About a half a year ago, I was given a task to organize and lead the Customer Happiness team at ManageWP. This is my story.
I always believed that leadership was obsolete and completely redundant, and the only reason why it always existed was because people were not doing their job in a proper way – with dedication and the iron will to get things done.
In my mind, a “leader” was the person who was just observing, monitoring and watching over things, a completely unnecessary profession to exist in this world if everybody is doing what they are suppose to do.
Fog of Illusions
I cannot lie that I was thrilled to get a task to lead a team of people – I felt that it was the way I wanted to advance in the company and I was also incredibly happy that the amount of work I had before was probably going to get reduced by approximately 50%!
I imagined that instead of working in shifts the same job I was doing since I became a part of Devana, I was going to observe my “minions”, monitor the statistics and watch over my colleagues in case there was a fire in the office!
By following these footsteps (I so optimistically designed in my mind) for several weeks, I had a feeling that nothing was developing according to my “design” – there seemed to be too much work, our clients have gone crazy, there were not any suitable candidates for hiring and the last but the most important and truthful fact I “realized” was that, of course, my colleagues are obviously doing something wrong.
I found myself working three times more than I did before, without trusting in my colleagues nor in the goals of our company, I was nervous 24/7, hated my job, disappointed in everything and everyone and I felt like I needed to look up in order to see the bottom of the pit I fell into.
Since everything we perceive is just a subjective reflexion of the objective reality, I cannot say that the aforementioned “facts” I imagined were true or false, but there was no doubt that I must find a way out of this situation.
Back to reality
The thing is, I left out one crucial fact – I was not doing my job properly. I underestimated the circumstances, the position I was given and the very meaning of the word “leader” and I was the very cause of this entire situation.
I also seemed to forget a phenomenon I encountered when I first came to Devana, a golden rule that drives this company forward – the task ownership rule where everybody gets to be a leader on various occasions.
The task given to anybody in our company puts this person in charge and every single employee in our company is at his disposal if he needs assistance. This is a great rule that we follow as it ensures that the job gets done properly and on time.
However, on the long run, when it comes to leading a team of people, even more effort is required.
So, given the situation I found myself in, I tried to reverse-engineer everything in order to find out how I let it happen:
- There was too much work – there always was and there always will be, but it doesn’t mean that the goals cannot be accomplished and the job can’t get done properly on time.
- Our clients have gone crazy – no, they were not, we are not doing our job properly, we are not going the extra mile in order to fulfill our roles as Customer Happiness Engineers because everybody is just trying to handle the insane amount of work as best as they can. The customers are just unhappy due to this and that’s it.
- There were not any suitable candidates for hiring – yes, there were, it’s just that we were searching at the wrong place and our approach was wrong.
- My colleagues are not doing their job properly – they are doing the best they can, or the best they think they can. There’s just no one to teach them better, organize them and guide them.
Once I broke free from the illusions of what I thought a “leader” should do, I started doing what I felt I should do.
I started talking to my team in order to see what troubles them and how I can help them but at the same time, I found that other, more experienced colleagues felt that I needed guidance too. Coincidence or synchronicity?
We all worked together to overcome the obstacles we encountered – more time was allocated for training of our members and I got to know them as persons not just colleagues, I found what they liked about their job and what they didn’t like, what their life was, is and what they want it to be.
Together, we redesigned our hiring system which allowed us to hire more ambitious and devoted people and to reorganize the working hours which ultimately led to better performance at work, more time for knowledge improvement and of course, happy customers.
I may be responsible for roughly 10% of these achievements we made and the situation we are currently in – 90% goes to our Customer Happiness team. But I listened to more experienced colleagues, I offered help to others and accepted one when I needed it, I had faith in them and in myself, I wanted us all to be happy.
Once I declined in my mind that I was carrying the label of a “leader”, and once I started taking the necessary steps and sacrifices in order to help my team and make their job easier, I also allowed them at the same time to be more efficient and productive at work and to have more time for self improvement. I felt happy knowing that they are happy and that the job we are doing is top-notch. There is no more pressure and every night, we can’t wait for the next day’s adventures at work.
Perhaps by declining the virtual role of a leader, and by following the feeling I had about my work and my team, I am becoming a leader? I am not sure but I learned a lot from this experience and my opinion on leadership dramatically changed.
A leader is absolutely necessary in every group or organization and the main tasks a leader has are to motivate his team members, create a powerful bond between them and always take care of each and every one of them. A leader makes his team members feel safe, he brings the best out of them and loves them.
If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea. – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry