Take charge and lead

I am now working as a manager role taking charge and lead a small team. There are a lot of skills required to perform well for my jobs, such as technical knowledge, emotional intelligence and negotiation. It is a diverse group of people with different cultures and timezones both at my company and on the client-side. It is particularly important to be able to balance between tasks over relationships.

Sometimes I could feel the imposter syndrome that there are many talents in the team to manage. However, I realise it is important to have a growth mindset, understand that I could learn and grow to be a better manager. It is the power of belief on myself and the team that we can continuously improve together over time.

For example, I have a fear of public speaking, when there is a meeting with a large group of members, it was harder for me to speak up and voice my concerns. Later on, after talking with my peer, I realise I am not unique as many members have the same worry despite we have an open culture for feedback.

So I start to practice and learn how to give feedback, even though it could be difficult in some situations. It is a matter of skills and will, and it is valuable for me and the team to be able to communicate, such that we could all improve on the quality of our work.

I could adopt the SBI framework, which stands for describing the Situation, Behavior and Impact of that behaviour. I could learn how to give constructive feedback with the best intention in mind, to help that person and the team to become a high performance in the future. We could build trust and space to rectify problems instead of accusation and attack personally.

There are many dilemmas to handle as a manager, especially I cannot change people if they are not willing to change. Instead, active listening to understand how the others feel, ask leading questions to take different opinions, try to help with personal stories as examples. I could then be a better manager to bring a positive impact.

To be a better transition from an individual contributor to a better manager, I would also need to motivate myself and others to overcome challenges and obstacles. This could be done by coaching and supporting the team during the transition.

It would be rewarding for both myself and the team by building a supportive culture, provide specific and timely feedback to each other, balance positive (motivational) and negative (development) feedback, understand unique strengths and weakness areas of the members, thus tailor coaching to the individual and situation.

Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them. I could facility and fosters my members for their long term development. I could prepare to coach by being fully present for and focused on the coachee, be aware of my mindset and that of the coachee, practice empathic listening and ask open questions.

The GROW framework is useful in coaching, which stands for Goal you want, Reality of today, Options for action and Will take these steps. I have a coach in public speaking for example, and I could take objective measurable goals to better a better public speaker.

Besides, as a good manager, I would need to take charge in decision making. This includes exploring other’s reasoning, concern and interest, encourage challenge, synthesis others’ views in my own words, test my understanding of the other’s concerns, capture the others full meaning expressed in their situation, debate and commit making sure everyone got heard.

I should adopt the decision-making framework, which is What (what are you solving for and are the objectives clear to everyone), Why (what’s the stake if I do or do not do it and why it is important), Who (is everyone clear who the decision-maker is), How (how will the decision make, such as consensus-driven) and When (when can people expect a decision). As a result, I could get the teams to agree and take action.

In general, there are more challenges as a leader in decision making, such as unconscious biases and emotional triggers. Bias impedes the quality of decisions. Confirmation bias means more likely to select the information that supports pre-existing attitudes and beliefs. Availability bias means the tendency to assess the relative importance of issues by the ease with which they are retrieved from memory. The anchoring effect is the misconception that I influenced by a reference point. I would need the awareness to avoid these biases.

It is also important to have awareness of everyone emotions, such as the experiencing of threats or embarrassment create a stress reaction. Defensiveness comes then posturing or face-saving kick in. I should have a collaborative mindset.

Besides, to be a better manager, I could adopt the RACI framework, which stands for who is Responsible? who is Accountable? who is Consulted and who is Informed? This would help to declare the style of decision making upfront, early in the discussion. Also, it empowers the team with a good structure, balances the need for speed with the need for buy-in. The time is taken to gain buy-in accelerate the time to implement.

Overall, a good people manager is a good coach, empowers the team and does not micromanage, creates an inclusive team environment. A bad manager would bring the team down, making everyone demotivated and frustrated. I had a bad manager in the past, so I could understand how destructive it could be, especially since people are the most valuable assets for a company to succeed.

Now I have been given a chance to be a manager, so I need to constantly remind myself not to be a bad manager, who is incapable and not able to communicate.

Instead, I would need a positive mindset to believe in myself I could be a better manager. This goal is not just for myself personally, it would also be beneficial to my team and the company. Overall, we spend most of our time at work, and I should cultivate a good culture.

By Victor Leung

Experience in software development, consulting services and technical product management. Understanding of business and technology with an MBA in Finance and a Master degree in Computer Science. AWS Certified Solution Architect with experience in building products from scratch and serving as a charismatic leader.

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