Spotlight Userlane: Roozbeh Farahbod, VP of Engineering
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Empowerment as a leader is not something you can just switch on overnight, it is a journey of discovery
We caught up with Userlane’s VP of Engineering to discuss his approach to empowering his team, a core principle at Userlane, and how it can create an environment where talent flourishes.
Watch the interview here…
Or read on to hear what Roozbeh had to say…
I am VP of Engineering at Userlane, and joined around a year and half ago when the company was less than 50 people. We’ve grown amazingly since then, and it has been a great experience to be a part of.
I am a software engineer by trade, and my PhD was in building large scale distributor systems. I have worked in various roles from the defence department, SAP, Huawei and a joint venture between ZEISS and Deutsche Telekom.
What empowerment means to me
Empowerment for me is essentially including the team in the decision making process and allowing the organization to capitalize on their experience and knowledge.
In a way it is not a ‘nice to have’, but rather it is vital for a leader to form an engaged and performing team. Without it, I find it very difficult to foster innovation and creativity. Research supports this and shows that teams that are empowered are around 3-4 times more likely to make faster and better decisions.
Whilst it is a concept that many people talk about, and many believe they’re behind it, it is much easier said than done.
It is a challenge as a leader, because you need to find a balance between being involved but also taking a step back to allow talent to find their own capabilities. Your role morphs into more of a coach and it is about inspiring your team to grow their skills.
There needs to be a focus on trust. Trusting them to make decisions and take ownership. It is challenging as a leader to not step in and make the decisions on your team’s behalf, because of your knowledge and experience. But to empower your team, you must trust that they can do so themselves, so they feel enabled to.
Providing the right level of guidance
Personally, I think it’s about caring about people and wanting to see them grow. It is about taking an interest in seeing them succeed professionally by finding talent and hidden capabilities and fostering it.
Empowering my team at Userlane
At Userlane, it translates to being of service. This is what I repeat to my team, that as a leader you are of service.
Finding the time to coach and mentor whenever possible, although at times this can be limited, and understanding how much to be involved. It takes time to learn, and it is not just a switch you can turn on. There is also the matter of different personalities within the team – not everyone will require or respond well to the same approach. So there is a process to understand what characters require what level of support.
Another factor to consider is expectations, and by defining some clear rules and roles in your team, they will feel more empowered to make decisions themselves.
A final point is about building the right skills within your team, knowing where skills gaps are or building on hidden capabilities.
Whilst navigating through growth and the associated challenges at Userlane, I have tried to apply this to the engineering department and shape it into a more mature team. I have been very fortunate to work with our VP of Product, who is a shining example of an empowering leader. Together we have done a lot to build the dream R&D team we would like to have, and we have really amazing people who are keen to take ownership and continuously impress with their decision making.
On top of that, our CTO is continually trusting and empowering us to build the kind of department we think we should have at Userlane. It is a very special place to be for a leader who wants to empower.
Enabling talent to grow
Based on definition, it is about creating an environment where your team is fully empowered to make decisions within the scope of their responsibilities. They are enabled to find their own talent and grow, and eventually reach a level of autonomy.
This doesn’t mean you are completely out of the picture, but your involvement is less so, and more about empowering and enabling. The more they grow, the more powerful they become. The more powerful they become, the more valuable they are for the business. All of that means a healthier and better performing business.
Empowering each other, regardless of hierarchy
I find it very interesting that ‘empowering others’ is a core principle at Userlane, because it is a very strong message to come from C level. You cannot take it for granted!
With the amazing people that we have, it makes you feel more connected to people, and once you feel connected it fosters a feeling of wanting to empower. It is not just for leaders, it is a feeling of empowering each other, regardless of hierarchy.