In this Is This Mic On? We tackle the question of, “What does it mean to be a senior team member?” Read on to hear what SNP had to say about connection, communication, and clarification.
To be quite honest, I don’t know what’s happening. It feels like just yesterday I started my onboarding with my company. Shiny new email, complimentary company swag (I <3 my Yeti coffee mug), ready to grow my career, and then WHAM, I’m no longer the new kid and am now a senior team member? The people who showed me the ropes, who I look up to either moved on or are treating me like a peer. Sure, I’ve picked up a few things and I help out where I can, but I just don’t see myself as “senior”. What does it mean to be a senior member of my team and how do I step up? (Preferably without any dance battling)
Student to Senior
So after you politely say thank you, accept the applause, and take your proverbial seat at this imaginary convocation, you’re left thinking: what in the world does senior mean?
Let’s first define it, as it’s directly related to a high-performing team. This means we’re off titles here. That’s a separate thing. Related, but separate. So the following missive is not about going from Director to Senior Director on your LinkedIn. That’s often to do with salary bands and levels and performance reviews and tenure.
Here, we’re talking about senior as a mix of opportunity, expectation, and mindset. And yep, on a high-performing, rapidly evolving team, senior may very well be implied after your first month.
You’ve spent 30 days listening, noting, and reflecting. You’ve found where the bathroom is (if you’re working from home and you just found it, well, there’s that). You’ve formatted your email signature. You’ve maybe even connected your email to your CRM account (you can show us how to do that later, we’re still figuring that one out).
Perhaps most importantly, you’ve got an understanding of your functional expectations. So now we can layer on the “other responsibilities” section of that job description all of which means: leader.
Here are the three roles of that senior mindset and expectation that you can incorporate, adopt, and flex today…
3 Responsibilities of a Senior Team Member
1. Connect, and Create Connections.
If relatedness is a core trait of a high-performing team, the ability to foster relatedness is a trait that those team members must have. But “foster relatedness”? Who talks like that? Smartening that up to something we can take action on…it means connect and create connections.
Invest the time to get to know your colleagues. Participate. Join community events, initiatives, and conversations. Be interested in others. That Slack channel devoted to dogs? Share a picture of your dog. Be available, present, and accessible. Allow people to know you a bit more, creating a space for them to share more of themselves.
At the same time, take the initiative to create connections. Introduce new team members to someone from another department – maybe because they live in the same region, share an alma mater, or maybe they both brew their own kombucha. Heard one thing in this afternoon’s meeting that may relate to another thing from that meeting you were in just this morning? Connect the dots and connect the people.
“Norman*, I heard your update this morning about the new e-commerce site design for the core software – connecting you to Bubba* who was just talking this morning about launching a similar site for our consulting services…thought there may be some interesting conversations/connections there.”
If it’s already known: great. If it’s a new place to uncover similarities and efficiencies that make the organization run better…well, that’s very high-performing, seniorly of you.
*Note: Norman and Bubba are names of SNP dogs, and yes, they have been posted on the Slack channel. Because: Relatedness.
“Internal communications” is part of all of our jobs, and a high-performing team member is also an expert communicator. Every one of us is communicating up, across, down, and around. While there are plenty of functions that can be outsourced or delegated, your voice is not one of them. So learn, practice, and become a student of communication.
Put time into clarifying and articulating your point of view. That means identifying your own blind spots or biases, and where you might need to search for more information. It very often means getting up and out of your day-to-day and considering the impact to teammates, cross-functional teams, and customers.
All of this senior-level thinking is the model you are expected to be for your newer team members, and you demonstrate that thinking by being able to communicate it clearly.
You’re now senior. We say again: congratulations! Now: ask the stupid (your words, not ours) questions. Have you heard people preface a question with “sorry for the stupid question…” or “maybe this is a stupid question…”? Yes, probably. You’ve maybe even led into a question with some semblance of that phrase. First, cut that out.
What a way to minimize your own leadership and communication even before you add content to the conversation. Second, absolutely, 100%, we-beg-of-you please ask whatever is coming after that statement. Ask the question. On behalf of yourself, your colleagues, and your team. Here are some situations where your new senior status has a no-restrictions license to drive for clarity.
- Wrapping up a great meeting. Brainstorms! Ideas! Actions! Before everyone logs off and goes on to the next thing, ask: “Who is doing what?” (or – CAP, as we say at SNP: what is the Calendar, Action, Publish plan?)
- In a team discussion, digesting the all-hands content from last week, including EBITDA**, AOV**, and the CRM**? Maybe you know what that all means – if there are acronyms flying about, pause and clarify. For the newer team members (and maybe for some veteran team members/yourself, but we won’t tell anyone).
- Preparing for a customer call with multiple colleagues (let’s say: an account executive, account coordinator, customer success manager, solution consultant, solution engineer, and product specialist). Clarify who-is-doing-what. Who is the OneVoice, the central lead of the conversation, opening, closing, transitioning, and facilitating questions? Who is running the slides? Who is pulling up the demo? Who is taking the notes? Who is sending out the CAP email? Winging it is not a strategy. And a senior team member will ensure that preparation and clarity happen.
Being a senior team member is an implicit expectation, an incredible opportunity, and a leadership mindset.
So, there you have it. Seniority is an implicit expectation, an incredible opportunity, and a leadership mindset. You are a high-performing team member, now welcoming new colleagues onto your team. Now, go connect, communicate, and clarify.
**And while we still have you: it’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA); average opportunity value (AOV), and customer relationship management (CRM…that we’re going to go connect to our email).