshops etc. would help in CV and career growth. They sat well and were familiar with everyone; the one-on-one became like a friendly talk like, ‘how are you, how is your family, how things are going’. That is how they became solid and organized.

Later, I lost that personal touch with my team, so they no longer saw me as a leader but someone to inspire them. They did not see me as their boss, who was barking out orders even though I had the proper intentions to help them. It did not come out well, and this is where I failed.

I was disappointed when I found this out. I was devastated, but also, I had a problem-solving driven mind. I immediately stopped feeling sorry for myself and thought I must do something about it. They must trust me back; they were my team. They deserve better. Those people work hard for the company and me. Someone must care for them better, and I was going to be that person.

I went in front of all of them, apologized for my guilt, and promised them everything would be better. My team collectively, not everyone, felt that I was doing a lousy job. However, they mutually decided to give me another chance because I was able and willing to admit all my mistakes, and admitted my failures which meant a lot to them.

Lessons learned

  • Listening was one of the most valuable things I learned in my career. For me, actively listening is the hardest thing, like sitting and listening and taking people’s information. I partook in it when I had 1:1s with my team. I sat there and listened to their needs, what they liked, what they did not. I created a growth plan based on their needs. This is something that I would have done, and that is how I could win the trust. I was able to learn how to listen actively. Most importantly, I could no longer project my needs and desires on listening to other people's needs and wishes. I am learning to be there, physically, and mentally. That helped me throughout my whole career.
  • Not every manager is a leader. As I grew in my role, I acted as the role model, the more things came into control. I helped them to clear their visions and encouraged them to reach their goals. As a team leader, I wanted to take responsibility and help others to succeed in their roles.

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