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Lesson #9: Leading with empathy
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Leading with empathy
Life is a lot right now. Professional life, personal life – there’s little break in the chaos for anyone. We’re all aware of this. Needing to adapt to an ever-changing environment with a lot of unknowns will always be here, but as you move up in your career, it becomes more and more pertinent to be a model for your team and lead with empathy.
By prioritizing empathy, engineering leaders can create an environment where all team members feel seen, heard, and valued. Every engineering environment has its own unique culture that consists of both leaders and ICs alike. This means that as leaders, we don’t control the culture, but we do influence the culture in both goo ways and bad.
Empathy is a value and should be rooted in the core of your engineering culture. What does this look like in practice?
Prioritizing diversity and inclusion in hiring practices. When building a team, prioritize hiring diverse candidates and creating an inclusive workplace culture that welcomes and values all backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. When your product is used by everyone, it should also be built by everyone.
Fostering psychological safety. Psychological safety is crucial for creating a workplace where team members feel comfortable taking risks, sharing ideas, and making mistakes without fear of retribution or judgment. Encourage open communication, constructive feedback, and a culture of learning and growth.
Being an active listener. Engineering leaders who actively listen to their team members demonstrate empathy and build trust. Encourage team members to share their perspectives, actively listen to what they have to say, and respond thoughtfully and respectfully. Keyword here is actively. We’re all busy. If it’s clear in your 1:1 you’re not actually paying attention, your team will notice.
Leading by example. Demonstrate empathy and model the behavior you want to see in your team. If you’re telling everyone to go left and you go right, they won’t understand why, nor will they feel the need to follow through if they don’t see you following through.
Cultural shifts do not happen overnight. If empathy is not currently a value in your engineering culture and you’d like it to be, don’t abruptly make changes to the way your team operates (see fostering psychological safety). Ease into any changes, see how they’re sitting with the team, and continue moving forward towards empathy becoming a core tenet of your engineering culture.
What I’m reading
I’m still reading High Output Management. I also read 4 romance books in the past 2 weeks but I don’t think you’re here for that. I also started Too Big to Fail thanks to the SVB collapse.
Check out the full book list for recommendations and an ever-growing reading list.
Note: Links to books in this section are affiliate links to help support the purchase of the rest of my books :)
What I’m working on
I’m traveling for the next 4 weeks for both work and fun. Mostly just trying to keep up with the ever-growing to-do list to enable these trips to be a success.
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