How Would You React?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Writing at Dev-Human Pascal de Vink describes some of the things he learned by becoming the leader of his software development team. I was surprised that some of these were things he had to learn, but others were exactly the kinds of things that have blindsided me in leadership positions in the past, and for similar reasons. Doubtless, others, having different personal strengths and weaknesses from me, would have different reactions to these same items. And then there were things like the below:

Just a couple of days in on the job, people suddenly wanted to talk to me about sickness, their personal problems, vacation days, being stuck in their jobs, etc. A lot of these problems could be met with a healthy dose of common sense, but the stories I sometimes heard really stuck with me. I was really unprepared for any of these stories. I started to make the problems my own and instead of taking proper distance, I let my empathy get the upper hand. Being the person that I am, I started to process these problems unconsciously during my sleep and dreamed about them. This even led to a mild form of sleep deprivation at which point I had to actively take distance. Although I really felt like helping people with their problems, I couldn't be the superhero they needed. All I could be was a listening ear and perhaps make it a little easier for them to be a part of the team. This was a harsh lesson for me though.
I haven't had this kind of experience, but I guess that I'd probably react to a large number of such problems by maintaining or establishing emotional distance. Where this head-up helps me is as a warning not to allow myself to become jaded, and to try to make it clear that I am sympathetic. (I have been told that I sometimes strike people as stand-offish.) Considering the list further, it occurs to me that almost all of the points are the kind of things that it is worth pondering how one might react, and what one might need to do to improve, or what one might need to watch out for. I am grateful to de Vink for both the scouting report and his example of introspection. I am sure that many will find it useful.

-- CAV

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