Are you holding back your team’s development? Are you holding back your team’s development?

By Juanjo Diaz

08.03.2018

Sometimes an everyday event makes you realize something really important. In my case, seeing a Spanish kid trying to learn how to ice skate was a big eye-opener to my own growth as a software professional.

This Christmas, I went back home to southern Spain to spend the holidays. To my surprise, I found that the city had placed a few artificial ice rinks across the city. As you can imagine, with summer temperatures easily reaching +45°C, and winter temperatures that rarely go below +10°C, the city is not really used to any ice-related activities.

While waiting for friends, I was watching the kids skate in a small ice rink. I think that watching children gives you a representation of the whole society. It is very entertaining to see how they behave while learning something completely new.

There were kids who were naturals and skated like pros after a few minutes. There were kids with more heart than brains, who kept hitting the ground while trying to do pro tricks.

Then there were kids that slowly went around the rink without letting go of the rail. Some simply refused to go to the rink.

One particular kid caught my attention. Actually, not the kid himself, but a man in his 50s who was very clumsily pulling up the child’s arm. That man, the only adult in the rink, was not letting his kid try, fall and learn.

After a while, some kids had enough confidence to do more risky moves. Some of the shy ones had let go of the rail, some of the braver ones had experienced a bad fall and were now more careful. Some were flying in the rink like they were born in Rovaniemi, some were going around at their own pace, and some had decided that skating just wasn’t for them.

All the kids seemed to be having a good time. All except for one. The one being held up by his father. The one who was still pitifully slowly going in circles with his father holding him up. Maybe that kid could have become the next Javier Fernández López, we will never know…

Letting go of the rail in professional life

Watching the whole scene, I immediately thought of my own professional development. I thought of the people who previously have protected me so much that I couldn’t learn and grow.

I remember the manager who made all the decisions for me. The team leader who proxied all my communications out of the team. The senior developer who even told me how to use the toilet. And all those other people who, with their best intentions, didn’t help me grow. I also thought back on my own actions: had I prevented someone in my team from growing and finding great opportunities?

As a leader, I have learned that giving everyone their own space is essential. Not only for the people themselves, but also for the team and the organization, which benefits enormously from that personal growth. Of course, a safety net is always good and even necessary. But a safety net does not mean telling people what to do, over-protecting and micromanaging them.

The people in my team know much more than I do about many things. It would be absurd to tell each and everyone what they should do. Also, I think that they should have the same right to make mistakes as I do. So, I consider that a leader should be supporting the team from the behind, letting people learn and develop themselves while ensuring that everyone has what they need to perform at best.

At the same time, a good leader should nurture an environment of experimentation, continuous learning, and self-development where each individual can decide by himself what to do. Of course, being a leader also includes taking the driver’s seat sometimes. But the goal should never be to hold on to it. The goal should be to develop the people so there are more individuals able and willing to take the wheel.

Place where people constantly become better skaters

Today, I’m proud to work in a place where everyone can do whatever they think is best. Everyone is encouraged to experiment and learn while getting support whenever needed. I am very thankful for the trust that Intopalo placed on me since day one. I am glad of having learned to trust others more. I’m proud of my own personal growth and I’m proud of the incredible growth that I’ve witnessed in others.

I came to Intopalo as a software architect and cloud/web specialist. Today, not only I am a better architect and a better specialist, but I have expanded my skill set to other areas like machine learning, cybersecurity or organizational development. What’s next for me? There are a lot of possibilities. What I am sure of is that Intopalo will not decide it, I will.

So what about you?

Do you feel like the little kid who just wanted to skate but was held back?

Or maybe you just realized that you are the over-protecting father preventing others from growing?