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Why and How to Advocate for Your Employees

Alignment
Personal Growth
Fairness
Team Processes

24 August, 2021

Aravind Valloor Mana
Aravind Valloor Mana

Engineering Manager at Broadcom

Aravind Valloor Mana, Engineering Manager at Broadcom, shares how he was consistent and effective in advocating for his teammates to increase engagement and performance levels.

Problem

When you are a manager, you are not only responsible for your team deliverables, but also for the growth of the people in it. You might not be sailing the entire ship, but the management has placed an enormous chunk of responsibility on you, which brings us back to putting their trust in us. Undoubtedly, you want the work done correctly, but there is an implicit responsibility that I believe I have towards the team: to help the people grow in it. That is precisely where I have to advocate for the team.

With more projects comes more workplace politics. Perhaps, one manager would want the whole project to be done by his team in order to take the entire credit for it, and that is where you might have to take measures. That would be your chance to step up and send a few members from your team to work on specific aspects of the project.

Earlier, there was a vast divide between the team in the United States and India. In contrast, the Indian team was getting most of the maintenance work, which I felt was not-so-challenging. That is when I felt a huge gap between these two globally diverse teams, where the American team thought that we were not good enough and that we could not be trusted in terms of other work. Since the trust issue kicked in, I had to highlight some of the most incredible people in my team to make them visible to the world.

Over the last 2 years, I gave enough limelight to some of them. When a brand new project kicked off 2 people from my team were selected for it. Once my team members were sent to work with them, I had received compliments as to how they had done an excellent job, which was a great source of motivation. Hence, placing those people in the limelight, trusting and advocating for them towards new challenges was worth it.

Actions taken

We have a system where all the issues would be in a database. Previously, due to a lack of team meetings and collaboration, engineers would not fix the problems. It was solely because there was no pressure access or energy in the team. Along with team meetings and 1:1s with managers, people started feeling the common goal that we all shared. The inherent feeling that was created in the environment enabled everyone to outperform.

When everyone started performing quite well, I could show that we had minimized the problems from a three digit number to a single digit. That was a big jump, and no one in the company had ever seen such a low number of issues, with no backlogs. It started a new conversation at the management level, where people were talking about our hard work. In any event, I did not take credit for the work but dragged my entire team with me to share the credits for the job.

I believe that I was able to bring enough visibility to the team. Slowly and steadily, the American team started to place their trust in us, and we were able to ace many other new projects. Now, I do not have to put anyone in the limelight anymore, as everyone has already made their moves and have been doing their work pretty well. I was giving my team members the challenges we had created a lot of pressure, ultimately creating diamonds.

Lessons learned

  • As they say, that slow and steady wins the race is a true statement. You cannot make someone trust you overnight, and when it comes to the senior management and other authorities, it may take some time.
  • Trust your team. Once you take a leap of faith in them, they will exceed your expectations. People who have already surpassed the rigorous interviews have already shown their competencies and how they can be trusted.
  • Set goals for your team. Trust and a clear vision helps everyone to work toward the power of teamwork. Get the energy in, and make them support each other. Instead of just coming to the office, doing the work and leaving at the end of the day, ask your team members how well they worked and helped each other as well.

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