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Why Establishing Long-Term Relationship With Your Manager Can Benefit You

Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Motivation

8 July, 2021

Stephe Evans
Stephe Evans

VP Engineering at ACV Auctions

Stephe Evans, VP of Engineering at ACV, shares how he maintained a long-term relationship with an employee and helped him develop his career over time.

Problem

I first met Mike (pseudonym) in 2008, and we hired him as a front-end developer at one of the companies I worked at. Undoubtedly, he was one of the most experienced developers, working in the field for quite some time. I had merely taken over as the CTO at a large organization, and it was my first time in a large technology leadership role. I was certain that as the newly appointed CTO I might have been making quite a bit of mistakes, but one of the things I was trying to do was hire a manager for one of the engineering teams. In tune with that, I was having a hard time looking for someone who would be a great fit.

Everyone in the team knew that the role was open as they had seen the previous person leave. At one point, Mike raised his hand and agreed to take on the responsibilities as a manager. We put him through an interview process, where he did pretty well with the various stakeholders. After rolling the dice, they promoted him into the new management role. He immediately had quite a lot of success. The team had a good amount of turnovers, but Mike had turned everything around.

A couple of years later, I moved on into another company while he stayed and grew his management skills. Cutting to the chase, we still have a relationship after 13 years, and we worked together in 4 different companies. Eventually, it was time to spread my wings, and so at a certain point, Mike moved into the role that I used to have, meaning he no longer reported to me. As we became peers for a few years, I left that role as well, and he took over a more significant scope than I would have ever had the opportunity.

Actions taken

As I moved up through my career as a leader, I looked back at Mike and helped him climb the ladder with me. I wanted someone whom I could rely on. It was a kind of scheme of new opportunities. And that was how he moved into a big role while I moved into a bigger one. It was a synergistic game of how I had gotten more responsibilities and needed more people to help me manage the bigger role.

Mike and I had developed beyond a friendship. It was a long-term mentoring relationship that was based on trust and allowed us to have honest conversations. Furthermore, it was like a two-way street, where we developed opportunities for each other. Based on the roles that we had played together, I experienced that he was able to challenge me based on my assumptions as a leader.

It has reached a point where he has off, driving as the leader with many scoping responsibilities. Now, we have a much more pure relationship, where I no longer have to “mentor” him on how he would climb the next steps of the ladder. The long-term mentor-mentee relationship drove the desired work in that environment that naturally emerged role after role.

Lessons learned

  • The best way to build a team is by doing it with people you may already trust. It is indeed fulfilling to work with individuals in different environments and help them in their career development over a long period of time.
  • The relationships you establish through your journey with some people are more important than any other work itself; delivery work, technical work, or achieving business goals. It is a people sport, and the biggest payoff is developing some strong, trusted relationships.
  • It is great to have a mentor who would shelter you from learning something new the more brutal way.

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