As a team leader you are directly responsible for the moral and attitudes of your team. One of the most important things you can do is strive for an attitude of team positivity, comradery and togetherness. If you get this right then you are on track to having a successful team, get this wrong and no matter what else you do you’ll hit a wall and you won’t be able to progress. Not to mention that working in a team that likes each other and believes in what they do is really fun and rewarding.
“We” promotes team cohesion by phrasing all successes as “we’re great” not “I’m great”
One way of alienating your team is to talk about your own successes and likewise the failures of the members of the team. Simply remove any possible risk of introducing your own ego into what you communicate. Your own ego is enemy number one. If you are a technical lead then you are probably a gifted developer and with years of experience – don’t let that confidence that you feel turn into ego.
If you do something great then make it the team that is great. If another member of the team does something great then make it both that person and the team that is great. The use of the word “we” is critical – “we’re great”. Make your team proud of itself.
Protect and promote your team externally. All successes belong to the team and sometimes it can really boost a team member if you can publically praise them in front of a manager. Likewise failures belong to the team however responsibility for failures should rest at your feet. Protect your team and you’ll get the respect and support of that team – and greater success. However if you publically criticise a team member you will look weak, shame the team member and destroy any “we’re great” attitude.
“We” disarms potential conflict situations.
When performing code reviews, especially in public places like someone’s desk, the use of “we” disarms the situation as any criticism or observation is made against the team and not the individual. The individual can relax and we can constructively discuss the subject.
When talking about failures it prevents finger pointing. The successes and the failures belong to the team. Externally it is the team’s reputation that rises and falls according to its own overall performance. Internally each team member is accountable to the team and any problems can be tackled constructively and privately. Saving face is important so you can prevent embarrassing situations for your colleagues.
Let’s take an example. I see a change in the DEV branch that I don’t like so I go to the team mate’s desk to discuss it.
“You have changed this database query to filter out all bookings made by partner agencies. You have just created three serious bugs in the system because this query is called by three other classes, not just your class that you’re working on.”
“We have changed this database query to filter out all bookings made by partner agencies. We have just created three serious bugs in the system because this query is called by three other classes, not just our class that we’re working on.”
Using “we” allows me to be blunt but take the edge off. Because when I give feedback like this I want the team mate to learn but not to be humiliated. It is constructive criticism. I talk about how “we” need to be careful about “our” work. My colleagues know that when I review code I have a critical eye and have a high quality bar, but they know all criticism is made to make them better developers and also maintain the quality of software we produce. That is why I don’t worry about giving criticism and I can see my team mates grow as they absorb the lessons I give them.
The aim is to get the team thinking “We’re great” and thinking in terms of “we” is the first step.