I asked the people I work with 6 questions about value

Newsletter #5

Doing valuable work is a big thing for me. I hate doing work for the sake of it, and “because it pays the bills” or “because my boss asked me to” have never been good enough reasons for me.

I wanted to similarly align everyone I work with around the idea of value. So, for the past 2 weeks, I went through an exercise where I asked people 6 questions concerning theirs and my value at work.

This was my first time coming up with such questions, so don’t expect these questions to be amazing. I do, however, think they help start a conversation around the value a person is bringing to the table. This is important because sometimes people overlook their own value. Other times, stating an overlooked piece of value helps everyone else recognise it.

As a result, people are better aligned about where they bring the most value, which encourages them to do more of it. And, of course, do less of the stuff that doesn’t bring as much value. 

Articulating value is much trickier than it seems. When forced to type it out, one quickly realises that not all work is valuable. More importantly, one also learns to find and appreciate the value in the work they and their teammates do. This brings pride and clarity to routine work and helps people see the bigger picture value in the mundane stuff they have to do. 

Without further ado, here are the 6 questions.

The first 3 questions are about you:

  1. What’s the biggest value I bring to the team?
  2. What day to day (perhaps unseen or less explicit) value do I bring to the table?
  3. What other value do I think I can bring to the table that we’re currently not using?

The next 3 questions are about your colleague or boss:

  1. What’s the biggest value I think you bring to the team?
  2. Where do I think you ought to be adding value that you currently are not?
  3. Where do you currently bring some value, that you should be bringing much more value?

In the spirit of openness, here are my answers to the first 3 questions: 

1. What’s the biggest value I bring to the team?

Client relationships. Clients feel I give a shit about their business. They can also see I’m trying my best to do a good job at solving their problems. Needless to say, the reason they think so, is because that’s exactly what I do.

Bringing focus and clarity to the work. When working in teams, things can sometimes get lost in translation. I’m good at clarifying things; and building a narrative and bringing focus where there wasn’t any. I’m also able to keep the big picture in mind, even when working in the weeds. 

Building and testing processes. I can’t say I’m an expert at this, but I enjoy doing it, and derive great satisfaction from creating new processes that help people work better together. This is really valuable to the team because most people don’t think about this, dislike doing it, or dislike being responsible for the uphill battle of convincing people to adopt new processes, which they’ll inevitably start out (and possibly never stop) hating.  

2. What day to day (perhaps unseen or less explicit) value do I bring to the table?

Resourcefully fill gaps. From copywriting, designing and coding, I can do everything with varying degrees of competence. I’m also very happy to google till I find the answer. This gives me the ability to kickstart new projects or nudge things into place, without having to wait for resources or expertise. If someone goes MIA, it’s likely I’ll be able to keep things from burning down until the person reappears. 

Make decisions. “Everything is urgent, everything is code red. Nothing is perfect, nothing is finished.” When working in a fast-moving, constantly-changing environment, this is how things always feel. And many teams either get overwhelmed and don’t ship, or ship broken, mediocre stuff. So having a decision-maker to move things forward at the right pace is important. I’m comfortable making decisions, and justifying them. More importantly, I’m also good at hearing other conflicting opinions and coming to new, better decisions based on the additional factors provided.  

3. What other value do I think I can bring to the table that we’re currently not using?

It’s easy to correct things you can see. But it’s impossible to leverage things you don’t know about. This question helps identify unused skills, which people might otherwise have kept to themselves.

This question is contextual, so it’s hard for me to answer it in this newsletter. But, to be fair, I do feel like I’m using all my skills in my current job, and there isn’t much I’m holding back. 

Take these questions for a spin

If you’re up for it, do this exercise with a colleague or boss. Then, share your answers with each other and see what value you can uncover. You’ll be surprised by the results, I know I was. Alternatively, you can do the first 3 questions yourself, but they don’t work as well without context and reciprocal feedback.

Some things I encountered that you might want to look out for:
1. Making sure people’s perceived value aligns with their actual job description. E.g. It’s good if your project manager says that her value is in her being a jack-of-all-trades and this allows her enough knowledge to manage various people effectively. It’s bad if she says her greatest value is in getting new business or design. 
2. People might think they’re adding value in areas they’re actually weak at. No, this isn’t an eye-roll moment. This is an amazing opportunity to train someone to be better in an area they’ve already self-identified they are enthusiastic about. Helping them become awesome in an area they already think they’re adding value is a great way to boost their confidence and output. 

And that’s it! Let me know if you get a chance to do this. And if you have ideas on how to improve these questions! 

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