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Learning my team’s recognition language in the first 1:1
In my last post, I talked about a big question I ask in my first 1:1 with someone on my team: “Are you someone who has a clear, long-term career goal in mind, or do you tend to be more opportunistic about the jobs that come your way?”
My second big question: “How do you know you’re being successful in your role?”
And then I rattle off a list of concrete ideas: “If you had to stack rank all the options, where would you put: job scope, compensation, getting promoted, giving big talks onstage, having your team say nice things to you, seeing your product in customers’ hands, public recognition from leaders, private recognition from your manager, customers praising your product, a feeling that you’re doing something exciting, <and the list goes on>...?”
My goal is to:
1. Provoke a conversation about what is truly important to each person. Not everyone feels confident asking about compensation or promotion. But what’s more crucial to someone’s long-term career than making progress they’re excited about? As their manager, I can explicitly invite those conversations, understand what’s important to people, and follow up on what I’ve learned. Listing a range of concrete options helps people think about what matters to them, and also makes it safe for them to say that comp or promotion truly is what matters.
2. Learn how to give the right kind of recognition for each person. We all love getting recognition, but it’s hard to give to others — especially because different people thrive on different kinds of recognition. At some points in my career, what I most wanted was to be promoted; other times, I was most proud of getting praise from my peers. When I know someone’s “recognition language”, I can give them the validation that works best for them.
3. Encourage people to become their own advocates. When my teammates name what’s important to them and say it out loud, they’re practicing asking for what they need. If what matters to them is compensation, can they say that explicitly to their manager and to HR, and make sure they know how comp works at their company? If what matters is public recognition, could they ask to speak at 3 partner teams’ all-hands in the next 6 months? If they’re excited about positive customer feedback, can they set aside 10 minutes every week to read happy notes in a customer forum? That way, they’re taking action to get the recognition signal they need.
4. Remind people to consciously celebrate recognition when they get it. Sometimes, even after working so hard to get the kind of recognition I want, I skate right past the feeling of it! If I give a talk at a partners’ all-hands, can I take a 2-minute dance break afterward to celebrate? Or swirl an exclamation point onto a post-it on my monitor so I can see it for the rest of the week? Taking time to celebrate makes these moments of recognition more meaningful, and gives me a whole new lever on my energy.
Talking through these big questions early in my relationship with someone on my team can be scary — for both of us. But if we can be open with each other, I've found these questions can help us understand each others' values and goals, and set up our relationship as a long-term partnership from the very first meeting.
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