Baptism by Fire

Baptism by Fire 685 450 Siklós Barbi

My first steps as a Future Leader

We had a deadline. Like 10 hours ahead of us. We had to submit a new version of the software we were developing by midnight. Texas time. In Budapest it’s 7am – the next day.

Working in an international scale up was exciting, bore wondrous opportunities – at that time in 2010 this wasn’t as common or easily accessible as it is today. And it also had its challenges. I’ve been the product manager assigned to this team for 4 months. I really wanted to prove myself. I went out to the mall nearby, bought some coke – from the Coca Cola Company mind You – and some snacks and went back to support my team. With a great effort we got all the bugs fixed, the release passed all the tests and we sent a build around 3am. By 4 we got the feedback that all is well, the app works.

We could go home. I closed up the office while my team gathered around their cars. They were waiting for me with a door open, so I started to jog towards the parking lot so as not to let them wait. I was maybe four steps away when they closed the door and left. I was left there on a cold winter night before dawn. At that time there were no night buses in that part of the city. I spent the last of my cash on snacks for the team so I couldn’t call a cab. I started to walk home, the snow cracking under my ‘not so weather appropriate’ sneakers. I had time to chew on what had happened and how I was a party to it.

This was a feedback I couldn’t ignore any longer. Not that I knew before this point that I was ignoring any.

Through a mirror darkly

Let’s rewind the clock! I started at the company maybe 9 months before that. I did product design and some app development. I had a good way of communicating with our counterparts in Texas and SF. I had some natural talent in organising the work our small team of four has been doing. So I emerged as an unofficial leader and this position had been made official with the support of my teammates. Not much later we got a large investment. Started hiring developers by the bucket and suddenly we had three teams working on this part of our product.

I was expected to lead them all. As the pressure and urgency increased I got more and more stressed and started to be more irritable. Lost my ability to listen open mindedly and started to put some of the pressure on the team as well. Although I tried to bear it all and protect them from it. On my long walk of shame home I could ponder all the occasions when I didn’t listen, when I didn’t quite hear their feedback or even their ideas.

A door opening

I started to reach out to more experienced leaders in the company. To my superiors and peers leading other teams. They started to share some of the techniques they employed as leaders. They pointed me to blog posts and books and other colleagues to talk to. A new world opened up to me. I really didn’t comprehend how much I didn’t know about leadership and how to be a leader. I spent several hours pondering what we talked about in a half an hour, hour conversation. I spent the following few weeks practising and implementing what I have just learned.

My example is quite extreme. Yet I’ve heard similar stories with less serious outcomes over and over from future leaders who have just started their career in leadership. Many didn’t need extensive training, they needed a jumping board and other leaders to share their experiences with. Inspiration and perseverance in good company.

This has led us to organise this series of webinars we call Future Leaders Academy. 60-90 minutes webinars giving You an entry into main topics in leadership. We’ll be covering Effective Communication for Leadership, Emotional Intelligence, Cultivating Resilience, Diversity, Equality and Inclusion, Coaching Leadership Style, Mental Health and Wellbeing as a leader. The program is aimed to provide exactly what I and others I have encountered have found so useful in the first phase of their leadership careers: Food for thought, a few exercises and something to start implementing the very next day to help You make Yourself a more effective leader.

If You are interested check out our “Menu” and sign up for the series or pick the webinars that speak to You the most. Learn with us and share with others who are starting out just as You are! 

Daniel Vattay

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