Building a Development Team

As a web developer, manager, director, and numerous other roles on development teams I see countless ways individuals and organizations choose to build and run teams. While I was a consultant for a number of years I had the benefit of seeing these types of relationships from the outside, and have come to my own conclusion of how I think developers prefer to be treated; as well as how I would like to build and run a team. As an over simplification I will put my observations in two buckets: teams that are managed and teams that are led. Those that know me would understand that I have a strong preference to working with, for and on teams that are led not managed.

Clear a Path

When you hired your team were you looking for keywords like: “Enters time-sheets efficiently,” “Attends Meetings,” or “Enjoys Paperwork?” I’m going to guess you were looking for folks that are great at writing clean manageable code and can work well with others. If your the type that constantly complains about the former, with a team that excels at the later; get over it and make it someone else’s job to do those tasks. You should always focus on eliminating performance blockers to your team. Those types of blockers not only are inefficient, they also weigh on morale during crunch time of your team’s projects.

“I love entering time-sheets in triplicate!”
– No Developer Ever

Be Their Megaphone

Give your team an environment to express their thoughts, differences and opinions on all kinds of topics; when they need support be there for them. If you have an overly introverted team, don’t assume by taking control of every meeting you will some how put a spark in one/all of them to follow your lead. Show each of them they matter, don’t take the limelight and find ways to encourage individuals to lead discussions you know they have experience in.

Frequent Feedback

While we all can appreciate some level of criticism when warranted, it needs to be consistent, fair, relatively frequent and generally confidential to be constructive. Whether positive or negative, if feedback isn’t given then people cannot grow.

Hire a Diverse Development Team

Make a point to evaluate your teams diversity levels from cultural, ethnical, gender and even political. While I am sure there are studies out there, in my opinion just as you want to balance your senior and junior members having a more diverse team helps immeasurably. In NYC, Etsy seems to be on the right track for hiring female engineers and I’m sure others will follow (maybe even Silicon Valley?).

Have Fun

You’ll know when you’ve built a great team when you and the rest of the team enjoy your jobs. The stuff we do on a daily basis is not always the most challenging or interesting, but if we work with a great team it doesn’t matter.

Photo: Mark Kent (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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