Tech leaders should be direct and ask their teams what they need before implementing new plans, says Lance Walter, CMO at Neo4j.

“From my experience, ‘seek first to understand’ is preached a lot more than it’s practiced in Silicon Valley, and I’ve made that mistake myself,” Walter says. “When I first managed a technical team at Oracle in the mid-1990s, I assumed that people on the team were motivated by the same things that I was. For example, our group was in the top three out of about 30 technical support teams in the quarterly customer satisfaction score and I was extremely motivated for us to get the top spot. Some people on my team shared the same feeling. But others were more motivated to learn more about different products, or work more closely with QA and product management, to have more upstream impact on the products we supported. I was able to help guide these employees to those opportunities eventually, but I would have helped them achieve that much sooner had I put down my own assumptions and listened first.”

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