I’ve learned over the years people want to be appreciated by the people they work with. Specifically, they want to know their work adds value and their perspective both matters and shapes the organization. We often talk about how people want to be recognized. Is it public acknowledgement of an achievement? Is it time off? A bonus or a bump in pay? Being picked to work on a special project? Specifically being picked to NOT work on THAT project? We focus on recognition because it is perceived as the only path to appreciation.
A while back I started having recurring meetings with each platform engineering team. The initial intent, and still the intent, is for us to spend time talking about strategy, direction, challenges and ways to leverage all of those for advancement and improvement of the platform. Another interesting intent emerged for me, and hopefully the team as well. We naturally began to talk about company, team, culture and I began to feel really plugged in to both what the team was doing and what each person cared about. At times it can be challenging to know every person on the team, what they think, what they care about, why they come to work and what keeps them up at night. This additional intent for me is connectedness.
I was playing calendar chaos one day and was trying to move one of the platform engineering meetings around. I had finally given up and just canceled that occurrence, thinking we’d pick it up the next time around. I sent the cancellation and later that day got an email from one of the guys.
“Can we try to fit this in later this week or next week? We’re batting 0.500 and it we cancel, I feel like you’d kind of be blowing us off.”
I stopped and thought about this for a while. What occurred to me was this particular engineer really found it valuable to have this time together. He appreciated the time spent in that meeting. The more I thought about it and thought about the attendance of these engineering meetings. Everyone showed up either in person or remote. Everyone was engaged. Sure, some speak more than others and sometimes we go completely off on tangents that may have nothing to do with anything work related. For 2019, I did the calendar reset and now these meetings happen every week, one platform team at a time and cycle on a six week cadence. These are important. I try very hard to not let them get overbooked.
I have the same mindset when it comes to 1:1s. I do these walking because it tends to help with a more fluid conversation. Weather permitting, we walk around the building and get some fresh air. If these get overbooked and I cannot resolve, I move them. Here too I find the conversations go on tangents. We cover the important pieces of people, technology, business and challenges. I find this time valuable and it seems lto be appreciated.
Abstract all this and we’re talking about presence. Be present. Make it a priority. Be present for everyone on your team. There are many ways to figure that out. Half of the meetings you are in are less valuable than being present with your team. Understanding and talking through why we’re doing what we’re doing is high value. Working together to iteratively evolve strategy and vision.
The next time I find myself in a conversation about recognition I’m also going to bring up presence. It is equally important as recognition and I think we tend to forget that point and its impact. I’m sure there are other dimensions but I do believe that recognition and presence together lead to happier more engaged teams. Which, of course, leads to higher retention and building a great place to work.