That "I Did It!" Feeling

I moved into a different role at work this week. I handed off my former team to the new team lead with a final 1-on-1 (and coincidentally performance review) for each team member. Each of them has a different variety of skills, motivators driving them, and awareness of either. This blog post focuses on just one team member.

"I did it!"

One team member is really driven by that "I did it!" feeling. They're early in their career, new to the product and the company. They spend a lot of their time pairing, asking for help, or floudering while wondering if they should be pairing or asking for help. Every 1-on-1, they'd come in not feeling like they learned or accomplished anything. They weren't getting that "I did it!" feeling.

But they were doing a great job. They were making progress in all the different technologies our team uses (Mendix, Docker, OpenAPI, pytest, gitlab pipelines, etc.), learning as they went, and able to accept feedback to course-correct when necessary. They knew they were learning a lot, and had a lot still to absorb. None of this gave them that feeling they were looking for, the feeling that motivated them.

Forces within our control

As a team lead, part of my job was to maintain a bubble for my team. There may be a swirl of possibilities and priorities yet to be chosen by the people around and above us. I wanted to create an environment where my team members could still get that "I did it!" feeling regardless. This Liz and Mollie comic captures this nicely.

A great manager holds umbrella to protect team from ridiculous requests, unclear priorities, massive uncertainty, unneccessary meetings, last-minute chaos; and foster clear expectations, defined roles, work-life balance, stable achieveable goals@lizandmollie

This team member came to me and asked for a career path, clear steps for what they should be doing next and how to get promoted. I started by sending them the job description they hadn't seen for his own job, helping to set clear expectations and define their role. (I followed-up with HR about why job descriptions were not visible to every employee; it's the little next steps like this that are so hard to see a manager doing well or at all.) I spent time in our 1-on-1's finding out more about what was on their mind, dragging their attention away from work.

I spent time in places you might not expect reinforcing work-life balance. We started every refinement meeting with a review of upcoming time off (and peer pressure from me to take more of it). This allowed us to only refine the amount of work we could accomplish in the upcoming period, and set expectations for what couldn't be done.

All of this helped scope and clarify the team member's job. I tried to give this and all my team members the "I did it!" feeling by talking about what we accomplished at the smallest scale in standup, a slightly larger scale in retro, and on the largest scale in the meeting with the whole unit. But that wasn't helping this team member.

The thing that finally gave them that "I did it!" feeling was: a Trello board for their own personal career development, with To Do, Doing, and Done columns.

To Do

We identified a clear, actionable step to take for a few technologies, job description bullet points, and conversations we'd already been having in our 1-on-1's. Some of them were items that would be accomplished during the course of our regular work on user stories. I set a clear expectation about the others: they were for work time - down time while waiting, crafting days, etc. They were not for personal time.


I explained that it's better to limit the number of items in this column at a time. Deciding what to leave aside allows you to focus on what's in front of you. The number of different technologies gave them the impression that they needed to be an expert in everything at once, when that was not the expectation at all. Resetting this expectation helped.


After they listed things they had learned and accomplished in the previous months, scrolling through the Done list got them pretty close to that "I did it!" feeling. Taking a moment to reflect during our 1-on-1's helped give them that feeling. But I realized it would be more satisfying if they had it right away. They needed to celebrate their accomplishments as they were happening, to keep up the motivation and momentum.

I did what was possibly my best management move for this person: I threw confetti.

Trello has a feature where if you add the confetti ball emoji 🎊 to the title of a column, moving an item to that column throws a little confetti around the item. It's very cute, and it made my team member finally get to that "I did it!" feeling.

Setting expectations around the feeling

In the handoff to the new team lead, I explained this need my team member had, the ways I'd tried to meet it, and the confetti ball that finally worked. I pointed out that the need for the "I did it!" feeling can be found in other ways, and it's perfectly fine to try other things to get them there. I used the "Mary had a little lamb" heuristic to explain what a different approach would have to include.

I did it!

The team member wanted to point to something they did. Without pairing, without asking a bunch of questions, they wanted to point to something and know that they were able to accomplish it themselves.

I did it!

The thing had to be done. While some skills and knowledge transfer could be months or years in the making, they needed something to come to a close.

I did it!

The new team lead and the team member get to decide together what's on the list, what it is. Growth and comfort in skills may not be immediately visible to the invidual in the day-to-day grind. Setting aside time for individual reflection or recognition at the 1-on-1 would help.

I did it !

This is the confetti ball piece of the puzzle. The celebration. It may feel silly, or gimicky, but it finally got this person that satisfaction they were looking for out of their job.


  • When managing, do you dig into what a person needs to have clear expectations, defined roles, work-life balance, and stable achieveable goals?
  • When a team member asks you for an outcome, do you think about why they're asking you for that?
  • When you do handoffs, do you describe the actions you took or the needs they were serving?