Team building is a process where expectations are no guarantee of future results. There are a lot of unknowns and it calls for well-orchestrated efforts. Especially when people work remotely and literally speak different languages. Here everyone gains their own unique experience and learns from their own mistakes.
I have been managing IT projects for almost a decade. For the past few years I have worked with Sibedge. Most of our projects are custom software development. Businesses turn to us when they have difficulties delivering on their product ideas. They contact the companies like ours to find people who will help them bring their concepts to life.
While working at Sibedge, I have managed several large international projects and now I continue to gather the best teams from all over the world for new ambitious tasks. At Sibedge, we have developed our own approach to arrange the work of distributed team so that people who have never seen each other live could become one whole. The fact that we work in an international field without being bound to a certain place allows us to find the best of the best in order to turn them into a strong team of specialists who are able to efficiently achieve their goals in time.
My project team of 15 people is successfully working and showing impressive results. The secret is that we scrupulously laid the groundwork for the further development of the project.
In this paper, I will share how to choose the right employees, make a real dream team out of them, build communication and create conditions for effective work. Below are tips that I personally proved in battlefield conditions. Seven success factors.
Set up a team on your own
People should be a match on a mental level. It is totally okay if you are in ultimate harmony with one person but cannot find the common ground with another one. But it is better to find out about that before the project begins.
When I am looking for people to join my team, I personally collect feedback about them from their colleagues and HR department. If a person has been with a company for a while, there is definitely such information about him. Ask the previous project manager to share their opinion and point out the employee’s strengths and weaknesses. Ask around the HR team about the potential team member, his or her motivation and personality. The colleagues who worked on some projects together in the past can also share a lot.
After you collected the primary information, it is high time to talk with the employee him- or herself to form your own impression. Sure, these checks do not guarantee that a person will ideally fit into the culture of the team and the company, but this is the minimum that will allow you to safe-guard yourself at the initial stage.
A rule that always governs my choices: work only with those who you want to hug! This is a very powerful criterion that helps make the right decisions.
Finally, I carefully review all the information collected, turn on my hug detector and decide whether I am ready to take responsibility for this person or whether it makes sense to keep looking.
When the team is formed, it’s time to turn a bunch of uncoordinated IT specialists into a high performing team. How to do it?
Find a common goal
“If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.” — Lucius Annaeus Seneca.
Engineers become a team when the same purpose drives them. Helping a group of divided developers to understand the goal is the task of the leader. He or she is the one who defines the project concept and deliverables.
A sure way to set the team up for results is to involve them in the goal setting process. What is important is that the goal should resonate with everyone, because this is what everyone will be moving towards in the near future. Also, a common goal should help each employee fulfil their personal aspirations.
It’s great when a goal is measurable, like running an NPS section on a platform for example, but it should also be meaningful. For example, to become a top-of-the-line team in terms of project metrics. A good goal energizes the team and gives the strongest motivation!
Distribute the roles wisely
Do this considering each team member’s personality and abilities. One can generate a lot of ideas, others do only as they are told, and someone may crave for more responsibility. Take a close look at the employee and help him take on the most suitable role for him- or herself.
There are different tests (DICS, PAEI) that help to identify the behavioral type of a person. However, each and every one of us is unique, and it may be difficult to determine the personality psychotype. Better watch a person’s actions and take your time. For example, a guy in my project eventually took the lead over all front-end developers while the back-end was covered with a guru who felt comfortable to be a consultant and did not seek a leadership role. We ended up having two mini-teams, different from each other but very efficient. In this case it is important that the leader does not impede but guides the team members and helps them discover their talents.
Team members should feel comfortable in communicating. An explicit criterion that your team is in tune with each other is when your team meetings make all the participants feel welcomed, good and productive. To stay focused, determine which meetings are for professional communication only and which are for jokes and fun.
We have simple but mandatory rules that help us create a friendly atmosphere in the team.
Sibedge’s Code of Conduct
- Be polite.
- Stay away from insulting your team members.
- Speak in a level voice.
- Deal with difficult situations as adults.
- Everyone has the right to make a mistake and the right to express their opinion.
- Any team member can contribute an idea for consideration.
- Praise in public, criticise in private.
These rules guarantee that everyone will be listened to, understood and supported if necessary.
The last point resonates with me the most. The workplace should be safe. No one likes being scolded in public. Chances are that this will impact the person’s performance, and the team will lose him or her. Instead of bashing your employee in front of others, have a one-on-one conversation. This makes it easier for this person to admit mistakes and understand how to avoid such mistakes in the future. On the contrary, commend so that everyone else can see and hear it. Public recognition helps the team better understand the value of their colleague and boosts both individual and common motivation.
Run retrospective meetings
This is a great way to measure team spirit. It is also to note positive changes over the past period and identify growth points in the future.
Employee satisfaction and engagement is the best investment. And retrospective meeting is a simple but efficient way to boost them. Based on my experience, teams that do retrospectives are more likely to enjoy working together and support a high level of productivity.
A true story that happened to Sibedge. Every retrospective meeting our colleagues note how united our team is. They mention that thanks to our well-coordinated work our engineers can cope with the most difficult tasks and stay motivated despite the difficulties. This feedback increases the collective endorphin levels, and everyone starts the new sprint with a great mood and confidence that everything will work out in the best way.
Say goodbye to people who put out negativity and demotivate colleagues
This is a necessary step to take. If a person is a high-class specialist but they create a negative atmosphere and do not shy away from saying derogatory things about the personal and professional qualities of their colleagues, it is a red flag. If the first warning about such behaviour has been ignored, it is time to part ways. Without a twinge of guilt, I remove everyone who violates the boundaries of other team members from the project. If a person does not understand the first time, most likely it will be difficult to fix it, and the negative will be surging up.
Remember to rest
It’s great when you can spend time together in an informal setting, chat on the little things of life, get away from the routine and have a good laugh. The last time, the whole team went to an immersive online theater, where we had to invent a vaccine and save the whole world from an infection (how relevant to these days). We all survived, found the vaccine ingredients, and rid the world of a dangerous virus. I am sure that if we were not a close-knit team, nothing would have worked out.
In my ten years in IT, I have seen as many successful, as many disastrous examples of a team work. I came to the conclusion that in most companies the issues and ways to solve them are more or less the same. Recruit people with different psychotypes into the team. Thus you are more likely to cover the entire spectrum of tasks. Get rid of a difficult person on the project. Help the team members see the big picture through feedback and retrospectives. Remember that the culture is shaped by the leader, so first be a worthy example yourself.
Article by: Kristina Reyzenbuk
As a professional, Kristina brings nearly 10 years of project management experience, specializing in IT projects. She excels at applying her analytical skills to identify root issues and streamline processes. At Sibedge, she is responsible for leading international project teams, making sure that results are achieved, the flow of updates is constant, and that project deliverables meet the client’s needs.
Kristina holds a Degree in Engineering and a Master of Business Administration. She is a member of PMI (Project Management Institute) and helps managing international projects at IPMA Young Crew Global.