How to have and keep a rock star development team

Let’s face it - managing a team of developers can be hard. Developers are expensive, picky, and some managers even go to the extent of calling them lazy. In the end though, developers are people, and they have their reasons for everything.

There may be a trillion reasons why a team is performing poorly. I’m going to shine some light on one topic that many businesses seem to skimp on, or even miss entirely. That topic is Company culture.
Company Culture is something that usually develops naturally in a team. However, in order to keep everything nice and smooth, you need to steer your Company Culture in the right direction. Otherwise, you’ll only shoot yourself in the foot.

Here are eight tips on Company Culture, which will allow you to build a happy, and productive team.

1. Sharing mentality

As a rather famous bunch of bears once said, “Sharing is caring”! In the IT world, this usually boils down to sharing knowledge freely, quickly, and easily. In practice, this means that you have to strive for spreading knowledge in every direction. New requirements, technical breakthroughs, lessons learned during development - you’d want to push these items across the team as soon as possible. Having more knowledge in the team means less surprises, less frustration, and increased productivity.

2. No asshole policy

You may have heard about the “rock star developer”. He’s the one lone wolf that swoops in and does 100 times the work of everyone else. He’s the the “Dr. House”, who is always grumpy and arrogant, but still manages to save the day.
In reality, this is more likely to be the one toxic person on your team, whom is rapidly bring down the whole morale of the team. This toxicity can rapidly spread in mere months.
Even if you intervene at some point by removing this person from the team, he may already have impacted upon the company culture in an irreversible way. The team will now experience a low retention rate, low productivity, and low overall engagement. New hires will also be negatively affected.

3. The team is greater than the individual

Tricky to pull off, but a team with this mentality really can create wonders for your company. In order to build such a high-functioning team, there should be a common understanding that every person is part of something bigger, and that they have each other’s backs. This is the only way in which everybody understands that the team is something bigger than the sum of every individual.

4. Focus on growth

Try to instill a dislike for mediocrity. Challenge team members to leave their comfort zone each day. Enable your team’s skill set to grow steadily each day. Monitor your team, and ensure that there is steady, sustainable, repeatable growth. Be careful to avoid any burnouts however.

5. Always be transparent

Whenever possible, always keep your team well informed and in the loop. All details can be important. Keep your decision making process open, and post regular updates on how everything is going. Both in good times and in bad.

6. Keep in touch with the pulse of the team.

Perform regular “One on One” meetings with members of your team. You will be amazed at how much insight you can gain, simply by having a 15 minute conversation with a team member. Developers, especially, can be a shy bunch. So this form of communication would offer you a really great perspective of your team.
What you want to achieve, during this meeting, is to discover how things have progressed since your last meeting.  Which changes were beneficial? What do you want to do?  What do you want to change? Have a list of points you’d want to discuss, and try keep any conversation going. These meetings always provide nuggets of useful information.

7. Provide useful, balanced feedback

Having feedback is equally important. Whether it is from you, or other peers. In order to fully utilize the team voice, you need to hear and understand them loud and clear. One way to do this is to have a clear overall plan which enables feedback. One such way is a 360 review.

The 360 review is a professional feedback opportunity that enables a group of coworkers to provide feedback about a fellow employee’s performance. The feedback was traditionally asked for by the manager to whom the employee reported.

Essentially, it is a way to have a clear metric on an employee’s performance, and a great way for them to validate themselves. A great side effect is that managers also pass through the review, so one can identify problem areas on the managerial layer in their organization quickly. A key advice here is to focus equally on people’s strengths and weaknesses. The review process is neither a bashing contest, neither an ego booster. The review is a tool for people to get better, and to get actionable insights. It also has to be just a part of a bigger feedback loop, not a one-stop-shop.

8. We’re on a mission!

Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.

Simon Sinek, author, Start with Why

Companies often try to get their team more involved, and enthusiastic about their work. You should aim to make it easier for your team to identify with their workplace.
Many businesses don’t stop to outline the actual purpose of their own business to their team. The business mission, from your team’s perspective, isn’t simply earning more profits, or taking a bigger market share. Dont let your team think that your business just pays their salary whilst burning away 8 hours each day. The most basic thing you could do is to give a meaningful answer to the question “How are we helping people?”. Get your team on board with the idea that they’re making people’s lives better. This actually gives the team two huge benefits:

  1. They are a part of something bigger than themselves,
  2. It gets them into the mindset that they’re making a difference in this world.

Usually businesses help people through their products, but there’s usually more to it than that. Never underestimate the emotional side to it. People like to identify with products, and if your own team internalizes the idea that they are shaping something groundbreaking, this will lead to amazing things.

We hope that you found these advices useful. If you have any questions, or advice, don’t hesitate to drop us a line!