Innovation Stories From Around The Globe

The Whole Developer: How to Build a Successful Team

Jun 18, 2014 1:00:00 PM / by casecase

[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the 5th of an eight-part series, where we delve deeper into the Whole Developer concept and each of its elements.This week, we explore Team Building, why it’s critical, and how you can lead a great team. If you missed the rest of the series, click here to check it out]

The Whole Developer is already a master coder, but what about when it comes to working with indefinable objects called “other people”? Sorry... corny developer joke!

When working as part of a team, be it for starting a company, joining one or working on any project of high value, dynamics between team members can be volatile. How team members work together towards a goal can literally make or break their success. Just take Angelhack Seattle winner Vera as an example. The entire team had a shared enthusiasm and emotional investment, so everyone had a voice. It was reflected in the final product.

In what is often a small room of varying personalities and skill sets, it’s important to make sure that the team is set up to succeed. With that in mind, let’s look at how you can build a happy, healthy and productive team.

Identify Strengths and Define Roles


Source: List of the Day

When starting a project, there can be an overwhelming amount to do, and often not enough time to do it. It’s tempting to dive right in without a plan of attack, but while not procrastinating is a good thing, it’s important you take the time, at the outset, to properly identify the core strengths of team members and clearly define roles.

That’s not to say, for example, that if one person is the designer, that non-designers shouldn’t be able to voice an opinion. But people need to feel valued for what they do, and in a similar vein, have the freedom do it. A clear hierarchy of leadership should be the starting point from which everything else follows.

Set Goals and Share Progress


Source: TechHive / HBO

If you were watching Season 1 of HBO’s Silicon Valley, then good for you - it’s a great show. There was an episode mid-season where Jared, the team “manager” (for lack of a better word), used a Scrum board to promote friendly competition between the developers, which in turn, made them more productive.

While your team may not need a Scrum board, it’s good to set individual goals in an open forum. An easy way to do this is to have each team member share, at the end of each day, three clear achievements that they accomplished that day. This gives people a chance to be proud of what they’ve accomplished, keep the rest of the team up to date on progress, and subtly motivates each other so that no one appears to be lagging.

Establish a Culture


Source: Imgflip

Who are you? No, it’s not some deep philosophical question, but you should ask yourself what exactly are you trying to do, and why. For example, if you’re just starting to build a company, you should be clear about what your company stands for, and what types of people best suit the environment you’re looking to create. It’s up to team leaders to lay the groundwork for this, and for the rest of the team to maintain it, as you build a full-fledged company. Yes, you may have two developers that are Ruby on Rails wizards, but which one fits seamlessly with the rest of the team and best understands its mission?

Honestly Evaluate Needs


Source: Meme Generator

As a group of multi-talented super ninjas, it’s easy to be over confident in one’s abilities. But don’t underestimate the importance of efficiency and overall quality. Team leaders, along with the rest of the team, must take an honest assessment of what strengths and weaknesses the team has, and address areas of need as soon as possible. This may mean stretching your budget, it may mean giving away equity, or it may mean opening up your tight circle to an outsider - but if you’re going to grow as an organization, you do what’s necessary.

Open Communication


Source: QuickMeme

It’s key to make sure that the lines of communication are always open - both between leadership and the rest of the team, and also between each member. If your team is underperforming, get to the bottom of why. You hired them for a reason, so if they’re not living up to expectations, identify the issues as quickly as possible and see what support may be lacking.

Likewise, if you, as a team member, are feeling lost in the shuffle and need more direction, don’t be afraid to speak up - sooner, rather than later. The situation may easily solve itself if all sides are being open and clear about what the issues are. Of course, sometimes people just aren’t a fit for each other. If that’s the case, it’s best for everyone to realize it as soon as possible.

Keep following us for more on our Whole Developer series, and be sure to sign up for our program starting this fall. We’ll teach you team building, and other skills for developers to  become lean, mean and well-rounded members of the most exciting companies around. Learn more here.


Topics: The Whole Developer


Written by casecase