/ management, leadership

You Should Not Be Afraid to Talk to Upper Management

When I was just starting out in my development career, I was always intimidated by upper management. I formerly worked for a director and still I was intimidated. He was a very nice gentleman and worked in various industries. But it was his experience that was intimidating for me.

Though I always got along with most of my coworkers, I’d still get nervous to talk to my manager. I don’t know if it has to deal with the closed doors or small offices that made it feel like you were in the principal’s office. (Side note: I used to get called to the principal’s office a lot in high school but for good reasons.) I always felt that I was meant to just sit quiet and listen during 1-on-1 meetings.

Then came along our Director of Technology, Marius de Beer. He was based out of a different office but often came to visit ours. He would always mention before his visit, “If you’d like to schedule time with me, add it to my calendar”. It was interesting but also scary. What would I talk about during our chat? He often spoke to the whole team during sprint reviews, planning, and retrospectives. He wasn’t the demanding type. We often reflected on the work we did, the processes, and how we can learn to improve with the work ahead. He left most decisions to the team and rarely stepped in to make it.

I had a session or two with him and still felt like I just needed to listen. Not until his company departure did I finally take advantage of a session with him. In that session, I did most of the talking. I thanked him for what he taught me. I asked what advice he could give me to carry on with my career. I didn’t realize that talking to someone of his position was easier than I thought. I should not be afraid to talk to someone like him. A true leader is there to guide you, not intimidate you.

From that point on, I felt less intimated during the 1-on-1 meetings I had with my managers. I’ve been lucky to have ones that truly cared about me professionally and personally. I don’t hesitate to contact them when I need to.

As for upper management, I’ve always made a point to reach out to them. Maybe present a problem that maybe they could give their advice on how to tackle it. I’ve always appreciated those who respond. It shows they care and they want what’s best for the team. Katel LeDû, the CEO of A Book Apart, has always been supportive of me and easy to talk to. I admire her as a friend and a woman leader. I appreciate her advice and her lending ear.

One day, I hope to be a good manager and leader. I aspire to be one of those that not only help others grow within the company, but also as a person. I hope that I can help prepare them for the next adventure or just life in general.

If you’re a manager but not sure how to start your 1-on-1 meetings with your employees, I’ve really enjoyed this reference from Lara Hogan to help ease the tension. She has a lot of other great blog posts about being a better manager, as well as offering coaching sessions with her friend and colleague, Deepa Subramaniam.

photo caption: Marius was a great influence to our team. We wanted to show him how much we admired him by wearing the Marius attire, all black.