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Unleashing your leadership potential: a guide to being an effective People Lead


Step into the shoes of a successful People Lead: Discover the keys to developing empathy, honesty, and mastery in leadership.

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Managing people is challenging until you discover one essential thing

I recently realised that I have been working in the People Lead role for a long time, it has just not been formalised until now. The formalisation of the role has made the whole situation easier. Managers used to do this as a part of their broader responsibilities, but this made it harder to establish trust with team members.

There is a special connection between the People Lead and team members, with less focus on administrative tasks and more on relationships.

The goal is to establish trust and make sure agreements are always honoured. Trust between team members and the People Lead is the key point. Trust has to be built over time through regular communication, respect, and showing an interest in your team members’ needs. Trust does not build itself, the People Lead can help build it, though both sides need to make an effort.

What is vital is that people are happy and satisfied, and feel that someone is taking care of their needs, because only such an environment can fully unleash their potential.

Being honest is important, but it is not the only thing

This is the most important thing for the People Lead to establish. Happiness and satisfaction are crucial but very difficult to measure, which is why this role is singled out so that someone can communicate with people and focus on each issue.

The essential is that people to feel heard and that their needs are considered. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for measuring happiness and satisfaction, but regular check-ins and feedback can help.

The People Lead should try to find a variety of ways to increase team members' satisfaction. They must have intuition, empathy, and an ability to connect with other people.

If you are not empathetic, it's difficult to do this job. If you cannot see the needs of others that are different from our own and connect with their way of seeing things, then the People Role is not for you. So empathy and confidentiality are the two main qualities you need as a starting point.

However, it is not enough to just be honest. Of course, if there is bad news, being honest and transparent is essential, because bad news spreads faster than good news. And if we try to protect someone's feelings by not being honest, we do more harm than good. But another important thing is to be proactive. When we first hear of a problem, we must act immediately to try to solve the issue. This way, we maintain and improve mutual trust.

Learn that you should never stop learning

At Zühlke, only a person with a technical background can lead a tech team. They have a better understanding of team members' needs and the situations that can arise on projects. They share similar experiences so they can advise and help resolve project situations. On the coaching side, it's also essential to have knowledge from a range of areas, which makes it easier to direct and help in setting and achieving goals.

Initially, it was challenging for me when I transitioned from a technical role to leadership. At that time, the focus was on improving communication skills, so I took cognitive-behavioural coaching and psychology training so I could more easily adapt my approach to different personalities. The emphasis was on soft skills. Over time, these became more balanced with technical skills and now I follow my needs. If I notice technology changing, I redirect my attention to that. Whatever new challenges I face, I can turn them into learning opportunities. Either by learning on the job, through our global network, by attending a course or a conference or simply by reading a book on a topic such as Coaching Agile Teams or Quiet People. Introverts are always an interesting topic for me. There are also courses and conferences to refine my technical skills.

Luckily at Zühlke, we benefit from a whole range of training possibilities throughout the year. Furthermore, anyone promoted to a lead role goes through a series of training courses where they refine their leadership qualities, tools, and skills. A balance of internal and external training is essential.

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