By Sean Wood
Effectively advocating for your team, while at times a balancing act, is worth the effort.
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
John Quincy Adams, Sixth President of the United State of America
What does advocacy mean to you and how does that understanding affect your leadership decisions? For some leaders, advocating for their team means highlighting team successes and sharing positive feedback with upper management, while for others, it means seeking career growth opportunities for high performers.
In whatever form it takes, advocating for your team seems like a no-brainer, right? Of course you want to push to have their efforts recognized, to get more resources for them and to do all you can to position them for success, but knowing how (and when) to advocate for your team is a balancing act. As much as you might want to reward your highest performers with a raise or career advancement every year, you must also recognize that as a manager your decisions about resource allocation must also support the overall health of the organization. Fortunately, advocating for your team is about more than just the bottom line.
Why Advocate? Consider the Risks of Not Advocating
When you choose not to advocate for your team, or as is more likely, you get so focused on other priorities that you don’t take advantage of opportunities to advocate, you run the risk of major problems, including:
Increased turnover. A positive relationship with one’s manager is one of three top drivers for better employee engagement and reduced turnover.
Diminished self-confidence. Employees who see their supervisors promoting their work and importance to the organization feel more valued and confident in their profession.
Lack of perspective. To be effective and engaged, employees need to understand the role they play in fulfilling the company mission. A lack of advocacy can send a message that their work isn’t valuable and doesn’t contribute to the bigger picture.
How to Advocate for Your Team
To be an effective advocate for your employees, consider the following strategies:
Listen to their concerns and work on finding solutions. Regularly check in with your team about what they need to be most effective in their jobs and, if appropriate, take action on their behalf. Sometimes that means requesting additional funds for modern tools and sometimes it means brainstorming with them to help find creative ways to remove roadblocks.
Have their backs. When you’re talking with peers or senior leadership, refrain from criticizing your team. Keep those conversations within the team, with your direct supervisor or between you and your mentor or coach.
Maximize motivators. Often “advocacy” equates to “compensation.” But there are other options for motivating staff, like promotion, recognition and opportunities for professional development. And give credit where credit is due. When someone on your team does an exceptional job, make sure they get the credit.
Advocacy is a nuanced skill that can lead to better-engaged employees who feel valued and appreciated. Leaders need to find the right balance, weighing the needs of their employees against the organization’s priorities. That can take time, but the effort you put into effectively advocating for your team will be rewarded with increased loyalty, engagement and performance.
Sean Wood is the owner of Three 8 Communications and previously worked for Sensis TX. He has over 30 years of writing experience and conducts media training sessions with numerous corporate executives.
Learning and professional growth go hand in hand. For regular career insights and information on continuing education programs offered by UT’s Center for Professional Education, subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter, It’s Your Career.