Nurturing team culture

No, I don’t understand it either. One of the guys in my team made them. Perhaps I have two sides, one good and one evil. What is he trying to say? That I can kiss my own butt? Answers on a postcard please.

One of my favourite things about coaching multiple teams is you’re in the enviable position of watching multiple team cultures grow and change with the passage of time. These changes occur with outside influence, changes of team size and, at least here anway, with new memes that pop up on the internet.

One of the teams I coach has a team ritual. Their bot in IRC can be provoked into asking one of them to make tea, which the team member will do by filling their team-teapot with hot water, returning from the kitchen and performing the ‘Which tea shall we have gents?’ dance. This is accompanied by rounds of oohs and aaahs and finally the selection of a Fortnum and Mason loose leaf team will be dumped into the teapot.

It’s fascinating and humbling to watch these guys gel as a team. It’s often said that developers are insular, quiet, reclusive, like herding cats, blah blah blah and, while in some instances this may be true, I don’t believe it’s the norm. They form firm bonds around their passion for the code, which then spread out into their passion for other things (like tea, whiskey, or carpet putting).

Team culture is important, as I’m sure many other books and blogs will tell you, what is equally important, is allowing that culture to come into being and then nurturing it into something that, eventually, helps define that team. Make sure you do that, no matter whether you’re a coach, manager or team member, make sure you’re not impeding your teams ability to become a micro-culture within your organisations existing culture. This is doubly true for teams of developers.

I don’t know what role I might have played in helping the teams here define their own culture, if I’ve even helped at all, but I’ll certainly never try to stop them and will always encourage them along a theme and, importantly, take part in that culture – this is crucial to gaining trust. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. The great thing is, I love each of the way the teams here operate, so it’s not hard for me to get involved. Your mileage may vary, especially if their culture dictates they all play football and you hate it for example.

There’s probably a blogpost in creating a team and making them a cohesive fighting unit. But for now, it’s safe to say I’m proud of the way the teams I coach are actually teams of guys and not just individuals sitting next to each other writing code.


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