Diana Octavia was a high achiever by the time she was promoted to her first managerial position. She was primed to replicate her individual success with her team when she faced her first hurdle as a leader.
“What did I do wrong? And now I realise that I'm not putting myself in my team's shoes [and] position. I did not know what they felt at that time.”
Learning how she could lift the talent around her played a part in not just her growth, but also Sleekr (now Mekari)’s too. Through empathy, Diana is now the Head of Customer Experience at Mekari.
In this edition of Middle Matters, she shares the growth mindset that set her on her journey.
Seeing the Bigger Picture
Diana started her career at Mekari when it was still called Sleekr and had less than 10 employees. When the Indonesian HR software company launched the Mekari brand, it held a conference in Jakarta that she had the opportunity to helm.
“It was the first time I realised that my company created a big impact for this [many] users. . . . thousands of clients all across Indonesia [that] believed in our company [and] what we offered to them,” she said. “That was the time when I realised I'm not just working, but I'm actually helping clients. I'm helping these companies to grow better, not just Mekari.”
To see firsthand the impact this company made, it dawned on her that she was part of something bigger: “When you’re just doing [your job], you do not open your eyes to the wider perspective. You do not realise that what you've done is this big.”
Bridging the Gap
When the pandemic hit and everyone around the world started working remotely, Diana noticed the distance it created between her and her team. Things that used to be so natural like water-cooler talk or chats by the desk needed to be more intentional.
She started implementing regular one-on-ones with her team to reconnect with them and found that the challenges in the digital world aren’t so different from the physical ones too. “It wasn’t only just work from home. When you are working from the office as well, you face these kinds of trust issues or misalignments with your subordinates.”
Diana found that regardless of the setting, creating an open environment starts with listening. “People who are stressed just want to be listened to. Your presence [can be] such a great help!”
Now that the team is returning back to the office, this practice of one-on-ones hasn’t left. She explains that these sessions could be something as simple as a 15-30 minute catch-up, regardless if it’s about work or not.
Lighting the Way
To understand what motivates her team, Diana accepted that they are neither the same as her nor the same as each other. She had to embrace the unique elements they brought to Mekari. “They’re supposed to be treated differently, even though you are pushing them to achieve the same goal,” she says. “You should listen and [then] you will start understanding them.”
It is in these moments that you learn of their personal challenges and create the opportunity to affirm them of the path they’re on.
While mentoring and delegating are important, she shares that as a leader, “You have to remind them about why they are here and you have to really appreciate if they are doing good things.” Diana emphasizes that it is important that regardless of how small these wins may seem, they need to be reminded that these all add up to the future they’re working towards.
Diana’s return to Mekari came after completing her Master’s Degree and this time in a more specialised role. She shares: “This is a very new field for me. There’s still a long way to go to achieve the ideal state of customer experience at Mekari.”
After having years spent leading communications and operations, she’s not shying away from embracing change and growth.
“If you have this fixed mindset of yours, you will not go anywhere. [You] may be excellent at your work, but you may be stuck [at] this point. So I think that a growth mindset helps me the most.”
Diana’s journey shows that curiosity and empathy become catalysts for growth - not just for herself but for the people around her.
- When was the last time you checked in on your direct report’s personal goals and motivations? Are they on the right track?
- Are there any areas of the work where your team members are having a challenging time? What questions can you ask them in your next meeting that’ll help them come up with their own solutions?