Several years ago I earned a leadership role on a small product development team in a large company. I had served as a member of the team up to that point, and it was a natural transition for me to pick up responsibilities when the previous lead took on other challenges in the company. I believe that I earned the respect of the others around me just as they earned and still hold mine. The weight of the responsibility that I felt to protect and lead my team was great, and I thought I was as prepared as I could be for the task.
As the newness of the change wore off, I found myself transforming into someone I didn’t want to be. I became increasingly cynical as I saw that the team had very little control over timelines and features. I became defensive and angry when I felt that I was being overlooked or overruled on important matters. Then one day I lost control of my temper in a public setting and I practically yelled at a project manager for “failing the team”, among other things. She didn’t deserve it.
It was one of those moments in life where I could nearly step outside of myself and see the mess I was creating in real-time. Each word left my mouth and hit its target, and the next followed closely behind. The argument finally ended, but it wasn’t over. I immediately felt terrible. I walked directly to my manager’s office and alerted him that there would probably be a complaint against me. I was prepared to apologize privately or publicly. I did apologize, and I hope that it was accepted. I would have had a hard time granting forgiveness quickly if I were on the receiving end of that lashing.
I learned quite a lesson from all of that. It helps no one to bring your own pride and frustration to the table when you’re working with a team to solve problems together. In my desire to play my role successfully, I ceased to recognize and respect the intrinsic value that everyone holds. The people that make up a team are individuals and we all have pains and passions in our own lives. I learned again that I need to treat people with dignity, especially when conditions aren’t ideal.