Updated: Aug 13
As a project leader, you are in a unique position to provide numerous opportunities to support your teammates, especially those who may be junior to you.
In her book "Brag Better," Meredith Fineman calls this group of people the Qualified Quiet. These are immensely qualified individuals, but due to various reasons, they do not feel comfortable speaking up in meetings or publicly promoting their agenda. The Qualified Quiet often are overlooked for promotions and key assignments. Their insightful opinions aren't considered because of their silence, and someone else may bring up the same idea and "'steal their thunder" and credit.
It is not only the Qualified Quiet who can use your support as a project leader. Those who are junior to you can benefit from your sponsorship.
It takes a village to navigate a project through delivery successfully, and everyone should get credit for that effort.
Here are three actionable ways that you can elevate and promote the voices of members of your projects.
1. Know how your colleagues want to be mentioned or supported
As a successful project leader, you should get to know everyone on the team and build a positive rapport. You will get to know how people work and them on a personal level. You will begin to understand their personalities and how they navigate office politics. Suppose you notice that there people who aren't raising their voices in meetings and could provide more value if given a chance, meet with them 1:1 and have a confidential conversation. Mention that you notice that they have wonderful ideas but don't seem to speak up or promote their work. Ask leading questions to see how they want to recognized their work and find out about their professional goals. They may have specific ideas on how you could mention them during project work or sponsor them within the organization. They may want specific people in leadership positions to know about their contributions. Ask them how you could help them in their goals and propose ways to elevate their voice within the project and organization. If you don't have an opportunity to have this conversation with someone who could use your support on a team, begin to use some of the suggestions below incrementally.
2. Support your colleagues in meetings
Team meetings are a perfect avenue for elevating others on the team. Echoing others' ideas on the team amplifies their voice, and the idea is mentioned twice. Meredith Fineman talks about this in her book as well. "Repeating someone else's words and ideas makes those words more impactful." Another tactic is to serve as a strategic ally, especially during meetings you know will be challenging to navigate. Before the meeting, work together to prepare a list of questions and potential answers. During the meeting, ask leading statements to the other person and have them take the lead on the response. This technique would be especially beneficial to a person who is in the Qualified Quiet group. A final recommendation would be to play the introduction facilitator role. If a junior member of your team wants to be noticed or introduced to a senior member of the team, try and find some non-work-related things they have in common. An appropriate time to bring up a potential mutual connection is the casual time before or after a meeting or during a 1:1 with the team's senior member. This facilitation may open the door to future conversations between junior and senior members of the team.
3. Publicly recognize their contribution
Put the spotlight on members of the team who consistently provide value and go above and beyond. There are numerous ways to do this, such as nominating them for spot awards or wider company recognition. Smaller recognitions such as verbal "thank you's" in front of leadership or names written in leadership presentations is another way to elevate a name for their contributions. If you know the person's goal is to move forward in their career, find ways to tell their managers how they positively contributed to the project and the value they provide the team. If the person is active on LinkedIn, use the Celebrate an Occasion option to mention their name and share to everyone in your network that they are a great teammate and why. By publicly recognizing your teammates, you are not only showing your leadership skills but also adding credibility to their work and value.