How can I tell someone ‘My colleague is great’ when they are not?


When I suggested to Pete that he and the team needed to become much better at being ambassadors for one another he wasn’t at all sure. “How can I tell someone that one of my colleagues is great when I know he sometimes makes a mess of things?” he challenged.

It’s amazing that people struggle with this idea because when teams begin to practise representing each other powerfully it immediately makes a difference in two crucial respects

1. People start acting into that higher expectation

2. People feel seen and valued and this recognition bolsters the sense of ‘teamyness’.

But did Pete have a point? Surely you have to be authentic.

The answer to this is that you are – you are simply choosing to speak about the person as they are when they are at their best. This means speaking about the things that they are successful at, the projects that they are working on which they have a passion for and the leadership they are bringing that you have been impressed by.

I asked Pete: “When Mike goes and speaks to the Board next week wouldn’t you want him to take the opportunity to let the Board know about all the great things you are up to in your area? And wouldn’t you want him letting the Board know about some of the things you’ve already pulled off? Wouldn’t that make a difference to you?”

Pete agreed it would. “And would you expect Mike to represent you in this way?” I asked.

And that’s where the gap became apparent. In Pete’s team nobody ever spoke about anyone else. They were transmitting radio silence! And what therefore came across to others was that they weren’t aligned, they were following their own agendas and they didn’t much care for one other. This wasn’t true but it was the impact they were having. So how can you act as ambassadors for your colleagues? Here are the 3 simple but crucial practices

1. Make it your job to find out what other people are up to that they feel proud of, are excited about and/or want to do more of. You might even ask them what they’d like other people to know about their work

2. Look for opportunities to highlight these successes and ambitions to others

a. speak in your meetings and in presentations about the value that others are bringing

b. drop into conversations what you’ve seen your colleagues doing

c. tell real stories or give practical examples of your colleagues successes

3. Remember to close the loop. Tell your colleagues who you’ve been speaking to. Tell them what you said and what impact it had. You don’t have to explain anything here; this is just the way you are behaving to promote ‘the team’.

By Anthony Landale

Learn more about Anthony Landale, the author of this article.

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