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Why It Is Time to Think About Women Leadership

Leadership
Diversity
New Manager
Health / Stress / Burn-Out

4 August, 2021

Rohini Babygirija

Rohini Babygirija

Product Owner at Danske IT

Rohini Babygirija, Engineering Chapter Lead at Danske IT, shares her fascinating journey of making bolder and wiser decisions as a woman leader in the tech world.

Problem

In the last generation in India, there were not too many women leaders in the corporate world. Although recently we see massive growth in women leaders, the situation was somewhat different. Diversity and inclusion is still not a part of every industry that we work in. Naturally, it had caused ample difficulties for me in the initial stage of my career. I faced situations where I had quite many difficulties dealing with people; they behaved differently when I was their peer, and that behavior changed when I became their manager.

People started talking behind my back, and I started feeling that pressure that something might be wrong. Even though I had not changed as a person with my title/designation at work, I felt the environment around me certainly did. I might have come up with an idea where people would straight up say no, and I would have to convince them a lot more as opposed to a male manager. I became more aware of this when I noticed that our ex-manager, a male, would pass on the same information and get quicker results, while I was in no luck. Almost a quarter passed away, and I felt that I had too much on my plate. At one point, I found myself in a position of stress, where I did not even have a work-life balance anymore. That was when I knew that I had to take some actions to resolve the problem.

Actions taken

Going back to 8 years ago, when I first became the manager, I stepped out of my haven and started bi-weekly catch-ups, which was mandatory. I figured out that some people need some help in terms of their personal life, where they need extra flexibility. Of course, as a manager, I was empathetic, and I approved certain flexibility so that they would place their leap of faith in me.

In essence, I spoke to some of my mentors, who were also women managers, and got some valuable advice. I used one of my strengths — women are naturally stronger when it comes to building relationships and being empathetic than men. As per my mentor, I coined those skills; rather than being a vague person, I was genuine and showed genuine interests to the team. I had to build a trusting relationship with and among my team members so that the problems go away.

I started working on the perception of people, along with the trust and empathy factors. It yielded mind-blowing results, where I found people were willing to go the extra mile if I had requested. That was because of the connection that I built with them, and it worked as a savior that helped us work together for a better future.

There was a time when I walked out of a meeting room in an angry mood. However, after a couple of days, I did realize that it could have been handled in a completely different way. As time went on, I groomed myself as a well-rounded professional in my field. I took the lessons from each and every situation and worked hard on it to become better than I was yesterday.

I read a book on "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie, which gave me crucial lessons in building my network. Besides, we had a women's network in our company, which became a comfort zone for many of us. We started sharing the common everyday problems to get a solution out of everything. Gradually, I started becoming more and more confident and booming.

Nonetheless, I started talking with my team members over 1:1s. This is something that most managers do, and so did I. I wanted to flush out every detail from my teammates and get to know what exactly was in their mind. Notably, in the work from home situation, it has not been any easier.

Lessons learned

  • To my understanding, people management is never easy, but it is not impossible. Know that people are not computers; they come with a lot of emotional baggage that we might not be aware of. Seeing the tip of the iceberg in any person cannot help us conclude into anything.
  • Not everyone can be managed in the same way. You need to understand the real need or the motivation of a person that drives them to work. I was only able to understand those feelings once I stepped into the shoes of a manager.
  • A manager can not always be a friend. Having to keep a helicopter view of everything in the organization and a set of levers might become complicated to maintain relationships.
  • Do not commit to everything; you have to slowly gauge and become charged up. Of course, as the manager you will feel obligated to take on every responsibility that comes your way, but eventually you will find that you do not have enough time in your day and that you will be burnt out. Take it slow, build your connections, and support others in need.

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