Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Introspective: Recognition and Servant Leadership

Every February, my company has a host of Year Beginning Meetings (YBM - our fiscal year runs February through January). Within IT, we have several YBM activities. First, we have our pillar celebrations (we are a matrixed organization). Then we have a half-day General Session and a day-long Tech Fair. A huge part of all of these activities is recognition. There are a variety of awards that are presented to teams and individuals at the pillar and division levels, usually chosen by the award's respective management team. I love the emphasis on recognition, but I went into my pillar's celebration today wondering how you balance recognition with servant leadership.

I wasn't expecting to get an award, but I was thinking about what it would mean if I, who spent the entire year as an Agile Coach and Servant Leader, was chosen for an award by management. Shouldn't the recognition be focused on the team I worked with? More importantly, what would happen if I were selected for an award and my team wasn't? I would feel like a complete failure! What would it say about me if my management team thought I was deserving of one of the relatively few individual awards, yet my team didn't do enough to merit an award? I honestly didn't know how I would feel about it.

As it turns out, my team didn't win any awards. I'm going to brush past that for now, because I feel that they were truly deserving. As it also turns out, I won an individual award. It was an award that I sincerely did not expect to win - I was on my laptop with the company's internal social network pulled up and providing updates from the meeting when they called my name. It was also the only award I could have received in the absence of a team award that wouldn't make me feel like a failure.

Pillar Associates' Choice Award - the most meaningful award to me.

I won my Pillar's Associates' Choice Award. That means that, of the 250 people in the pillar that actually voted, I received more votes than anyone else. I don't know how many people voted for me, but the important thing is that it was chosen by the people. This wasn't something that management got together and decided to award me with. This award was selected by the people I was serving. I could not be more flattered and touched by any other award presented today.

What makes this particularly poignant is that I am in the process of transferring to another team in another pillar, and most people in my pillar that know me knew about my transfer prior to voting. They were willing to vote for me even though they knew I was on the way out. My six-year anniversary is in May, and I have spent my entire career to-date with the same team. Bittersweet does not quite capture the mixture of feelings that I'm experiencing, but it's as close as I can get.

I know I'm supposed to come up with something actionable out of this rambling, sentimental, nostalgic introspective, so I'd better get to it. I want to never forget this feeling, the feeling that I have succeeded as a Servant Leader in touching the lives of those whom I've served. As I move from area to area, helping them safely adopt Agile, I will strive to approach each one as if they were the family of associates that I first served. After all, they are all people, and they all deserve it.

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