Like A Girl

Pushing the conversation on gender equality.

Code Like A Girl

Team of ‘Strangers’?

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Do you know your team? Who are these people sitting next to you everyday at work, working on the same project? Do you think it’s becoming more difficult to team work?

For me who has been working in software teams for the last decade and a half, I encounter the pain and diversion from team work to individual agendas everyday. I find myself often craving for the energy and diversity inside teams.Team work is an integral part of being a human. We as species are meant to be working together. We used to hunt as a heard, farm in union and gather round the fire as a community.

Here is the recipe we used to build confidence and togetherness in software development teams. These have been tried out in many software development projects over the past 15 years and it has (more or less) worked for me every single time. Some of the examples showcased here might look very classical. In reality, they are here because they really worked. If you decide to implement some of these within your team, do let me know how it goes. 🙂


A common misconception about teamwork is that it has to be lead and governed by a selected individual. You do not have to be a leader or a manager to promote team work. In fact, it’s rather easily done when you are NOT positioned in a leadership role, because you are not EXPECTED to do so. Team members are the true owners of a successful team.

Each member has a reputation to upload.

Team work succeeds when a team arrives at a general consensus regarding way of working, culture and spirit.

That is why it takes time and we often call it ‘Team Building’.

Situational Leadership

Paul Hersey’s situational leadership model uses 3 attributes, Readiness level, Ability and Willingness to assess a team.

“A situational leader is anybody anywhere who recognizes that influencing behavior is not an event but a process.”
– Dr. Paul Hersey

The theory can also be applied individually among team members. In an ideal team, everyone will be ready, able and willing at the same time. However life is far from ideal, so you will definitely find gaps in members. Analyse the reality of the team and use that knowledge to delegate, motivate, coach or direct as appropriate. 🙂 Worked like a charm for me.

If you fancy this,

JOY Before Need

I have worked in many projects and with many teams. Some of the best memories I have about my work are not solely about achievements, rather the fact that we all were either Happy or Unhappy together.

Even in desperate times when projects would not go as planned and when we got negative feedback from our customers (Yes, they do come :)), I remember the jokes we used to crack to ease pressure off the team.

Always illuminate the joy of achieving a collective goal. This entails good habits and builds trust among team members. Opportunity to be a part of something bigger which cannot be achieved individually is the way to motivate a team.

Guard against the Culprit! Stress

When you are in software development, stress is your life long best friend. It does not mean we are stressed out 24*7. Stress does not even need to be built up over time. 🙂 It could be built up in seconds (literary, imagine a production issue thrown at a totally peaceful team minding their own business.) and be gone in an hour.

How we handle these critical moments of stress is indeed a game changer for team work. This is when an emotionally diverse team comes to the rescue. Your best troubleshooter could be vulnerable to stress, but another average developer could come to the rescue of the team when paired up with him.

Don’t Fake it!

In the famous 7 habits of highly effective people Stephen Covey discusses about the importance of character ethics over personality ethics. In summary, you are signing up for failure if you fake it.

There is an inspiring tale coming from the old times in my community (Sri Lankan) around a group of 7 gypsy people who decided to make a soup with the rice they had for supper. Everyone had a little bit of rice so they boiled up a huge pot of water. Then they took turns putting the rice into the pot. Finally when the soup was about to be done, they looked at the pot.

Surprise! It was only boiled water.

Everyone assumed the other 6 people would put in the rice. 🙂

Consequence of faking in team work is failing as a team!

Appreciate Each-other

People tend to assume that developers do not expect credit for the work they do since they have a culture of earning silent recognition. However, it is not the case all the time. Most effective way to immediately make a bond between team members is to start giving DUE credit to each other. Noted the highlighted word? yes, the appreciations should not be fake, they should be for real value team members bring in for real reasons.

Create Sense of Security

This isn’t about being a flock of sheep who gather as a heard out of habbit. This is rather about being able to believe that everyone in the team act with the best interest of the team in mind. Finding trust is the key here. But I do not like to use the term ‘building’, I’d rather use ‘finding trust’.

How many people do we really trust? Probably a handful. One cannot expect to build total trust among team members. It’s just not possible.

What we need to build is ‘Enough Trust’ to work together! Enough trust in most teams is consistent, predictable, productive behavior among the members.

This is when professional ethics matter. Professionalism is the easiest way to build trust among the team and across teams.

Turn a Blind Eye

I’m serious. It could be difficult not to sometimes, but it’s essential. If you leave the extreme cases out, we all display unique set of strengths and weaknesses when we team work. Turn a blind eye towards minor imperfections among each other.

Anyone can make a mistake and how it is addressed by the team shows the confidence and respect towards each other. Look ahead and focus on the big picture without placing blame on each other.

Break the Cultural and Gender Barrier

Cross cultural teams could be challenging, but definitely possible. In fact, they could be the most rewarding of all teams. I love to team up with people all around the world.

It goes without saying that you “should not put all your eggs in one basket”. Same goes to teams, diverse teams bring in totally varied capabilities and outlooks into the table.

It gives one another so much opportunity to learn, grow and understand. Whenever the opportunity is presented, use it to understand the other ‘culture’ (Understating is the key to all successful relationships) and get to know people at a personal level. It helps!

Treat both genders equally. If you are not sure how to, Do as you would be done by.

Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!

Do this big time. Do not assume anything. Always raise constructive questions and try to answer them as a team. Question your own decisions as well as team decisions openly. A team culture that admires free speech is a place that ideas flourish and take wings. Be non-judgmental about the tiniest, silliest idea, even if it comes from own self. 🙂

Remember, a single lie can take down your position and confidence with the team or customer overnight. It could take months, if not years (worst case never) to earn that respect back again.

Last but not least, smile! Spread happiness in your team!

Here is one from me! 🙂