Servant leadership: helping your team grow and shine

Leonor Frias
Engineering Team Leader
Automatic Summary

An Introduction to Leadership in Tech

Hello, and welcome! I'm glad you're here. My name is Leo, and I'm an engineering team lead at Ocado Technology, one of the leading companies in the online grocery retail business. I'm honored to be speaking in my third Women in Tech event, and I'm excited to share my experiences with you. Whether you already hold a management position or are considering stepping up into one, this discussion may prove beneficial.

Navigating Challenges in Tech Leadership

In my role at Ocado, I manage a team of eight engineers. I'm responsible for their alignment with the business goals, their individual growth and well-being, and delivery of products in collaboration with the product manager. But how do I balance focusing on strategic planning without forgetting about the needs of my team?

Servant Leadership: A Different Approach

Servant leadership, a term first introduced in the 1970s by Robert K. Greenleaf, focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of team members and the communities they belong to. Unlike traditional leadership models, where power accumulates to those at the top, a servant leader shares power, puts the needs of others first, and helps individuals develop and perform as highly as possible.

Building a Framework for Servant Leadership

For a team to function effectively under this model, a clear framework needs to be in place. This includes:

  • Understanding the organization's goals: The team should be aligned with the broader organizational mission.
  • Setting clear expectations: Clarity and explicit communication of expectations are key.
  • Implementing team ways of working: Setting technical best practices and methods of collaboration can create a cohesive team environment.

Additionally, regularly scheduled meetings, such as one-on-ones, can further contribute to success. It's crucial to remember: things change, and it's essential to remain adaptable and open to improvement.

Fostering Connection and Empowering Your Team

Hosting team-building events, promoting proactive feedback, and even participating in job swaps with other teams are all strategies that can improve a team's dynamics and productivity. Additionally, encouraging team members to partake in knowledge-sharing opportunities, both internally and externally, can foster personal growth and boost team outputs.

As a servant leader, finding opportunities for your team to grow while delivering value is a balancing act. But with the right structures in place and promoting a culture of continuous learning and communication, you can lead a team that is not only happy and high performing but also continually developing and growing.

Do you have more questions? Feel free to reach out to me at my email or on LinkedIn. I look forward to discussing further the fascinating realm of servant leadership.

Interested in joining Ocado Technology? Click [here]( for more information .

Video Transcription

If anyone is here, just to be sure, maybe you can introduce yourself in the chat. Uh Welcome everybody. Uh Glad to be here. I will give maybe one minute more. OK. Nice. Thank you because I don't see you. So I don't know if I'm alone or not.So I really appreciate uh Nicola. So I, I hope you enjoy it. OK. So uh now knowing I'm not alone, so I guess it's uh you are older on the list. Um Just uh I will start slowly. So, yeah, um I would just uh first of all, uh I would like to thank everyone to, to be here. Uh This is um the 3rd, 3rd time I'm speaking women in tech and it's becoming kind of a tradition and a bit like um also comin me in this uh leadership path. Uh My name is Leo and I'm a engineering team, Lita Ocado Technology for those that you don't know. OKO Technology is a leading company in the online grocery retail business and as any big uh organization, uh there are as the market changes, uh the organization needs to adapt fast.

Um So how do you find no So the, the aim of this talk is how do you combine finding time for not thinking about the strategy while uh don't forgetting about your team and make your team uh grow and shine. So today, I would like to share with you uh some of my experience on how to navigate uh those challenges. And I hope this will be useful for you, either if you are already in a management role or you are thinking um about considering one. So first, uh before I go to the core of the talk, uh let me uh just um go briefly present you my team. So this is just as a bit of a refreshing summer is coming. So this is a photo of my uh last summer, how it was the team. So at that moment and there were five engineer plus uh group manager and myself, I'll let you know more later then a bit about me. Uh So my career span uh a bit across uh academia and industry as as many times I say, I definitely don't have the most linear career. But at the same time, I do actually can see that all those experiences um have helped me into building this picture thinking and preparing for a leadership role. Now that is very important and as a leadership role to always keep this uh high level uh vision.

And so with respect to my journey on Okao more, I I joined in September 2018 as a software engineer uh later, I had the opportunity to do an assignment, team lead. And almost a year ago, I started as a full time tt L uh team lead. So I cannot say anymore that I'm a newbie. Actually, the first talk I presented here, it was a bit about my dad. But now I cannot uh I would say not anymore use the newbie um role. OK. So just briefly to, to uh to pl a bit about uh me. So uh one of the main products uh that we have uh to Carioca smart platform, which is a unique and to an ecommerce log existing P flower. I work on the commerce. I work on the Barcelona office that is the photos that you see on the right. And we are at the moment over 200 employees uh with people from all over the world. OK. So that's about me and that what is about my role? No. And, and, and now I'm starting to connect more about the, the topic about the leadership. So my role is uh is called engineering team leader Ocado. But um from my research. So these roles in many other organization is called engineering manager. So I manage a team at this, at this moment of eight engineers. Uh But back in uh two years ago, I started with force.

So the team has uh actually double, I'm uh responsible for the of their alignment, both in terms of the business, we, the, the team uh uh ways of working and also more on their personal development and well being. And at the same time, I'm also accountable for the product delivery together with the product manager, which actually I work uh with uh her in the p leadership as any other role in our organization. That is a long description of what should be the role. But essentially, if we can summarize on using several leadership style, which is topic of this presentation and implementation uh practices. So what is S leadership? So II I went actually to research and find that actually Roberts was the per person produced this um this terminology already back on the seventies. And he was a full, let's say organization dedicated now to this. And he defines uh several leadership and several leaders uh focus primarily on the growth and well being of people and the communities to which they belong. And this, this, this is put into contrast uh not to traditional leadership where this involves the accumulation of the size of power by one of the top. Um So, in this case, uh it's the opposite.

It's not the servant leader shares powers, puts the needs of others first and help people to develop and perform as highly as possible. Now, and this is again, coming to the topic of uh the presentation of developing your team and making their chance uh uh building on that uh definition I have uh let's say more personally, two pillars that are very important uh with me, which are connected with this uh field that uh first of all is the collective powers of uh as I see uh leadership.

For, for me, it's very important, the team and a team can do much more than the person by separated. It's not just that because of course, you have more people, you can do more things, but the fact that they interact between them, that this interaction creates uh wonderful synergies that can allow you to do more, see more risk and be more innovative. And the other topic that for me, it's also very important is the lead by example, not so leads, by example, what it means, it means guide others through your behavior instead of your work. And I can tell you that actually um after uh not two years on this role, I can see that this is actually the case and sometimes I can, I can say it's a bit scary, you know, because people will copy whatever you do, the good things, the things that you like and the things that you don't like.

So this is um this is sometimes a bit scary, but at the same time, I can say that it's really powerful. So um so how do you put all this in practice? OK, that all these concerts are very nice. Uh So what, so one important part if you remember about this leadership, no is about giving the power to, to the individuals. So for this, it's very important that they are autonomous, but this autonomy needs to come with an align an alignment. No, because otherwise it's going to be a cause and people is going to be lost. So, so it's important to set where is this framework? And this framework is both not to understand the why, why we are doing things and this can be being aligned with the organizational goals. The team should also have our goals which at the same time are aligned with this organization called a have a mission. And also for each of the individuals, it's important that each individual knows what are the expectations about um him or her. No, if something I I learned actually on my leadership uh path is the importance of being explicit. No. So this is uh very important, don't give things for granted and then how no, how, how you make this this framework into life.

So there are um on the more business that there are several ways to do this but also more on the team level, there are not the team ways of working and we also set some company wide practices more at technical level. These actually are uh public if you are interested and more on the personal level. So it's important not to create this um recurrent one to ones uh which is of the individuals and then very important. No, it's uh difficult to get things right at hand. Also things change. So it's important to iterate on this. No. So it's important to uh have uh and this comes also together with a bit that I was talking about with the child mentality. No. So to have recurrent continuous improvement of meeting connections, it can be retro and coffee knowledge sharing sessions and also more on the people also personal um development plan. So uh last but not least, OK. So this is very nice, but at the end, we work with people. Um No, and it's very nice for instance, this kind of remote events because I can connect with people all over the world. But at the same time, I feel like I'm a, I'm a bit alone. I don't know if you are bored if you are like enjoying. No, because I don't really see you. So I, I think it's really important also this human interaction and to build this this um connection and there are several ways how you can uh build this, not so you can build this uh implicitly or explicitly, you know.

And uh for instance, in my team, we have a day in the office uh where we are all there. Usually it's on Wednesday. We also from time to time, we do some team building. We also at some point, we did some inside discovery to know more about everyone on the team how we can relate as uh it's better. And for instance, I also want to mention that for instance, you to, let's say a business reason that we had a collaboration with uh for some time with um with a team in Krakow. Uh We, we went there and this, this uh trip was not only important to build the connection with them. Uh But between us, no, and actually the photo on the top uh right is uh from a dinner we had during that time on November. And yeah, so this is was also important as ask you to build us uh this uh more connection then other, more formal ways to build the connection. So also important to, to give feedback and to give feedback, you, you need to feel you are in a safe environment too. So uh more technically not by programming reviews all of this. So this is a way to also build this connection.

And also um I'm trying also to um encourage not just me coaching them or mentoring them, but that this happens uh between the two. So that, that's a bit all and all the photos that you can see are from my team. They are real. Uh So um then uh OK, you will find OK, all this is very nice but I, as I said, no, I'm very busy with my delivery. How I do this, how I find the time. Well, you try to make, try to make, of course, they will need to dedicate some time, let's say for this. But you also need to take, I would say, identify opportunities and how you can take advantage of, of, of the actual no, you are actually evaluate. And so for instance, I remember perfectly when we started as a team two years ago, we just straight away, we needed to develop something at that moment. The team was quite junior. So this was like really a very good opportunity for the most senior members because they didn't have no one to delegate. No, they had to, to roll their sleeves and, and, and do it. So that that was an incredible uh learning experience for all for all of us me included. Um And then also uh more lately. So we are also not try to create together also uh in alignment with the program manager to create some assignment.

No, that these times sometimes they are fully volunteer or uh sometimes I try maybe to suggest no, if I think maybe there is some um something that can really benefit to someone specifically or like someone will be interested, but I try to, to have a balance between uh those.

No. So for instance, we did uh some predis discovery using a proof of concept and this proof of concept was something that came out from the two people that was working on it. Uh Some other person was leading a major feature. Uh Actually, this was this collaboration with Krakow team that I mentioned, we are also having at the moment a future squad with other teams in the department. So these are ways of delivering value by, by growing. Also, um we have some initiative of uh job swap which means someone is staying for some time in another team. Uh We have this recently that one of uh our team members went to another team. So after one month, not so he shared with us not just like the technical knowledge, but also ways of working. So this was useful for him to grow, but also he now is spreading knowledge with the team and he also spreads some knowledge back with the team. He went no. So there is this uh knowledge sharing. Um then another way more technically because we're in a technical field. So it's OK, we, so we have some technical uh initiatives across the organization. So contributing to this will contribute to the organization and in time to the, to the team and it's a growth because the people uh is interacting uh with um with people over the organization.

And uh then also as I said, it's I think it's very important the knowledge sharing um both uh internally and externally, no meetups uh conference. And this is something I also try to lead by example. No, for instance, here today, I'm very honored to be here and I'm super happy that for instance, no uh next week. Uh One of my team members is uh presented on spring IO conference. So, uh what more so we, we have more because I've been talking about, about the team more about the part about the, the individuals. So it's important to have a regular um one to ones uh with your the person uh that report to you um when needed adult. So that also be explicit. No, it's like you don't have to wait for, for this. If you really want to explain me or ask me for something important to be humble, adaptable and paic again, as I told you, basic learning, but very important, be explicit and on this expectation. And it's something I I try to do from the start. Uh No. And when someone, as you saw now that the team grow a lot, when someone new stuff, they think that they might try to be quite upfront um uh open with the expectations because at the end of the day, any organizations, for instance, now we have a operation period.

So I want to be open about this and be open of OK, what this is about and how you are going to evaluate, not be very transparent on, on, on this, not to, to avoid surprises. And also help me on the evaluation. Then for me, I'm something I put a lot of uh effort is on helping define personal development plan. I think uh every person should be the owner of this. But on my experience, no, on the individual contributors, it's, it's very difficult that they come up with this. Uh So it's, I, I tried the most that they are the most implied on it, but I, I had them uh to build it. So for instance, not discussing about topics that they can maybe be beneficial for them that they train or how they have some slack time, how they can use. So I'm very happy when they, when they, when they come uh with uh with ideas, but it's, it's super nice. No, and I ask this and they say, oh, yes, I already thought about this. No. So I I'm there to help but best if this comes directly from, from the person, I try to help them also to identify those opportunities to encourage coaching between them and also uh uh asking for ungiven pickup.

And also, uh this is something I also try to encourage because uh it's a sad reflection not to be aware of, of your improvements on, on the good and the bad side. So, uh that, that's uh the main points I wanted to try. And as a result, if we apply this, we will have a happy and high performing team you can see here. Now, my, the full team, um and when everyone uh started as, as you can see, so the, the numbers of engineered double and I'm especially proud that from all the people know that that started on 2021 of all the engineers, all of them have been promoted at some points. And I'm really, really proud of, of that and I hope there will be more soon and just to finish up uh some takeaways. So as I told you, one of them, my main um um of, of, of my main uh learnings is uh being explicit on expectations at organization T levels. But uh the relationship, 1 to 1 at uh and at the team level also identify those uh opportunities while you deliver value. Uh Don't, don't stop you, you will always need to, to, to iterate.

So it's important to, to have these continuous improvement actions, the importance uh of uh lead uh by examples and uh coaching on growth. So, yeah, and I think Stephanie asked me, yeah, actually only one woman. Yeah. And actually the other woman that you can see is my uh the product manager. So actually, yes, all my team is male engineers. I would be happy. Uh I really love all of them, but I would really be happy that there will be more women. But yeah, it's really challenging uh to, to, not to, to, to recruit uh to have more diversity. But yeah, I, I am the first one that I would be really happy to, to increase that. But yeah, so, um anyway, they are all very supportive. Uh And I, and I think this is also very important not to create a life. So I'm trying to, to create these mentalities. And I, I think um my team are, are, are, are very aligned on, on, on this. And yeah, just if you want to know more about me here, you have uh my email, uh my contact on linkedin. And also if you want to know more about Hokko technology itself, you have here the, the, the link. Uh if you have uh any questions, I think we might still have some time for questions otherwise feel free to, to reach me on my email uh or by linkedin. I'm very happy. Thanks, everyone. I see. Like some people is writing. Thanks, Anna. Anna is working with me.

I really appreciate. So, yeah. Um Yeah. So anyone uh please uh feel free to, to contact because this is um a topic I'm really passionate about. So. So, yeah. Uh Thank thanks everyone. So I'm happy you liked the session. And I guess, yeah, I will wait if someone has a question, but I guess uh I will answer. Oh, had some answers. So, yeah, yeah, I think we can end it here. The uh presentation. Uh Thanks also for the organization to help. It was really helpful to help with the logistics. So, thank you, everyone.