Advocating for the Team - Foundations of Leadership

Advocating for the Team - Foundations of Leadership

The Foundations of Leadership series is built to help new managers and technical leaders ramp up their effectiveness quickly. Until you've developed your leadership style, these templates and tools help you create effective leadership habits. (view all posts in the series)

Intent

Advocating for the team ensures visibility into the team’s work through thoughtful and intentional sharing of impact, objectives, and issues. This visibility pays back dividends to the team in recognition, opportunity, and development. For any team, its leaders serve as the team’s principal advocates and champions. They are frequently the conduit that carries information to the organization about the team’s work and its impact.

"Advocating for others directly increases self-confidence and their ability to perform at the peak performance levels necessary to increase their success, and the success of the team." ー Sherrie Campbell, psychologist

Motivation

Convey the Purpose: Every team exists for a reason. Through work completed, leaders can share the organization’s goal and how these goals help the business fulfill its mission.

Focus on Impact: Tactical information has value for reporting purposes but does not convey the significance of the work. Focusing on the impact of work is strategic and helps groups beyond the local team understand the work’s purpose.

Develop the Individuals: Advocacy requires that leaders understand the successes of the individuals to champion their work to external stakeholders. Through advocacy, motivation, and understanding, leaders help team members achieve their potential.

Downstream Dependencies: Your team’s work is a requisite for another organization to complete theirs. Advocating for the team helps dependent groups understand the constraints, challenges, and issues facing your team.

Upstream Dependencies: Similar to downstream work, the completion of another organization’s task(s) likely proceeds items in your roadmap that deliver impact to the business. When external teams understand tasks blocking your team’s impact, they can prioritize to move the company forward.

Secure Resources: Company resources, especially time, are finite. Demonstrating business value allows a leader to ask for additional help from other teams when there are opportunities to create more substantial value.

Application

Acknowledge the Individual: Leaders must see individuals as people, not as things. Advocacy begins with understanding the people you are advocating for. Vehicles including regular 1:1 meetings and social conversations such as company lunches are meaningful ways to build rapport and understanding.

Minimize Bridge Burning: The relationships with other teams are as equal in importance as the relationships with your team. No matter how difficult a team is to work with, under no circumstances should you place them in a negative light. As an alternative, focus on what you need from other individuals and other teams for your team to succeed.

Status Reporting: In companies that employ status reports, it’s essential that the status reports shared by a leader reflect the team’s overall impact on the business instead of a tactical list of items completed. Larger companies frequently have a staff meeting for contributors of a certain level. Reporting on impactful changes during these meetings is encouraged. The focus should remain on the impact to the business and needs from peer groups if required.

Say Thank You: Strong leaders share credit with others, making the team’s success an opportunity to acknowledge the support that was required for the team to succeed. Organizations can create a public award that they provide to their peer teams as a way of saying thank you that is visible to other groups.

  • A “grease trap” award, given to another team that helped with a necessary (but unpleasant) task in the form of a spatula, signed by the team.

  • The “golden flyswatter.” A gold-painted fly swatter presented to the fixer of the most consumer-impacting bug that week.

Execution

Advocacy for the team is the actions you take in three distinct areas: the people, the relationships, and the reporting. While 1:1s, recognition, and status reports can’t turn you into an advocate overnight, they can certainly get you started.

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Now, Act

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