Seriously, I’m asking. I’m not writing this because I have the answer. I’m asking because I know there are qualities I appreciate in a teammate, but I’m only one person and my experience is different than yours. So, please, understand the asterisk applied to the title of this article. My goal in writing this is to encourage you (and me) to think about what qualities make a teammate great. An exercise I employ at times is to think of those with whom I enjoy working and what it is about them that makes working with them enjoyable. Discovering that foundation should be helpful for our own growth. How can we be great teammates?!
The ability to do a job well. We must be good at what we do in order to be successful. I understand there are different levels of competency, and every single person, every single story, has a beginning. The power lies in where our story goes.
Along those lines, how do we level up our abilities? How do we become more competent? Something I often recommend to teammates and candidates is practice. It’s funny to me because this advice is easy to dispense, and harder to put into action. For example, as someone in sales and recruitment, I can’t really “practice” sales and recruitment. What I can do to keep this skill set sharp is read books and articles, listen to podcasts, and ask questions. A lot of questions.
In terms of those questions, I’ll ask anybody. I think it’s helpful to have a diversified collection of opinions from which to draw. I also think it is important to have people you admire or believe are better at their job than you as advisors. Meaning, seek out those who are really good at their jobs and ask for guidance, advice, or general wisdom. What are they doing to excel? What makes them successful? Ask!
It is important to find what you enjoy doing and do that thing as a profession (within reason. I mean, I really enjoy basketball, but I’m too slow, don’t jump high enough, and don’t shoot well enough to earn a living. Furthermore, practice won’t elevate my game to the professional level). In the context of this article, if you really enjoy software development, think about the things that excite you about it.
Are you energized when you find a new tool? When you learn a new way to solve a problem? When somebody explains something and it clicks? Do you like it enough that it is also a hobby? If so, you are passionate about your profession! This will serve you well in pursuing growth in the profession of your choice. This emotional attachment will assist you in gaining proficiency and competency in your field.
I’ve thought a lot about this word in the year 2020. Dictionary definition: “The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” In terms of empathy in regards to being a great teammate, I read a tweet months ago that stuck with me. It said something along the lines of, “Software developers: Don’t say something is easy. It may be easy to you, but it very well might not be easy to the person sitting next to you.”
I couldn’t agree more with this sentiment. Think of the harm that phrase may do to someone who doesn’t think that thing is easy. In fact, that thing might be hard for them! We are not creating an environment where someone feels confident in their skills, or even in their learning, by using such language. So, take the time to understand where your teammate is, what their mindset is, at any given moment. Are they struggling with a task? How so? Why might they be? After all, we’ve been there too. How do we assist them in overcoming this obstacle? Do we have the experience to assist in this? I think it all relates to that moment in time, the understanding of current state, and the interest of accomplishing something together. It comes down to empathy.
What makes a great teammate?
Lastly, I want to reiterate that I wrote this blog to encourage thinking about the question, “What makes a great teammate?”. I encourage anybody who reads this to share their thoughts. I would like to learn more about what you think makes a great teammate. It would be great to amass a collection of thoughts around this topic because, selfishly, I want to improve as a teammate. I need your help in doing so.