“There’s no place for compassionate leadership in tech teams”
“In tech team, you’re on your own”
“Tech world is for tough players”
This is what Caleb Hurd, an engineer at Chick-fil-A, thought when he first started working there. Much to his surprise, when he wanted to quickly finish the project and decided to pull an all-nighter, he was escorted from the building by his manager, who insisted that Caleb should go home and get 8 hours of sleep. Indeed, compassionate leadership in tech teams is among those tools that can save workaholic programmers and other members of tech teams from pulling all-nighters or start living at work.
Your Team Expects You to Be Compassionate
A study by Businessolver, featured on Inc, provides a better insight into the importance of compassionate leadership in tech teams. The study, which united professionals from different areas, but predominantly from tech, has found the following:
- compassionate leadership in tech teams contributes to better job satisfaction
- all respondents shared that compassion at a workplace makes them feel more motivated
- all respondents also claimed that compassionate leadership helped them find other goals at work besides financial gain
Another study by the Center for Creative Leadership that compassionate approach to leadership helps prevent cross-cultural problems, which is important since so many tech teams today are multicultural. Nevertheless, going back to the above-mentioned Businessolver study, less than 50% of the surveyed employees said that their companies were empathetic. The employees need to form a relationship with their leaders that is based on empathy and mutual understanding. Even in tech teams, where both employees and managers face tight deadlines and sometimes have to work under a lot of pressure, there’s still a human factor that needs to be taken into account.
The Science Behind Compassionate Leadership
Compassionate leadership in tech teams is studied by positive psychology. To put it in a few words, a compassionate leader understands that all employees are driven by something meaningful and influential, and aligns their managerial work accordingly. Known in positive psychology as ‘empathetic’, this approach to leadership has different interpretations (some of which can create obstacles to successful leadership). According to Jeffrey Davis, a psychologist and book author, empathy is divided into three types:
- cognitive empathy – knowing and understanding how someone feels
- emotional empathy – experiencing the feelings of other people
- compassionate empathy – feeling and understanding what other person is going through, and being moved to act and change this situation
From these three types, compassionate empathy is the right choice in leadership because:
- cognitive empathy has a certain level of detachment
- emotional empathy can obstruct objective thinking and the ability to find a solution
Cognitive and emotional empathy are two extremes, while compassionate empathy is the happy medium.
What’s In It for Tech Teams?
It is generally believed (and Caleb Hurd’s story supports this idea) that in the tech world, toughness is better than compassion. Let science prove you wrong. In the research, put together by Harvard Business Review, scientific evidence suggests that in teams that find themselves under a lot of pressure, the compassionate approach can give more powerful results.
The research suggests that in such teams, every team member is valuable in achieving the common goal. Since pressure can have a negative impact on both physical and cognitive abilities, the compassionate approach to leadership builds more respect, trust, and support. Moreover, the research suggests that if a leader approaches employees with compassion, it triggers a chain reaction, motivating employees to treat each other the same.
Caleb’s manager showed compassion when he politely escorted him from the building and sent home to rest. After a while, Caleb discovered that compassionate leadership in tech teams was the approach that dominated in Chick-fil-A since it was founded. This discovery inspired Caleb to continue working at Chick-fil-A, despite his initial plans to leave the company after 2-3 years of work. Amazing, how far compassion can go, isn’t it?
First Start with the Right Technology
1. Zangi is a communication solution that gives you complete ownership of your team app, hosted on your own servers. The system is fully encrypted and independent from 3rd-party services All users connect to the app’s network to call and message, while management (leadership) gets a web dashboard for full management of the business and team, including sending them notifications, viewing statistics, etc.
2. Teamweek is an innovative project management app with software that takes the stress out of project planning. With a simple drag and drop team calendar, a group can easily manage their own tasks, while also receiving tasks from the team head. Start dates, due dates, and even documents can be added to each project as needed.
3. Toggl offers an easy-to-use time tracking platform with features that include a simple stop and go timer, data reporting, and time monitor spent in over 80 different tools. There are also premium features that allow a team leader to automate timesheets and get additional insight into business progressing.
4. LinkedIn As a team leader, this is an essential tool to stay connected and up-to-date on potential talent who could be a future asset to your group. And you can write insightful posts for your employees and other interested people to get an insight into your thoughts, mentality, professionalism, and personality.
5. 15Five has proven it to be one of the top methods in driving businesses forward, by giving employees feedback. The online platform makes it easy to obtain monthly or even weekly reviews from employees to determine how effective their managers have been.
6. Clarity While a team leader is in their role for a reason, there will be times when they need help or advice in certain situations. The Clarity app offers access to one of the largest networks of expert mentors for assistance, training, and consultations.
A Guide to Compassionate Leadership in Tech Teams
Now, let’s take a look at the steps that you as a manager of a tech team can take to become a compassionate leader. These steps are tailored according to the specifics of working with a tech team.
Understand Your Team’s Needs
Different tech teams need different degrees of compassion. Not following? Let’s consider the following example. Let’s say, you’re a senior developer and a manager of a team of junior developers. Under your supervision, you have young college graduates that have just learned the code but know nothing about the architecture and the coding protocols that your company follows. They have no clue of the coding style, accepted by your company, nor are they capable of performing difficult tasks.
Or, let’s say, you’re managing a team of app developers, each of them has at least 5 years of experience. You’re working on tasks under pressing deadlines, and your team has been in the habit of doing overtime for the past two months. In each of these cases, your approach to compassion will be different. In the first case, you’ll have to understand the primary needs of your young team, which are:
- more time to learn
- guidance and coaching
- understanding and support
In the second case, you don’t have to teach your subordinates anything, but show compassion by respecting (and having them respect) the boundaries between work and private life. And, maybe, escort them from the office at the end of the working day (like Caleb’s manager did).
The understanding of the degree of compassion, with which to approach your employees, stems from understanding the needs of your subordinates. Taking into consideration the needs of your employees is one of the aspects that comprise the concept of entrepreneur, and it is one of the steps to becoming a compassionate leader. You understand the needs – you find the solution. Compassionate leadership in tech teams in action.
The Impact of Communication in Compassionate Leadership in Tech Teams
After taking into consideration the needs of your team, take the next step to become a more compassionate leader and adjust your communication mode. Compassionate leadership is the main approach among the team managers at Google, one of the biggest and, yes, toughest tech companies in the world. Chade-Meng Tan, one of Google’s earliest engineers, shared Google’s approach to compassion in his TED Talk: “To be a compassionate leader, you need to know how to communicate the employee’s freedom to take action and responsibility”
According to Mr. Tan, Google’s biggest initiatives, like global charity projects, weren’t the strategy that was set by high-level managers. These initiatives were started by simple Google engineers, and after they developed and got bigger, they received support from high-level management. Compassion and support of the initiatives that come from employees, is a part of Google’s corporate strategy. You should make it your corporate strategy as well. Apart from this more global goal, you can start communicating with more compassion by:
- Asking questions. These questions are not about demanding the answer, but rather about helping your employees find the answer. For instance, a manager of a team of junior developers can ask leading questions to help team members drive productivity and develop critical thinking.
- Changing the tone. Be more mindful of how you frame your questions. Consider these two questions:
– Why haven’t you finished it yet? – Have you run into any challenges while doing this task? Which one is more compassionate? The way you frame your sentences has a great impact on your team’s productivity.
- Expressing appreciation. No matter, whether you’re satisfied with your team’s performance or not, they put a lot of effort into doing their job. Thus, always express appreciation before you say anything else.
Equality in communication is the essence of compassionate leadership in tech teams. Practice it yourself and encourage others to practice it to inspire others to become compassionate leaders themselves.
Lastly, since compassion is about understanding what others feel (as you’ve experienced it yourself), you need to reflect to become a compassionate leader. Reflecting will influence your decisions, which will affect your workforce and its performance.
Let’s say you’re a manager of a team of junior developers. Instead of being annoyed at your underperforming and slow team, reflect on the time when you were a junior developer and went through the same struggles. What did you feel back then? Which solutions would you want your leaders to take in order to make it feel easier? Reflecting will help you put yourself in your team’s shoes, and, as a result, find the solution that will suit you, your subordinates, and your company.
Lead Your Team With Compassion
A compassionate leader understands that all employees have a different level of experience, but all of them are equal in their right to be treated with understanding and compassion. Empathy (or compassion) can and must be learned, as seen from the examples of Chick-fil-A and Google.
Tech world needs compassionate leadership just like other areas and professions. And, understanding your team’s needs, listening and communicating your thoughts correctly, and reflecting on your own experience to find the best solutions are the three steps that will help you become a compassionate leader. (And, of course, your desire to lead your team with compassion)
Author bio: Estelle Liotard is a Senior Writer at Trust My Paper and an Editor at Studicus, respectively. She is an experienced content creator and a writer who excels in AI-related topics with an emphasis on its practical business applications. Besides, she is a content marketing specialist at IsAccurate and WritingJudge. In her spare time, Estelle enjoys quiet afternoons on her balcony, cooking and helping her friend with his blog NotBusinessAsUsusal.
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