Being a conscious advocate for yourself and your team can improve job satisfaction, build team cohesion, and possibly even open the door to new opportunities within your organization for you and your team.
Do you believe that the good work performed by you and your team will be recognized and rewarded without your having to advocate for it? I used to believe that was true. Now I know that in believing it, I was at best putting myself and my team on a no-growth treadmill; at worst, I was setting us up to be an ineffective, dissatisfied, dissolving team.
I came to this realization after reflecting on an experience with one of my team members. I knew that she had been working diligently on a variety of projects. I also knew that she was dissatisfied with her job and was likely to leave for another opportunity. She worked extremely hard and had been a tremendous team player. I would have hated to lose her.
I decided that I needed to take a different approach during our one-on-one meetings. I had nothing to lose; she already had one foot out the door. So instead of just reviewing her outstanding tickets and top few projects, which had been my standard approach, I decided to go deeper. I needed to understand her, her projects, and the root of her dissatisfaction.
When we started our session, she seemed taken aback that I wasn't asking for a status update. She kept trying to redirect the conversation back to what was comfortable for her. But I continued to ask deeper questions. Instead of asking how, I asked why. Instead of asking about percentages of completion per project, I asked about her perceptions of that completion. I could tell she was frustrated; after all, this was not at all like our previous sessions.
After several meetings, she started to open up. I suppose that we had started to develop a trust, and she felt that I really wanted to know the answers to the questions I was asking. What an amazing experience. I learned that she cared deeply about the success of the organization and our team. I had failed to see all that she was doing. I had failed to see the extra effort that she contributed every day. She was not just another worker; she was a leader and an innovator! She had tremendous insight into what our customers needed and wanted. She contributed in ways that I had never expected.
When I asked why she had never told me about what she was doing, she asked why I hadn't noticed. After all, I was her supervisor. That is when I had my eureka moment! I was guilty of the same habit. I expected my supervisors to notice what my team and I were doing for the organization. How could I expect my supervisors to spontaneously notice and recognize the extra effort and care I put into my work when I could not see it in my own team?
Right then and there, I decided to take action. I changed the format for all one-on-ones with my team members. In addition to status updates, I now include time to go deeper with each person. I want to know more about them and what they want to achieve professionally as well as personally. Likewise, I decided to change the substance of my one-on-one meetings with my supervisor. Rather than sharing only status updates, I began sharing what my team was doing as well as what I was doing.
In thinking about this experience, I have come to realize that I am not being a shameless, obnoxious self-promotor for myself and my team. I am providing my supervisors with the information that they need to more fully understand what my team and I are doing to better the organization, and, more importantly, why we make the decisions and do the things that we do. Communication is key. It provides an opportunity for leadership to appreciate the work and the people.
An unexpected result of this change in approach is that my almost out-the-door employee is still with the organization. She reports that she is happier and significantly more satisfied with her job. I too am much more satisfied and feel that I am growing into an advocate for myself and my team.
Susan Montgomery is DBA Manager at the University of Texas System.
© 2019 Susan Montgomery. The text of this work is licensed under a Creative Commons BY 4.0 International License.