Dania Mah

@thatdania

Episode 27: The ways you could be a better teammate.

November 29th 2017

This is going to be a short blog post as I have a lot going on this week. Whether it’s enjoying my UDEMY courses I bought on CYBER Monday, to the weekend challenge of Javascript, to the AIRBNB challenge, this is a lot that’s going on.

Side track: UDEMY had an amazing deal on their short courses about development where courses that were 200 pounds were 10 pounds each. Totally worth it, if you are wanting to learn new technologies. Plus, you don’t have to feel bad because it’s nothing materialistic like clothes, food or other unnecessary products. Learning is never unnecessary…anyway…

Working in my team for two days and observing how other teams are has concluded me to write this post. Not to say that there are some good people or bad people. Everyone is uniquely cool. However, we all are human. We make mistakes, we are imperfect but nothing about us is permanent these days. Think about it, humans could get plastic surgery if they wanted to change their birth given looks. However, the point is

We can always seek to improve ourselves everyday.

Some of these ways I’m about to discuss, I’m even guilty for forgetting them. Thus, if you would like to join me to never forget these things or wanting to improve how you work in a team, you are in the right place.

Note: Although this could be for everything, I’ve thought about these pointers when coding in my group and observing other groups

The true dynamic of a team:

Most teams, when everyone is gathered together starts of being optimistic. Everything’s happy dandy, everyone is excited to start something new and if everyone is willing, everyone has a good intention of working hard.

Note: This is even less prevalent when you are in a team where you consider everyone a friend.

We think that a team dynamic (how a team works together) is shown everyday. This is not the case. The true team dynamic will only show when a team is put to the test. In other words, when a team is put to hardship.

How does every member react to the situation? How does every member deal with stress? What actions do people do to contribute to the team? Do they fight or flight against a challenge…so many more questions…

As sick as this idea sounds, we would only know if we were behind a glass observing how a team works for a week in an isolated room.

Why? Because when we’re in a team, we are experiencing our own emotions and interpretation of the situation that we cannot possibly give time to see how we are acting in a team, let alone observing our other members in a team. Hence, here I am shining a light on your past day or week, asking you to take a step back and think about the most important question for a team…

Am I doing all that I can to be a better team-mate?

Because at the end of the day, the things you are surely responsible is your actions and your reactions in situations your team has to go through.

Things we have been guilty before (at least once)…

I can admit this for myself and claim for many, that we all have been guilty for at least one of the things below:

  • You’ve let your emotions of stress, worry, frustration, sadness lash out to the team as you’re struggling to keep up somehow.
  • You’ve gone a bit ahead, or not taken the time to help your team mates. This means you are not considered your team mates who are struggling
  • You’ve let yourself get impatient and either lashed out or done something aside from the team
  • Because your group is behind schedule, you have found something small to blame that isn’t the only reason, or perhaps is never the case (I.e your team-mate is ill or has a personal issue and is not there for one day)
  • You’ve tried to give input to your team but you don’t realise that you are either repeating yourself or that it isn’t doing anything for the team.
  • When in a disagreement, you’ve fought for your opinion but not considered to discuss/rationalise how the other opinion is wrong or perhaps not the best way to go.
  • You’ve decided not to speak up about how you feel, or a concern you have of a project because you think that will help the team move forward as thus, becoming a liability to the team
  • You’ve not considered to ask your team-mates whether everyone is on the same page or that anyone is behind. Although this might not be something to be guilty for since you are not the only one responsible for this in the team, you are responsible for letting secrets between your team-mates bubble.
  • You’ve decided to be a debby-downer on the amount of work your team has done, thus, flipping the perspective of how much your team has achieved to we’re not good enough.
  • You’ve done all of these things but without realising it till you get home after a hard day’s work…sitting your bathtub going “Oh man”…
Just admit it.

That’s a few I can think of on the top of my head and I’m pretty sure most of us are guilty of at least one. Why is important for us to realise the mistakes we are doing? Well, don’t we all have the intention to do the best for the team or be the best for the team? Yeah, if we do, we want to realise what we mistakes we are doing and what we can do to improve of them.

Give yourself a pat on the back if you’ve realised you have done one of the things stated above when you were in a team. It’s better to realise now than later and also, give yourself another pat on the back with the other hand, that you are okay with it. What’s regret, doubt or beating yourself up going to do to make the situation better anyway?

What we can do about it?

Tip 1: Take care of yourself:

Whether this means that you need to take time from the team, a short break of the team or take a break when you are at home or even take a break on your commute, breaks are vital for you to be productive again.

When we’re in a time of hardship, especially with people, we feel the pressure that we have to hustle along with them. We always feel we have to keep up with people, compete with people or prove that they picked a damn good team-mate on their team that they won’t regret. However, if you burn out, you become a liability on the team on top of the workload. You have enough work already, why do you need to put more work on yourself? You’ve got to be energised for every day you have to work with your team, mental and physical energy are important here.

Tip 2: Take a step back to observe the team.

Although you might be quiet in the corner, still listening to what the team is discussing and having nothing to say, it’s a benefit to watch the team if they are starting to overthink or get into their heads.

It’s not that you are not contributing to the team, but more that you are watching over the team. If a team gets too frustrated or into their own heads, you can be the person who suggests a break for a bit or what we do next. You can be the person who brings everyone back to the starting goal of why we are doing what we are doing.

Everyone in your team who is discussing on what to do next, cannot see the aura changes of the team. They are all stuck inside the world whilst you could be seeing this world from the outside. Hence, being that person who is watching over them is key so that the team’s aura doesn’t get darker and darker by the day…

Tip 3: If you don’t have something to contribute, don’t feel like you need to.

A lot of the time we are in the situation of intense discussion or starting off to discuss, we always feel we need to contribute something. Whether it’s something important or not, the more we don’t, the more we feel like we have to speak up about something. The idea of importance of whether this will move the team goes out the window, and we forget that what we said doesn’t benefit the team in any way.

Yes, I’m speaking to those people who find it harder to listen than to speak up. If what you say isn’t going to contribute to the team, keep quiet. Sometimes, silence allows clear communication to happen that is productive for the team.

Tip 4: Be there for the team.

If your team is staying late to try figure out the problem and you have a not enough important reason to leave, stay with the team. People won’t say it but it’ll prove to them that you are committed, you have the best intention for team and you’ll do anything for the team.

And just because you aren’t solving the problem yourself, you are an extra human being the team can use to make things move forward or more productive. A lot of the time, a cheerleader seems like the undermined role but it is a big role when the team is going to take a dip.

Plus, if you really think about it, even if you fail as a team (hopefully not for anything you caused), is it really the end of the world? This is a blog post for another time, but when we fail, is failing really the end of the world? Sure, we might feel sad or let down, but we don’t have to beat ourselves up over it. How are we going to be great human beings, or be grown human beings if we don’t fail in our experience.

Plus (plus), you’ll look back on this as a past memory and be grateful you had it earlier in your life than now…

Tip 5: A positive note to end the day is better than a conjured up negative one.

I observe this in some teams, where after a long hard days work, the infamous quote comes which is the reason why they are not satisfied. You’ve probably heard this at least once in your life..

“There’s so much more we could have done today!”

Although it’s good to have this driven mindset to always want to do more, it’s puts down the amount of work the team has achieved. You might not even realise you’ve done this till you really look at yourself or realise how this can dramatically change the team’s aura and dynamic.

Looking back at the past of “what we could have done” does not change anything. It’s like looking back at a “mistake that you made and dwelling on it”, or “how you could prevented a situation” and we for sure know that doesn’t change the situation we are now. Instead, we have to train our minds to put aside what has been done and focus on what can be done. That is the only thing we can do to push the team forward. Even if it’s a mistake someone has done, give yourself a period of time where you can hate and forgive that person after the team has pushed through the problem.

Yes, it’s hard because in tough situations, our brains generally find a scape goat or an easy way out instead of handling the situation face to face. It’s instinctive, which is fine, but it’s something we should be aware about and we need to tell our brains…

The hardship might be tough now, but it’ll benefit you and the team in the long run. The scape goat is a short relief of escapism which doesn’t solve anything in reality.

Tip 6: There’s always something to do.

I don’t care what you say about this, or whether people in the team are already doing the main jobs, but there is something that can always be done. It might be a small errand. Perhaps, it could be to watch and overview the project. Perhaps, it could be nothing to do with your work, “get take-away lunch for the team”. Either way, your presence and actions can help tick off the list of things to do for a project.

If you have no idea what it is, ask the team what else can be done? Can I help someone with that? Can I do something about this? What can I do to make this better? Having this intention of pushing the team forward by requiring your labour can always be a good thing if not why waste your time being there.

Tip 7: Retros

First, what is a retro? At Makers, it’s meant to be a time where the team gathers and reflects on what is done and what needs to be done. It’s also a time for concerns to be let out. So, I’ll list the two benefits of a retro.

First Benefit:

I remember this trick said by Will Smith in one of his interviews, and I think it works for a team, whether they are blood-related or not.

Whenever in a discussion, Will Smith will gather his family and say “okay we have five minutes where everyone can lash out or say their truth. No one can judge them in this period or say anything. After these five minutes, we only can rationally talk about it.” He does this in the family so that the family gets to hear different perspectives and let out any trouble or negative feelings that has been caused…

From experience, I think it’s a great method as I knew one of our team-mates had stuff he needed to voice out. No one judged him for saying it and we did rationally discuss it. Hence, I can conclude that this method is quite effective in getting hurdles of a group out of the way (if you know what i mean)

Second Benefit:

It allows us to make a to do-list or an “action plan” of what needs to be done in the next day. This can allow a team to check their achievement and progress of what they did today. This allows to set the action plan based on that information for the next day.

Things like goals and lists, TASKS LISTS are always going to be good to produce everyday as they are a guide for the tasks that are left outstanding. . Plus, it’s so fun and pleasurable to make lists, and lay everything out of what you are going to do. Yes, I’m to some extent obsessive with being an organizer.

I admit, retros do take effort. It does take some thinking and it could be to the point where at times, it’s boring. However, it’s beneficial to track your progress, give yourself a pat on the back on what you achieved and figure out what you can do to make it better, or be a better person.

Yes, doing retros is hard everyday, let alone once a week. Coaches do it every day (they claim and I trust their claim), and it’s not just a task, it’s a skill to keep it up!

There will be times where I have felt I achieved nothing (although I have) and where I felt I was a potato of a human being. However, it’s a great skill as a team-member, an employer and healthy for your humanity to manage your independent learning and motivate yourself to keep flourishing no matter what you are. As part of human happiness I believe is to grow from learning something, no matter what it is.

Conclusion…

I’m not saying to execute all the tips I have observed are easy neither am I prompting you to do so. However, in a coding bootcamp where time is running out faster than you know it. Where the pile of work is waiting for you at the desk for your team-mates to plough through, considering these thoughts and implementing some of them the next time your team dynamic is being challenged, could benefit you and the team in terms of progress.

Especially, if you are in a team trying to implement as much as you can of an AIRBNB website in a week.

Fun fact of the day:

One of the best feelings in the world is when even though you have a lot of work to do, you are keen to hustle. Although I have a ton of things going on, I’m happy doing them all and that’s something we all should try achieve for because when is work ever going to decrease or end. Answer: Never.

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