Name Dropping, Engaging Stakeholders & Modeling the Behavior you Want to See

Let me explain how name dropping and telling others about the people you met with can help the team win!

As a software developer I maintained a focus on writing quality code and not breaking the build. Many of my fellow programmers and introverts can relate to being heads down and wanting to stay under the radar at work. Often times we are quiet about our work and rarely do we brag about our accomplishments. When it comes to business networking, we shy away from talking about who we know and the connections that we have made. Overall, we put our heads down and do what it takes to get the job done. Or so I thought.

A big peeve of mine in business meetings is when people name drop all of the people they talked to in the time leading up to the meeting. It seems like a competition to see who can name drop the person highest up the chain. If you spoke with the Sr. Director or the CEO prior to the meeting where you are proposing an idea, then it must be a good idea right? At times it seemed as if in every daily stand up meeting I had my manager and higher ranked teammates would make it a point to talk about every single person they met with the day prior. This was very frustrating to me as I didn’t see what their meetings had to do with writing quality code.

Eventually I realized that what these braggarts were actually “Modeling the Behavior” that they wanted from the team in order to be successful. When making decisions and changes to software systems it is best to engage with all of the affected stakeholders in order to get the best possible outcome you can for the entire team. Often times this means meeting with people or picking up the phone and having conversations. The piece that I was missing was that when you’re modeling behavior you need to talk to others about the behavior you’re trying to model. This is why the people routinely talked about everyone they met with. In order to be successful I should be meeting with people and having these conversations as well.

Now that I see that you need to talk to others about the actions you take I can see some areas to improve on that communication. When you only talk about the “who” you met with, it is perceived as name dropping. I think a better way to model the desired behavior to talk about both the “who” and the “why”. If the person you’re talking to can understand why engaging with that stakeholder was important then they are more likely to remember to do it themselves if they get in a similar situation. For example you could say “I met with Sr. Director of cybersecurity to ensure that my solution architecture aligned with corporate security objectives. I’d rather find out now then have to go back and fix things later”. If you can get developers to engage appropriately with stakeholders you will build a better project overall.

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