“Giving up control” is about empowering other people to scale yourself, and scale your effectiveness. Maria Latushkin shares with us why you need to give up control as an engineering leader and what holds people back. Plus you’ll learn tons of different ways to influence and manage your performance when it’s dependent on other people’s effectiveness.
Engineering Leadership Podcast (by ELC)
[02:07] Why you need to give up control as a senior engineering leader
[09:27] What holds people back from giving up control?
[15:31] The impact and trade-offs you make when you avoid or resist giving up control
[23:49] How to influence and manage your performance now that it’s dependent on your team’s effectiveness
[29:04] How to make sure people heard you, so that you know you’re on the same page
[32:44] Does the discomfort of “giving up control” happen at every transition to a new leadership level, or is it a one-time thing?
[39:40] How to regain “control” and empower your team
[41:25] The Impact – how you feel when you give up control
Jerry Li: Really excited about this topic. I think this is one of the very common questions and challenges when it comes to leadership. a lot of people saying that, when they were engineers or they were a junior manager a lot of us were with secretly thinking things will be easier if I’m the Director, I’m the VP, I’m a manager I can direct the decision making process
But the opposite is often true, which is after you become a manager or become a senior leader only to realize that actually I’m losing control instead of gaining more.
Maria, is there something that happens to you in the very early days? do you see it happening to other people and, how do you get through that?
Maria Latushkin: Yeah that’s such a good question. I really wish they taught it in school. I think it’s one of those best kept secret. It’s almost like some sort of a rite of passage that everybody has to go through it and get all of their scars and bruises and then have this aha moment.
You know, I’m really glad that you’re raising this because I feel everybody I know goes through this in different ways, but it’s not easy for anybody. And I think that the way we encounter is different and the results are different, but everybody goes through this pain.
In my history, what was really different, what I didn’t realize, what was the biggest pitfall is that nobody tells you that the fundamental difference between being an individual contributor and being a leader is that, as a leader you’re no longer evaluated on your own performance…
When you lead the function, your impact is measured in the accomplishments of the team, not you as an individual. And that was something I, you know, years later, came to on my own. And it was an interesting journey. I think in the beginning I was a horrible manager, and my only saving grace was that I really cared about the people that I led. And I think that showed.
But looking back at it, I was thinking to myself, I’m like, “Oh my God, how did they put up with me?” and the thing is that it’s a natural pitfall. Like you are an above average professional. You are an expert in your domain. You’re used to being self-reliant. You are used to provide a high output, and then you start thinking that as a manager, now it’s almost like you lead the project and now you lead the bigger project. And as a manager, you’re not expected to provide this output, you know, the 10 X of the output, because now you have the 10 people and you can ten people worth of work.
And I’ve seen that show up in different ways. Like one, I worked with a senior leader actually at that point once. The guy would just go in the corner and code. And I would come up to him once in a while and go this team is asking for this or that.
He’s “Oh, that’s amazing. They’re smart. They’re going to figure it out.” I’m like, “no, they actually, won’t. They’re waiting for direction from you.”
Whenever that would be a problem whenever they needed to be something to be involved in troubleshooting. He was amazing. That was his shining moment but the rest of the time he was the person in the corner. And most people actually didn’t even know the position that he had, that he was leading the team, like some other people from the team who would start leading it because there was a void to fill. So there’s one way I saw it show up not in a great way. Mine was different. Mine was that I just felt that I was not responsible for everything and I had to do everything and I was drowning in this to do list that was just ever-growing and I remember this moment vividly…
It was like 1130 at night and I was sitting there and looking at all of those things that were still due tomorrow, and I haven’t even started them. And I had this thought I was like, “we’re not really winning here are we?” and I realized that this is not sustainable. Something’s wrong with the picture. Like Something’s majorly wrong because I’ve gotten to a point where I realize that I can’t… by working harder or putting in more of me… I’m not going to win. I need to change my approach.
Then I started really trying to evaluate what are the things that are happening here? Like where do I spend my time? What does my calendar look like? What is really important? What I should be doing I started talking to other people and I started to try because I saw other people seem to have same hours and being effective and they must be doing something differently. Not the way that I was doing it.
And then I realized that it’s really about scaling yourself. So it’s not the giving up control in the sense of you throw up your hands in the air and say “Okay. I don’t know. It’s going to be what it’s going to be. I’m not responsible here…” You’re still responsible. You’re still accountable very much so…
And you have to figure out ways where you’re doing this by scaling yourself, by not doing everything yourself and having to understand everything yourself, but knowing enough and knowing the right things in order for you to be effective. And I think that’s really the secret that nobody talks about.
Well, if you unpack the scaling piece, first of all, you have a much bigger span now. And at some point you’re going to be like I was at 11:30 at night realizing that this is it. Like you’ve reached the end of your scalability. You can’t work harder yourself out of this problem.
You are responsible for the delivery of the team. At the end of the day, nobody really cares like how much YOU work. You can be working around the clock. And it’s not how great you are or what you produce. It stops being about you and it starts being about the function that you lead.
And the more senior you can get, the bigger your function, the more span of control you have, and therefore it’s less and less likely for you to be able to be an expert on every single area that you lead every single specific of what you lead. And so you have to figure out how to empower your team and how to understand how the team works.
Jerry Li: your contribution or impact is no longer linear to the amount of hours you’re putting in.
If you’re doing it really well and empowering people. You could spend less than eight hours a day and achieve a lot. Or you can spend 20 hours a day, no sleep. But the team is not delivering because your personal effort is no longer linear to the outcome of the team.
Maria Latushkin: That is true and I actually think at some point, if you still work in the modus operandi of an individual contributor, it actually starts hindering the team. And that is the other part is that you’re surrounded by… you know, your teammates are probably really smart. They’re probably fantastic professionals what they’re looking for they’re looking for direction. They’re looking for context, they’re looking for a sense of purpose, in order for them to be the best version of their professional self. And this is really what you’re supposed to be giving them in order for you to amplify their performance.
If you do that right, you could do it. And Jerry, as you mentioned, it’s not about the hours that you spend. You can do it pretty quickly. If you find out, what is it that is needed from you and if you’re able to understand how to unleash their potential, how to give them that direction, how to simplify the problem in such a way that will be clear and unambiguous. How to figure out the roles and responsibilities on the team. And if you do all of that, then you know, off they go and they’re being productive, and they don’t depend on you at that moment in time. And most importantly, you are no longer slowing them down.
Because that’s another thing. If you start hearing things like, “Oh, my leader is too busy. Oh, I can never find them. We’re still waiting for a decision.” that’s mainly old code words for you not doing your job as a leader.
Jerry Li: People need to realize that, by doing it right away, things will become a lot easier. And the first time people have that experience will reinforce the sort of the muscle memory and they encourage them to do more of
What holds people back from giving up control
But before getting to that, epiphany moment, I think it’s also interesting to find out what hold people back to thinking about my effort may be better spent empowering other people vs. me working on a project or putting in my my own effort.
What do you think is the factors or issues that hold people back from doing the right thing,
is that the lack of confidence or the worry that people may have a lower bar or there may be some out of reasons as well.
Maria Latushkin: engineering is an interesting profession with respect to leadership, because we all come up into leadership, lots of us, at least… from being individual contributors specifically in the engineering discipline that teaches precision, that teachers perfectionism to some degree.
And then when you become a manager and start dealing with 80% versus 20% or the vagueness or the broad strokes, or, insert your favorite keyword now… it’s hard for people and oftentimes really acutely feeling that they are accountable for the result. The newly-minted manager wants to do everything in the way that they know how, in order for them to feel that they have a path to success. They can be sure of the outcome. They’re de-risking, essentially, their project.
The problem that they see oftentimes is that this way they’re not empowering their team. They’re making their team work in a specific way that they’re used to working. Even if they’re surrounded with very versatile professionals that can be working in different ways, they’re shoehorning everything in one way of thinking. And so they’re really robbing themselves of having this diversity of thought and potentially much better solutions. But that’s a natural, it’s a natural way and I see lots of people do that and then fumble the way out of it.
The other part is that we, as humans, we tend to gravitate towards what’s comfortable. And what’s comfortable is what we know and what we know is how to be an individual contributor because that’s where we started from and we were very successful individual contributor and got promoted into management.
And so without a very clear understanding that you actually are entering a very different job, people tend to think that, “okay, I’m just going to do the same thing that I always did only faster, better and more of and with other people. And maybe at the end of the year, I need to write their performance reviews but we will figure this out later because it’s not the end the year yet.” So there’s this misconception I think about what this job really entails.
The other part is, when I talk to people and I say, “Hey, you need to empower the team or you need to set goals for them or this or that.” Until you live it, it’s very difficult to really internalize it and understand what people in business books mean when they say you need to empower people. It sounds like very fluffy words.
oftentimes, I see the skepticism in people’s eyes where they say that to them, because it doesn’t even feel like the job. Like they say, “Hey, what are you do all day? Like you go to meetings and you seem to be talking to people. That’s all you do. Like that’s what they can get paid for?”
Versus actually being able to have a project where you have a concrete problem and you have an artifact at the end. And so I think that there’s aside from this being uncomfortable and not very clear, there’s also a little bit of resistance Is this really useful? Should I spend my time this way? And eventually people get there but it’s a long road.
And because there’s really no formal kind of warning sign, “Hey, you’re entering management. These are the best practices. These are the pitfalls.” Nobody really does that. You’re just being congratulated and being promoted into a manager.
Moreover, very rarely do people actually get like a packet of their new expectations. Even that most of the time doesn’t happen. You get congratulated and then at the end of the some sort of a review period… maybe you’re going to get an evaluation, say how you did, or maybe they’re like, “Okay, the cycle is over. This is your feedback…”
It’s hard to calibrate for people. And I think it’s important to calibrate. It’s important to really talk about what the new expectations are and what this fine line between accountability, how much are you really driving yourself, how much are you supposed to do through people?
I see the other one too. I see sometimes people say, “okay, great. I’m a manager. I have a smart team. They’ll figure it out.” And their notion of being a manager is like presiding over their team without even really knowing what’s going on there much. And that’s the other one. That’s the other side of the coin where people say, “I don’t want to be the micromanager I don’t want to tell him what to do” and they let go too much to a point where they actually just drop things. The end effect is the same. People don’t get the direction. People don’t know which way to go. Some people start filling the void. Some people just start floundering…
and at the end of the day, the warning signs may take different forms, such as people quitting, all of a sudden or project slipping, all of a sudden. Or peers of this person saying, “Hey, do you know what’s going on in your team?” you know, and God forbid, eventually their manager going “Hey, let’s sit down and talk about this.”
But the actual golden middle, the balance of figuring out how to be accountable, how to know what’s going on without being a micromanager, without feeling, you need to have all information like that’s the trick.
Jerry Li: It always takes a major failure or burnout before people can realize, okay, what I thought of was wrong. And I probably need to try something different. And a lot of times those same people really have the good intention by working long hours and working on the things themselves, they want to protect the team. And they feel they’re doing the right thing. But what they realize that it may suffocate the team, by not giving direction, by not giving room for them to try to fail
The impact and trade-offs you make when you avoid or resist giving up control
I actually had colleague, back in the days who was, in your manager. And, he just do everything and, like sleep really late every night, even taking on calls as a manager of a large team. From distance, you can literally see what is wrong.
but being on a position himself and it just takes a long time for that person to realize the way he managed a team needs to be changed.
And I’ve seen that very often the people to go through a big failure to realize. Is that something you personally experienced yourself as well? Or you are ahead of the curve that before a major burnout you realized that I need to using the right to manage a team?
Maria Latushkin: it was never this spectacular event that was so horrible that can make a good story out of it… It was little things.
And my biggest realization was I was a senior lead at that moment. And I was talking to somebody. I was trying to get them to come over to my team. And also as a senior leader and the person said you know, “Maria, let’s talk about your management style” and Oh my goodness, let’s talk about my management style. Like That’s interesting.
And the thing that person told me was so interesting to me. And granted no last time we worked together was long time ago, and I was actually a first line manager. And that’s how I realized how I showed up…
I was really great at protecting people. I was really great at picking up the Slack. I actually wasn’t micromanaging them, but I was always catching stuff. And by catching stuff, I really never let people fail safely. Therefore. They never had the chance to grow.
So they had their own achievements, but in terms of professional growth and how to become stronger professionals, stronger engineers, because I wasn’t letting them fail, because I wasn’t letting them getting their like minor cuts and bruises, there wasn’t as much of professional growth for them.
And that was a very interesting realization for me. That was the moment where I was like, okay, It’s great to hear because I was in a different setting then, and my job was different. And The people that I would manage were already more seasoned professionals, just because I was a more senior leader.
But I took that with me and thought about the ways that I can actually think about my day to day job as a playing field for figuring out ways for all of my team members, regardless of our senior, they are to grow and to gain more skills. Like what would be the next thing that they could take that would stretch them a little higher and a little higher and a little higher, even if they’re already completely, amazingly seasoned professionals, because there’s always something that we can learn. There’s always some direction we can stretch ourselves, some more ground we can cover.
And so now that was probably the most useful piece of advice unintentionally that I’ve ever gotten. And I really changed the way, I manage now.
Patrick Gallagher: so you mentioned you give up people’s opportunity for greater professional growth by not letting them fail safely. Are there other trade offs that happen or things that you give up when you try to maintain too much control?
Maria Latushkin: at some point you just can’t do it. And that was like my feeling of that 1130 at night, where I was like, “this is it. I can’t take it. There’s not enough hours in a day.” So there’s that.
The other part is, you don’t get diversity of opinions. You don’t get the diversity of solutions because the more you do yourself, the more everything is done your way. and there’s always better ways.
You also don’t grow as a professional yourself because you just continue doing things your way. And so what I also realized, for me, it was, I’d like to say that I’m like so evolved and so smart. And I just figured it out that this is a better way to manage…
With me what happened is that I started picking up areas where actually I didn’t have the expertise and I couldn’t be the person with all the answers just because I didn’t have the expertise. And that taught me to listen.
I had to listen because I had no answers. And then I realized that even when you have the answers, even when you think you have the answers and 90% of the time, you probably do have the right answer. That 10% is what is a gift… because that 10%, does two things, it enriches you … You learn something new. I found so many different ways of doing things by just listening and seeing what people come up with.
And then for people, it also stretches them because if you’re always given the answer, you don’t get to grow, you don’t get to think, and you just start being conditioned that you’re just going to go talk to your manager and your manager’s going to have the answer so why even bother?
and so the listening part, the expanding your horizons through having other people do it in the way that surprises you… and so many times, it’s so much better than whatever I would come up with.
Patrick Gallagher: I just think that is such an important thing to, highlight there in all of the things that you give up when you try to do it your way, it’s both sacrificing your own personal growth, but also it’s sacrificing the growth of other people. And also your ability as a leader to expand yours and your team’s capacity for impact by giving them those opportunities to grow.
Maria Latushkin: The other thing is that, you mention impact. So if you have a function and if you work crazy hours trying to do things your way, the way you know, and just by yourself, there’s like some unit of output you’re going to produce. If you empower your people, if you delegate, there’s going to be some linear increase to more output being produced.
But if you also stop and create thinking space for yourself and you empower other people to do things in a different way. All of a sudden you can actually come up with something really great. And I do believe that when we hear about breakthroughs or read in medium blog posts about the amazing thing some team did that comes from thinking space. That doesn’t come from going to 16 meetings a day.
And you have to create that thinking space. You have to create the creative space for your teams to do things in a different way, in an unconventional way. And you have to create that culture. And the only way to create that culture is by exercising the muscle of thinking for yourself and doing things differently and for it to be okay within the team to have different approaches to problems, different way to solve a problem.
And for You, as the leader to reward them because the other really important part is in terms of the culture that you build is what did you reward?
There’s three things that I look is what you actively reward, what you passively reward by either not paying attention or by letting it happen… and what you actively do not allow. And those kinds of three gradations shape the culture of the team.
And so the more you let go of the control and you turn it into influence, you turn it into still knowing what’s going on, keeping pulse on what’s going on. That’s important.
You don’t want to be tone deaf out of touch. the person that just like decorational and doesn’t bring any kind of direction or doesn’t set the tone doesn’t do much. Like you don’t want to be that person. I’m sure we all have that person somewhere, that we’ve met in our careers and we don’t want to do that.
You want to be the impactful and influential leader, but to do that, you don’t want to be controlling every aspect of what is going on.
Jerry Li: That’s also where innovation essentially come from. By encouraging the team to try different things, and also trying different things yourself. I think that’s really important.
How to influence and manage your performance now that it’s dependent on your team’s effectiveness
So I want to go back to an earlier point you made that is a major factor, preventing people from, giving up control. How people used to manage or perceive their performance.
as IC, that’s tied directly to the, feature delivery, the problem you solved. but as a manager, they feel even though to spend a lot of time meeting people, having the right conversation and making impact, but they don’t feel that way. It felt like I didn’t do anything. I just have a bunch of meetings.
but I think that perception is also a major effect of preventing people from doing the right thing. Can you share some insights on that as well?
Maria Latushkin: Yeah, I actually went through the whole spectrum and I remember early on a really smart person told me that person was a senior leader. I was like a junior VP… and person told me he’s like you know I understand the struggle because it’s feels that all you do is there are days when you feel like, Oh, you do, is you know, you made a phone call here or you, sent an email there that was like back in the day when phone calls was a big thing. Oh, you had a meeting here and you go home thinking I didn’t do much.
And the person was like, “Maria, your job is no longer, like how many projects you do or how many documents you write. It’s actually about empowering people. It’s communicating, setting the vision, that’s communicating the vision. it’s making sure that people they’ll feel invested in what they do. And then THEY produce that document.”
And I was, I had that moment of disbelief, like “Really? that’s what the job is? Interesting.” I’m like, “How do you then measure the success?” and the person says “sometimes it’s instantaneous and sometimes it takes months. ” And I still remember like that day when I heard him, this is really interesting because I do think I will have to rethink how I measure my own success.
It’s not what I’ve accomplished at the end of the day, but I still need to figure out ways to measure it. And that was the moment when I realized that. all of the things that people do talk about OKRs. And when they said, okay, I need to set objectives. I need to figure out key results.
That was the moment when it clicked for me as in that’s why they matter, because sometimes you started working on something today where you’re going to see the end result at the end of the quarter. And in order for you to know whether you’re go in at the right pace and in the right direction. And if others are going with you, this is the vehicle by which you, simply break down the problem, simplify the problem, and then are able to create those mile markers of sorts where, you’re going in the right direction.
And if you have, No imagine you’re walking like a trail and you have all this equipment with you at some point you’re tired and you have to give something up, like, how do you prioritize what’s most important what’s least important. And in the world of goals, what is this one goal that you need to hit versus five other ones that maybe it’s okay to miss?
And then you communicate and then you also need to make sure you communicate the vision you communicate the different pieces of the problem that, You broke down.
And then he also really important is to understand whether people actually heard the same thing you were trying to say. That’s another big aha moment that I had was when I realized that just because I said something doesn’t mean that people got it. And it also doesn’t mean that they’ve interpreted in the same way.
The way I learned this is I was sitting here in a meeting and I couldn’t understand why, like there’s a bunch of really smart really well-wishing people and we just don’t get anywhere! Like what is going on here?
And there’s couple of things and I started asking and asking, and they’re fine. Looks like you’re pulling the thread Finally, I understood that we had a bunch of problems.
There was one where everybody thought it was somebody else responsible for it. They would have done it, but they were thinking somebody else is doing it. okay, Maria, lesson, number one, you should be really explicit about who the owner is.
There was another a problem. They’re like, Oh, what’s that for this week. Oh, okay. and they would have done it, but they didn’t realize that, just because I didn’t say when I wanted it. That didn’t magically, they’ll just leave it in their head, into certain deadlines. and being explicit by when you, once things is actually not micromanaging, it’s setting expectations so that people can prioritize their own work.
there was another moment of what was the artifact? They weren’t sure. So being explicit about what is it that you expect and also… Especially when you work with high level epeople with sophisticated people, sometimes they have a different way of doing something. And maybe the artifact what they were gunna produce is actually better than what you wanted them to produce.
So checking back and seeing and giving some freedom as long as the expectations are like in general are clear of what we’re trying to do here… they might have a different how. They might have a different way of accomplishing the same thing that there’s in my experience much often is better than what I had in mind.
and so we figured out when things are due, who’s responsible, what is it that we are going to produce and they would talk to me about how they were going to go about it.
things have gotten so much better.
How to make sure people heard you, so that you know you’re on the same page
Patrick Gallagher: when you were confirming people’s listening, is there a specific question you do to make sure that everybody’s on the same page and heard the message that you were trying to communicate?
Maria Latushkin: it depends on the subject. It’s a great question.
sometimes I send follow up notes and I say, Hey, this is, depending on how official we are like having the meetings or whatever else, like sometimes it’s formal follow up notes. Sometimes it’s, something to just acknowledge this as what I think we’re going to do, and then have people react to it.
And so what happens is they either react to it and say, Oh, this isn’t what I heard. And then that starts a very good conversation or they have something to then come back to and have almost as their, list of things to do, right? So there’s that,
sometimes I ask people how they would go about something. So I’d say, Hey, this is our new goal. tell me more about your mile markers. Tell me more about how you’re going to go about it. And when they start describing their process, you start seeing if they really heard what you said.
Patrick Gallagher: I think, especially when you’re talking about giving people freedom, as long as the expectation is met, I really appreciate the phrasing of those two questions in that you’re not trying to micromanage and be like, are you doing the thing that we talked about, but it’s more so, here’s what I think. What do you think? Or how would you go about something to get a sense of their process? And it gives people the freedom to answer. And to then have ownership over that response.
Maria Latushkin: The other thing is that, speaking of freedom, what I think is really important, you do want people to fail a little bit because that’s how they’re going to get those cuts and bruises, but you need to make sure that they can fail safely.
So you have to pick, situations that are not going to be career limiting for them. Or that they’re not going to have so much, Perceive the real importance that the person just wouldn’t know how to move. And they will be paralyzed by the weight the magnitude of what they need to produce.
something that you also know that if you’re saying that you can correct for them or somebody else is going to step in, so that, you as a manager are also not stressing them out by hovering and saying, are we done yet.
and then you give them something and then you give them something bigger. And that also allows you to give them freedom. And at the same time, be able to see how much they can handle.
So back to your point about the freedom is at some point, you’re going to know you’re going to know the capacity of the person that you’re working with. You’re going to know there’s a lost city. You’re going to know how self aware they are. And so you can just give them a goal and that could be even a goal that’s due in three months and you never have to check because they’re going to do it
With some other people, you would just break it up more and then maybe you’ll say, Hey, when do you want to check back on like, The first 30% of whatever that mile marker would be.
And so you figure out ways where you can safely check so that your check-ins do not become critical. They’re not going to become about the missed expectations or milestones or something else. They’re going to be more of being able to see if we’re in the right trajectory. And that will also create the psychological safety for the person to come to you more. And for you to discuss that project a little bit more than if you are that manager that always criticizes and says, you miss something again.
Jerry Li: This is essentially how you still going to maintain a certain level of control that are necessary as a leader to own the outcome of a major project or a major initiative by understanding the people in a team what’s the capacity they have and how we do things.
and that’s sort of the counter balance of, what happened totally out of control. So you’re giving them all the controllers, but still have the insights and have the feedback in some other way. And I think the example you just gave is really helpful
Does the discomfort of “giving up control” happen at every transition to a new leadership level or is it a one-time thing?
so when you first realized that my way of doing things is not right, maybe I even try to take out too much control and to give up a little bit…
does that happen only once in your career? Probably as people transition from IC to manager, or that actually happens every, major transition? For example, managers to senior manager or, a director of VP
Maria Latushkin: you just, and I don’t really list that thought about it, but he just made me think of as something interesting.
I don’t think it’s necessarily the control as much… as your own personal identity. Like you have been reward you’ve been good at something you’ve been rewarded for it. there’s, certain association of self worth to something. In how you drive results in how you achieve success. And every time you go to a different level or your job becomes slightly different. That is no longer, not only sufficient. Sometimes it’s not what you’re supposed to be doing.
But then stretch between that moment between, okay. So the old tricks are not advised anymore. What is the new thing. And until you get comfortable understanding what your new purpose is, what your new role is, what you new goal is outside of your title. So what is this whole thing all about? That is the uncomfortable moment. And it definitely happens to me every time.
the only thing that with age and experience that has changed is how long I spend in this uncomfortable, weird moment. Like I strive to get it to maybe one weekend. We’re still working on it, but the idea is that you’re trying to minimize it. And you’re trying to have enough understanding about what you’re supposed to be delivering in your new, phase and your new state faster. And that will allow you to then starting to let go of the previous things that you were rewarded for.
What I try to do now for my leaders is I try to explain whoever I identify as somebody who I would like to grow to the new stage. I try to show them what the new role is going to be about. And I try to let them practice those to the extent that it’s possible, to shorten this transition. So that they would know. What the new shoes feel like, what they’re supposed to be doing in their new job. And they have more of a plan, or at least more of a feeling of how they should be. And that I’ve seen shorten the transition.
So my advice would be to anybody who wants to step in in the new role is try to see, talk to somebody who is in that role. have more of a conversation, understand what works, what doesn’t. Collect some different perspective on what different people say this role entails, and then see how you can practice this at your current level that N plus one level.
It won’t hurt, right? Because if anything you’re just going to show up differently, you’re going to show up as a more senior leader than what your current title suggests, and you can already start practicing the new moves.
Patrick Gallagher: I just wanted to make one quick comment, Maria, about what you mentioned about how your whole self worth and identity is oftentimes tied up to what you’re rewarded at for being successful.
And so I think what’s interesting then is if somebody now is being measured by a different set of criteria and they’re not doing well at it, and then you become critical of them for not succeeding, you’re almost threatening their identity, which makes it much harder for them to change behavior.
Maria Latushkin: It is so true. I see that all the time!
That was actually the number one reason why I started over indexing and creating career ladders with explanations of what’s expected and grooming people into their new roles, beforehand. Because I really don’t want to have this conversation with somebody who was five minutes ago was successful and three minutes ago was rewarded and two minutes ago felt so great about themselves. And now you’re like, Yeah, that’s not what you’re supposed to do here, but you never told them what they were supposed to do. Or you cited them says general terms that it really meant nothing to them.
And so grooming people into it and making sure that it’s like super clear what’s expected. And sometimes it’s just, Sometimes it’s things that are really difficult for people to relate to. I had a conversation with somebody where it’s “okay, it’s great that you’ve created this presentation and now you’re going to create three more, one for the executives and one for the engineers and one for the middle management and one for somebody who is not technical.”
And they looked at me like I had two heads and they’re like, “Maria, isn’t that a giant waste of time? Like, no, that’s your new job! Because now you have to make sure that you’re able to speak to people, the language that they’re going to be receiving information in. And if you’re going to come in with the same message and the same format and talk to different audiences… it’s not been a land. And if it doesn’t land, that’s the moment when you failed, because now they’re going to be all these people that are either not aligned with it or don’t have the direction, or are less likely to approve what you’re asking for depending on what their jobs are. Now you’re creating it in three different formats, but whatever it was four different formats.”
That’s the moment where you really have to spend time explaining why, because otherwise it does feel like you’re asking them to do something. That’s just a giant waste of time.
Patrick Gallagher: I wanted to call out one thing that you had mentioned right there that I think is so important.
It’s the idea of speaking to people with the language that they’ll be able to receive the information. in that, like, I think underneath all of this in communication to do that is so critical to everything that we’re talking about.
Maria Latushkin: Yes. I’d say that the two things that I’ve listed that might feel intuitive is one is this communication. And then the other one is listening.
You as a leader, I have so much more impact, but so much less ability to find the time to spend with the people to produce this impact. what are you have a town hall all here and maybe some department meetings, depending on the level that you have. And so making the best out of the moments that you have with people… being really clear in how you communicate and create those messages and communicate the messages. And also listening not just for the things that people are telling you, but the things they are not telling you’re listening for the pauses and the conversations, the words that people use, how different people describe the same situation. this is gold!
I often ask the same question to like five different people. And then I try to weave a narrative and it’s almost like having five different lenses pointing at the same landscape, and that allows you first of all, much more connected to your team and, peers and anybody you work with. But also, not to be tone deaf or like one sided on how you perceive the facts.
How to regain “control” and empower your team
Jerry Li: you mentioned a few things people can do to gain more control and empowering people. Are there other things that you can, share with the audience what they can do
Maria Latushkin: what people can do to empower the team?
Mmm. I think that being very clear on the outcome you expect and why you expect that and how that’s going to create the impact.
We all work hard. And now in shelter, in place, it’s more isolating. It’s more difficult. Things blend one into another. And so when you ask people to do something, being mindful of the fact that this is yet another thing that they’re supposed to do…
you want them to be excited about it genuinely, and then they’re going to bring their a game. and so Connecting the dots for them in how, what they’re doing, the outcome you’re expecting how that outcome is connected to the bigger impact for the company. That’s important. I would overindex on this,
one of the two things is going to happen. You’re going to realize of what you’re asking them is not important. So there you go. Now you don’t have to ask them to do this… OR you’re gonna believe in it yourself and then be much more effective, communicating why that’s important. and also creating a second logical safety for them to bounce ideas off of you to, talk to you about how they might get there.
So that, you gain confidence in them being actually able to get there. And then for them also to have confidence in their way, being at least good initial steps. Or maybe they’re going to describe the whole way to you. And then there you go. Like then they can go off on their own and do wonderful amazing things, and then feel also safe and welcomed to come back to you with either questions or course corrections or anything else.
The Impact – How you feel when you give up control
Jerry Li: And I know we covered lot of, about, why it’s important to give them control and it’s okay to do that, and how to do that. before we wrap up we really want to also touch on feels. now that you have been going through repetitions, many times and seeing other people are doing that.
Is it that horrible to, lose control. How do you feel, do you feel liberating or… or what?
Maria Latushkin: It’s interesting you say this? I don’t feel like I’m losing control. I think that I’m letting go it feels like if you have a rope and you either hold onto the rope for their dear life and it’s like, it’s the tightrope and it burns into your fingers… or you have Slack in that rope.
So it’s not about, I don’t feel that it’s the loss of control. It’s this feeling that you still got the rope, but there’s Slack in the rope. It doesn’t hurt your fingers. And if need be, you can always make it tighter and you can always get there.
So the trick for me is always knowing enough kind of on the surface to know where and when you have to go deep. Professionally, it’s important to be able to go deep. You don’t want to be deep all the time, but you need to know when to go deep the trick is to go deep about five minutes before other people notice that you should have gone deep… then you’re okay. Like you never want to be five minutes after others notice.
and this way you don’t spend, you know, you’re in this analogy, your whole time underwater, but you’re also are able to either help the team or mitigate the situation, troubleshoot, or do whatever it is that she needs to do when he needs to.
And then it feels great. That feels like you have this thinking space. It feels like you have the time to create something new, to innovate. And you don’t feel like you’re actually losing control. You’re just giving it up a little bit.
Jerry Li: That’s a very good analogy.
Patrick Gallagher: my dad once, on a rope swing… didn’t let go of the rope… and, Had his hands in basically dragged them all the way down the rope and got severe Roper and ripped off all the skin from his hands. Yeah. So you’re telling this story, I’m like, Oh my gosh, I have this horrible image in my head! This is so true! So thank you for that was , incredible analogy.
Maria Latushkin: Thank you so much for having me. This was fun.