Great teams are the foundation of any successful software company. Like independent startups, they are productive, energetic, and drive innovation from within. These are the teams that knock goals out of the park — but creating a great team is challenging. It’s about more than finding developers with professional skills. That said, there are certain traits that all good software teams share.
Good Teams Communicate Effectively
All great teams communicate well. They keep the right people informed so that everyone knows what they’re doing with as little effort as possible. Team members create safe, open environments where everyone feels comfortable sharing their concerns and ideas. They understand that people deal with problems differently; some people are up front with their feelings, while others may be less likely to pipe up. They don’t host unnecessary meetings and seek efficient ways to hold focused discussions.
Encouraging healthy, open communications in your software teams mainly comes down to effective leadership, tools, and process. Are the project leads setting an excellent example by transparently communicating themselves? Do they explain what needs to be done and why? Are they engaging to listen to? Do they focus on developing effective communication channels and make sure they’re useful? Do they host productive, open meetings, peer reviews, and product presentations? Is there an identifiable process designed to encourage teams to communicate regularly? Have you provided your teams with the right tools to facilitate this transmission?
All teams benefit from clear goals. Before anything else, make sure that your teams know what their purposes are and why. Otherwise, they will struggle to find a path and will start to lose morale. A team with low confidence is not a productive team.
Good Teams Have Clearly-Defined Responsibilities
In addition to their goals, great teams promote shared responsibility in their plans. Each employee on a team feels personally brought in to contribute to the team’s shared mission. If the team achieves their goal, everyone involved wins. If they don’t, then they work together to figure out a different way forward. They don’t rely on the top-down structure where managers only care about the bottom line above all. They understand each team member has their role to play in helping the group reach its goals.
Defining individual responsibilities ensures everyone knows what role they have on the team and their expectations. They can trust each other to get their respective work done, holding each other accountable for delivering their promises. This definition of roles also includes leadership; your team should know who leads the technical, design, or product questions.
Defining roles lets a team’s members focus on their work and trust that everyone else does the same. It also avoids accidental overlap, which can make decisions take longer and outcomes seem unclear. Communicating responsibilities to everyone in writing is a great way to get a team off to a strong start.
Good Teams are Independent
Teams with too many obstacles struggle to succeed. The best teams have the freedom to experiment and find the best way that works for the company. They must have the space to develop an internal culture that sets the team up for success. Top-down management will necessarily choke the flow.
Strong teams are self-contained units that share their collective skills to build products. If they find an area the team lacks expertise in, they take steps to solve it. For example, an employee can earn an Agile coach certification online to learn best management practices if nobody on the team can be a project lead.
While you should undoubtedly treat your team with respect and give them the space to work, it’s essential to hold them accountable for their responsibilities. Think of it as a simple bargain: You agree to treat them well, but you have clear expectations about the work they must contribute. It’s a fair enough deal — and one everyone will benefit from.
Suppose there is one thing you likely noticed throughout this guide. In that case, it’s that your software teams can thwart most problems by communicating effectively, facing difficulties head-on, and being respectful with each other. It sounds simple enough, but simple is often deceptively challenging; this is why it’s essential to lead by example.