Here’s a bit of a “professional checkup” question. Do you know who you work for, and do you act like you work for them?
I don’t mean who you report to. I certainly hope you know who that is (though in the world of matrix management, sometimes that answer can be tricky to arrive at). I mean who you work for. Who are the people without whom you would not have a job?
Another way to ask this question is “Who are your customers?” (and if you have zero customers, well, congratulations and condolences, I guess!). It’s important to know who these people are, because regardless of how well your manager thinks you are performing, it’s ultimately your customers who decide your fate.
Using myself as an example, I manage a team of developers who work on a handful of infrastructure components for EMC ControlCenter.
Who do I work for? Who are my customers?
- Every application team that uses my team’s components relies on my team’s components to get their own job done
- Every end user of those applications is forced to live with the limitations imposed on my first-order customers in consuming my team’s work
- Every developer on my team relies on me to represent them to my management and work with them on personal development
- Every manager in my management chain relies on me to correctly interpret the company/organization/group vision and execute on it
Once you start on this, you can extend it quite a bit.
- The teams testing my software
- The team documenting my software
- The readers of my blogs
- My peer managers
- And it goes on and on….
In Office Space, Peter complains that he has eight bosses. But if you really think about it, you work for a lot more than eight people. And every one of those “bosses” has the ability to help or hurt you.
So here’s something to think about periodically (while you’re “sharpening the saw“, to borrow from Covey). Are any of your customers underrepresented in how you do your job? When’s the last time you had a conversation with a representative from each customer you came up with? Could you easily make contact with someone from each of them, and could they reach you if they needed to?
Talk about low-lying fruit … manage that customer list well, you are more productive, your customers are happier, and your network is continually expanded and refreshed. Wins all around!