What we call a team is a group of people. What we call a work is a thing that will be done by people. In IT industry I am in, people build software, not a machine. When we look at a team, there are many roles. Some are developers; some are testers; some are called QA; some are architects and so on. And then we come up with many processes to make those roles worked well together. Sooner or later, we just prefer to team as Roles and Processes. People are eliminated. That’s sad!
I started to step into building a great team by looking at its components in my own eyes. I do not judge anyone or how they run their teams. This is purely my observations and practices.
I started to pay attention to how things work; where they come from. In that quest, I met Simon Sinek where I found inspirational speeches about leadership, about people, about what have been missing these days. Last year, I decided to study SCRUM seriously. There is a match between them: The People — The heart of everything.
Not many people say “I do not care about others“. It does not matter what we say. What we do matters. To get me engaged with the people, I constantly practice asking myself
- What have I done to help others?
- When was the last time I did?
- Do I really mean what I did?
- Do I foster the caring environment?
Why do I have to ask myself those questions? Because I really mean it. I do not want to stop at saying that I care about others, in the team context.
Part of the practice is to get others involved. The end goal is not you become a good guy. The end goal is to have a good team where everyone cares each other, brings out the best, and deliver the best. What if every member practices asking those questions?
With the growing of collaborative tools, team members are preferring to chat on tools than talking to each other. The tools are perfect for remote team. But when everyone is sitting at the same office, each can reach others in a matter of tick, is it better if we can talk directly to each other? Yes. They have their own reasons. However, if they might talk a lot when discussing non-work topics.
I do not advocate for right or wrong regarding to the people in the team. There is no silver bullet of how to do it right. However, I do have some suggestions that I believe in, and that I am practicing.
First, a team leader should have the correct mindset when looking at people. He/she should reflect base on these questions
- Do I pay attention to helping my teammates?
- I might. Oh what was the last time then?
- Do I foster a good team spirit? That they help each other.
- What is my next step that I can start immediately?
In general there are 3 steps
- Recheck your intentions
- Reflect your actions in the light of your intentions
- Define immediate next doable actions
Second, Team Leader should share it with their team. You cannot do the right thing without honesty first. This is a hard step because of emotional barrier. It is not easy to speak out in the first time, honestly accepted our own faults. Regardless, you have to do it to reach the third step.
Third, foster the team spirit. The reason we are in a team is to help each other to accomplish certain things, usually defined as our job. We are there, team up, to build a software, to deliver a feature. What you have done individually does not much matter. What matter is the delivery of the whole team. A member might be very smart, work fast. He/she might finish his/her tasks quickly. But if he/she just stops there, the whole team still sucks.
To foster that spirit, one can practice
- Do I help other teammates?
- Oh when was that?
- Look after the guys next to you.
- Look at the team goals.
We cannot get everyone participated in that at the first time. There will be resistant. But, very important but, there will be some who are willing to change and see it as a good way to work.
We spend a major time of our live at work, with people we call coworkers, with people we call teammates. We team up to finish a job, to get things done. To accomplish those, and have fun at those major time spent, we have to start with us first. We are the one who makes a difference. All we need is to bring back our old behavior: Talk to each other and Help each other.
That how I believe it should work. I fight for it.