The Power of Self-Reflection in Leadership

Looking inward can help you determine what your ideal management style should be.
Written by Jeff Kirshman
March 30, 2022Updated: July 18, 2022

A little introspection goes a long way in management. How did you like to be managed when you were a direct report? Did you thrive on feedback? Value your own autonomy? What were the tactics your supervisors took to put you in the best position to succeed?

An offshoot of the Golden Rule, reflecting on past experiences will result in stronger relationships and a clearer sense of purpose when carrying out responsibilities. It will also, coincidentally enough, lead to a happier and healthier work environment for everyone involved. 

Ask yourself: How did previous managers make you feel on a regular basis? Did your colleagues feel similarly? Are these attributes worth incorporating into your own approach, or are you in a position to break the cycle of incompetent authority? 

“We’re all humans trying to do our jobs and balance our lives,” said Katrina Tessicini, senior vice president of client success at adtech company Infillion, who makes a point of being available to her team whenever possible. “If something comes up, I’ll drop what I can to jump on the phone or Zoom. I’ve been on the other side of the ‘too busy’ mentality and have made it a point to never be that person.”

At the same time, Tessicini said, it’s important to remember that not everyone approaches a task the same way. Consider each direct report as an individual with their own preferences and values. 

As Built In Los Angeles learned through conversations with three local tech professionals, while everyone demonstrates and receives management styles differently, there are some qualities that always apply. 

 

Keenan Jones
VP of Product Design • Credit Repair Cloud

 

Describe your management style. 

I’m focused on coaching; asking questions to help others think critically and providing suggestions while ultimately trusting that the team will create the best solution. 

When working to solve a business problem at Credit Repair Cloud, I always try to take a step back and ask about the outcome we’re striving for, how we are going to measure that outcome and who should be involved in solving the problem. These questions not only ensure we know the problem we are solving, but they also help us evaluate if we’re solving the right problem.

If we don’t know the answers to those questions, I always encourage my team to take a step back and reflect on them. Working toward something without a clear outcome is like flying a plane without properly charting its course beforehand. Once we know where we are going, I like to act as a coach.

I also manage through collaborative methods, asking the team for their input and trusting their expertise. I encourage team members to voice their thoughts and work to find consensus.

Working toward something without a clear outcome is like flying a plane without properly charting its course beforehand.”

 

How do you know when to take a more hands-on approach with direct reports?

Emotional intelligence is really important. Having communication, knowing your team and adjusting your style as needed are also important. As a manager, knowing when to stand back versus being more hands-on can be a tricky process. It’s important for managers to be open to feedback and create psychological safety so they can best help their teams. 

 

What can a new manager start doing right now to become a better leader?

Stay curious about how you can improve and find mentors. Great managers close to you are a fantastic resource. But mentorship comes in many different forms! I’ve received mentorship from work colleagues and close friends, both in-person and virtually. That being said, finding a mentor doesn’t always have to happen in a one-on-one context. New managers can also learn a lot through reading books, listening to podcasts, reading blog posts and taking online courses. 

If you’re looking to improve as a manager or become one in the future, I’d encourage you to ask yourself ,“What different ways can I seek mentorship?” Then, once you’re in an active management role, simply asking your direct reports and colleagues, “What should I start, stop and continue doing?” will give you invaluable feedback to improve your management skills.

 

 

Katrina Tessicini
Senior Vice President, Client Success • Infillion

 

Describe your management style. 

I strive to be empathetic, approachable and transparent. I’m a strong believer in clear communication and maintaining one-on-one meetings for an ongoing, open dialogue. I’m also big on transparency, especially with my direct reports. The pandemic was a trying time, but it also highlighted the importance of remaining connected on a more human level. One-on-one meetings at Infillion became more casual and less prescriptive by nature; more of a, “How are you doing?” conversation, and less about the work. Managing a team and prioritizing workloads can be a lot, but I will always make myself available to lend an ear or make time for people. 

 

How do you know when to take a more hands-on approach with direct reports?

Once employees are sufficiently trained, I generally let them do their thing. I like to think there is a consensus that we are all adults and all have a job to do. I also understand the need for flexibility at work, so if everything is getting done in a timely and efficient manner, I’m happy to give leeway.  

Conversely, when someone is showing signs of slipping up, struggling or feeling overwhelmed, I tend to address it right away. Giving specific and actionable feedback with clear ways to resolve a problem not only creates stronger working relationships, but it builds trust. Sometimes it’s a matter of short-term load balancing or reprioritizing. As a manager, it’s important that I be that support and provide direction. 

It helps to be reassured that your manager has your back.”

 

What can a new manager start doing right now to become a better leader?

Be structured in your approach as you are settling into the role to drive consistency and set clear guidelines. People appreciate structure in a way that removes any sense of micromanaging. Also, communicate with your people. Hear them out and get to know them. If something comes up, I’ll drop what I can to jump on the phone or Zoom. It helps to be reassured that your manager has your back.

 

 

Lindsay Hittman
President & Co-Founder, BrandCycle • StackCommerce

 

Describe your management style. 

My management style is much more focused on “leading” my team rather than “managing” my team. As a leader, it is my job to set a well-defined strategy and vision for the company and then rely on my senior employees to self-manage the execution. I’m primarily focused on answering the question, “What are we going to achieve?” The team then figures out how we are going to achieve it. For the past three-plus years, BrandCycle has relied on the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), which is a business organization practice with tools to help align vision, accountability and communication across the company. This process has allowed me to be very hands on in the setting of quarterly and annual goals but hands off in managing the actual day-to-day work needed to achieve those goals.

An effective manager empowers their reports to both make their own decisions and take some degree of risk.”

 

How do you know when to take a more hands-on approach with direct reports?

I think there are two guiding principles to establish the hands-on/hands-off rapport with direct reports. The first is trust. A manager needs to be able to fully trust their direct reports, and that needs to be reciprocated in order for the two parties to effectively work together. If mutual trust isn’t established, the work product will undoubtedly suffer and the supervisor can never move to a more hands-off approach. Once that trust is demonstrated, an effective manager empowers their reports to both make their own decisions and take some degree of risk. I would much rather have an employee try something that doesn’t work than not try something at all.   

The second core principle is fostering an open line of communication. Effective managers must communicate clearly, concisely and consistently to drive others to action and ensure their vision is well-understood without the need to micromanage day-to-day tasks.

 

What can a new manager start doing right now to become a better leader?

Understand that there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to managing a team of people with varying degrees of experience, talent and work ethic. Get to know your employees on both a personal and professional level. Understand their strengths, know their weaknesses and find out what motivates them and discourages them in the workplace. Discuss these traits openly and honestly. By doing this, you’ll have the knowledge to be an empathetic manager who can align roles and responsibilities to complement strengths, set employees up for success and hold their team accountable.

 

 

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