Ok, so one day I’m a full-fledged engineer, the next it’s time to focus on people instead of code. Where do I start?

Caring personally

If I were to say what I see as most important, I would say - establishing trust. How do I do that? By talking. A lot. I have set fixed, biweekly one to one meetings to have plenty of space to discuss how everyone’s doing. I’m not interested in just work details. I am willing to look holistically at the person, as career choices are determined by factors much wider than work environment itself. Maybe you’re focused on your family or hobby far more than work. If so, it’s not surprising that You’re not putting your whole heart into work and again - that’s perfectly ok. If we can discuss that honestly I can then get a feeling of where you are now and where can you possibly go in the near future.

Being vulnerable

All of this is however not really possible if I don’t open up myself first. I should only expect honesty if I am honest myself - it shouldn’t go the other way around as my behaviour should serve as an example. Radical Candor also underlines vulnerability. What do I mean by that? Well, showing that You’re not perfect, that You make mistakes as well. Being vulnerable also means that You are open to receive feedback with grace and be able to accept it, even if it stings. The case, yet again, is that You should not expect the team members to accept constructive feedback (critique), if You don’t show how You handle it first. Therefore it’s Your responsibility to learn to be thankful for feedback, to be aware of non-violent communication, to soak in all of those skills that You will then expect from Your team members. If You, yourself, act passive-aggressive, don’t be surprised if You are in a situation, when it’s used against You in the same manner You did before. Believe it or not, but others will follow Your own behaviour. If You set bad examples, they will backfire.

Filling the cup

There is also something called trust capital. Similiar to its monetary counterpart, You accumulate trust with other people doing things for them and using up the savings, when You ask for a favour. It’s all presented well in a book called “Głaskologia” written by a Polish author - Milosz Brzezinski. He uses a metaphor of a chocolate mug, we all hold, when interacting with other people. Good deeds, favours and praising means adding a little chocolate into someone’s mug. Ask for something, or criticise, and You take a spoonful or two from it. This metaphor also draws an important conclusion. You have to fill the cup in first, to be able to drink from it later. If You try scraping the bottom of an empty one, don’t expect the person to be interested in Your feedback, or doing You any favours.

Off for a good start

I mentioned 3 factors that I find especially important. Building trust through honest discussions, ranging from work ambitions to one’s hobbies, pets, things that the second person finds important. The more You are willing to really get to know the one sitting opposite to You, the better You’re going to understand their motivations and ambitions. Secondly, showing that You’re vulnerable may be pretty hard, but sends a clear signal, that everyone else can be as well. If You try to position yourself as someone who does not make mistakes, don’t expect others to admit to theirs. The third bulletpoint relates to the first one. Get ready to work on Your relationship with Your peers first, before trying to apply any changes to the team, because distrust and lack of commitment will kill even the best of ideas. Good luck!