My perfect way to describe what a “professional career” is in analogy form, would have to be venturing off on a journey by boat on a random river. You have no idea where this river will take you, or the different strategies and/or resolution skills you’ll need to navigate it safely, but you learn on the way. That’s a lot like how in a career you’ll be entrusted with different positions, and sometimes even, go back and forth between types of roles.
That’s how switching back into an IC(Individual Contributor) on a team, after spending years as a technical leader solely, translates to me. It’s not 100% easy, but the benefit in that is I have some great learnings to share. Let’s get into them!
Keep In Mind What Annoys You
The old and tired phrase comes into clear vision here, “Do on to others, as you’d like to be done to yourself.” Anyone that’s been in a leadership potion for long enough has come across a team member that made your role more difficult than it should be. Whatever the reason may be, leaving it up to your imagination, they just push you to the edge of your wits and cause issues in what could be a more pleasant experience for everyone.
Trust The Other Person’s Process
Those in leadership roles, on average, take a good amount of pride in how they run teams/organizations and set up their teams for success with day-to-day processes. So much so, implementing these processes tends to be an immediate action item when taking on new roles. With that in mind, as a person with leadership experience filling the role of an IC, you’ll need to expect that your new lead will have a process that differs from your own.
While this can be nerve-racking, and maybe even have flaws, you still at the minimum give it an honest try. You might learn something to take with you into your next role, or you might just find it lacking in some areas that just need a bit of fine-tuning. Nothing wrong with either, or something better/worse than those options.
Don’t Be Afraid To Be Vocal
Respecting someone’s leadership often includes ensuring you don’t step on their toes. This could range from being careful not to overspeak at meetings, or leaning on their opinion on decisions and only differ when there is a dire issue with their presented option. Both presented scenarios and everything else that could fall in line there, are reasonable. However, the worst thing that could come from worrying about these cases is losing your voice. In fact, most of the time, your opinion is probably being depended on more than you think.
These are just the main areas that came to me as I partook an IC role for a client, after some years of being in a leadership role. While it may be frustrating at times, and the urge to want to do things your way may be strong, it takes a leader of great character to take this on effectively.