This is something I have been thinking about quite a bit lately. Probably because I have been on so many terrible teams. 🙂 While I don’t think there is anything surprising here, I do think it is something you have to work on… always.
Obey Wheaton’s Law
Coined by actor/nerd Wil Wheaton, this is probably the most important: “Don’t be a dick”. It is my belief that a lot of people in technology grew up smart nerds, which is not real an asset… as a kid. But then they get older… and suddenly being able to fully flex your big brain feels amazing. And you can use it to beat people into submission. And… you are still aren’t cool. Don’t do that.
For a fuller treatment visit Rob’s thoughts here.
We all understand that a team is more than the some of its parts. Having different backgrounds, styles, thought processes, passions… this is what gives team their power. Everyone gets this. And I suspect most people think about this in terms of hiring. And while that is super important… it is only represents a small % of the problem. And honestly… I don’t even mean that some people are male, and some are not… and some are from China and some are not. People are much more than that. They are loud, they are shy, they care about details, they have to understand the big picture, they are visual, they have to feel that you care, they hate speaking in a group, they hate reading long mails, they feel under-qualified, … they are people.
It takes a conscious effort to work well on a team. Maybe you are the loud guy, and you call out the quiet guy to ask his thoughts (then pay attention or ask them later… if that was good or bad for them). Maybe you let people know that “if they have more thoughts, feel free to follow up in email”. Maybe you let the room know that Carol, literally, just said the same thing. You find ways to be inclusive and make people be heard and valued.
Your co-worker (or employee, for that matter) comes up to you “Could you help me architect some unit tests for my new feature?”. There is a range of answers you could give here… for example, “Wait, you got hired here here, and don’t know how to write unit tests?” or “You have been a developer for 4 years, shouldn’t you know this by now?” That is probably not obeying Wheaton’s Law.
Check out #1 on this study from Google on the Keys To Successful Teams :
Psychological safety: Can we take risks on this team without feeling insecure or embarrassed?
Number freakin’ 1! As a lead, growing your people is arguably the most important thing you do. And as this study shows, removing embarrassment and insecurity from your team is literally the most effective way to build a successful team. “Psychological safety was far and away the most important of the five dynamics we found.” The only correct response to a request for help is… to help. And maybe thank them for asking.
Is that It?
Probably not, but I will say this… caring if you are building and participating on a healthy team… probably gets you at least half way to a healthy team. Look out for each other, let their voices be heard, make them feel useful, find how they like to express themselves, help them learn and grow. Be Great.