As Software Developers, we often focus most of our attention on the technical aspect of our work, especially since we are engineers! What if I told you that there is a second parallel world out there?
The world of people, business, communication and cooperation!
One of the biggest mistakes in my career was that I saw this so late. This second world has a significant influence on our day-to-day work and, what’s more, future promotions and even how other people consider us.
That way, based on the experience that I have earned across years working in the IT industry, I would like to share with you, my dear reader, a couple of hints on how to become a great Team Member.
The list contains my observations as a Team Leader and my mistakes as a Team Member.
As a Team Lead, I love working with people who are into the job they are doing. I value very much all ideas/feedback/comments on my work.
If you are passionate about what you do and know how the project/workflow/whatever could be improved, never hesitate to start a conversation about that topic! Rember, though, that it should never be in the form of sad complaining — it kills many great ideas.
How to start if you have never done that before?
- Prepare a presentation about improvement that can be done along with arguments on how the system will be better and what it gives us as a team from the business and technical perspective. (Faster build/Code reviews = fewer bugs etc.).
- Propose a recurring meeting once per month where you and your team will share ideas, talk about news from the IT world, discuss a technical situation of the project, and set technical goals for next month.
Remember — it is tough to regain trust. I had an opportunity to meet in my career persons who were very unprofessional in their work.
Remember — your teammates can see that you are fixing an easy bug for two weeks — for the fourth consecutive week.
What to do if you have a problem:
- If you have trouble focusing on work or have some private issues that influence the pace of work, never hesitate to contact HR or your Team Leader. In a good workplace, everybody will try to find a solution and help.
A can-do attitude means that even if a problem looks tough, we believe that we are able to overcome it and find a solution.
Keeping a positive attitude in a team is an essential part of being a good Team Leader, but not only! It is just as important for being a good Team Member too.
How to start:
- Instead of searching for problems in every task, try to be a person who sees opportunities and challenges to overcome.
- If you work in SCRUM, a daily meeting could be the first place where your new attitude can be shared with other team members.
- Next time a Team Lead or someone from the Business Team asks you if something can be done — instead of saying “No,” try to say something like — “Yes, we should be able to do that, but first we have to do research, give me X hours/days and I will get back to you” — then check how hard it will be and be back with constructive feedback.
Try to understand
This one is connected to “Can Do Attitude” — try to understand that business is business — and software without clients will not pay for your home/car/holidays. As a Developer, I often faced situations when I had to throw away code from a week of coding.
One of the hardest parts of dealing with software is to find a balance between technical quality and business value. One of the most significant positive changes that I made throughout my career is that I try to understand why some decisions were made instead of starting shouting loud that something is unfair.
How to start:
- Next time something unclear/unfair happens in a project, try to ask your team lead or manager why some decision is made instead of shouting and being angry. Asking is a critical skill that will teach you how to gather why something is in the way that it is and if the future will help you to be a person who will be giving that answers :)
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
If you are stuck on some task, never hesitate to ask someone from your team for help. Great teams are built on solid communication and mutual understanding. What more — even now — when I work as a Team Leader, I never hesitate to ask for help — no one knows everything!
He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever. — Chinese Proverb.
Sadly to say, but I hate to work with people who try to sabotage a project. How would I describe a sabotager? It is a person who tries to find a problem in almost any decision made by the team. Try not to be that kind of person and as I wrote above — if something bothers you — start a conversation instead of staring fight between you and your team.
Why to stop:
- There was a time in my carrier that on every possible Scrum Refinement I had to add my snappy comment on almost every task that we were planning — then I thought that I was doing good as I wanted our application to be perfect from a technical point of view — I didn’t understand that this isn’t a way of developing a real production-ready application. So even if I was pretty good at delivering sprint objectives — I was a sabotager — a person who creates a bad attitude in the team. I could be more liked by other team members if I changed my attitude.
So if you see that you are that person right now — try to change this — no one like a guy who always sees problems.
The best part about being in a team is that standard mathematic theory doesn’t work here!
Synergy means that sometimes 2+2 isn’t 4.
When two people with complementary skills and attitudes meet, it can generate extra energy that will boost performance, create new ideas to handle obstacles and speed up the development process!
A great Team Member will always look to find synergy.
How to do that?
- The easiest way to find synergy is to know YOUR skillset. As a great Team Member, you should know your strengths and weaknesses.
Knowing that will allow you to share knowledge with other team members and learn from them in parts that you feel weak.
As a side-effect, it will create synergies between you and your teammates.
Remember — Great teams are made by Great Team Members — unique persons with their skillset and characters. Being a great Team Member isn’t an easy task — especially if you never thought that such small things like on list above have a significant influence on a whole team.
Try to implement any of my points in your day to day work as a Team Member and let me know how it changed the attitude in your team. I’m sure that it will have a positive result!
- Be proactive
- Switch to “Can Do Attitude”
- Ask for help if stuck
- Seek for synergy