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Habits To Foster Growth In Your Engineering Team

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The most successful teams operate like well-oiled machines. Each member knows their part and engages fully, and there's minimal friction between team members. Of course, teams don't just start out that way—it takes a dedicated leader and the right tools to make it happen. Here are some habits you can implement to help your engineering team grow and succeed:

1. Admit when mistakes happen, and don't be afraid to fail.

Being afraid to fail is natural. After all, most people want to succeed at their goals. Part of growth is learning, which means that a major aspect of fostering a growth mindset in your team is instilling them with the understanding that mistakes are learning opportunities. Sure, it's no fun to fail at something. It also isn't the end of the world.

Have an open door policy that lets team members feel comfortable speaking up and sharing ideas. Mistakes and failures are platforms for learning and developing creative solutions. Effort should be rewarded as well as success.

2. Create collaborative “team visions.”

Teams should be more than the sum of their parts. Think of your engineering team like a basketball team—the team's vision is to win, but they don't pursue that goal independently. Each team member knows that they have a specific job to do, and how that job interacts with everyone else's jobs.

The trick is, wanting to win isn't just an idea handed down by the team's coach. Each player has to want the same goal. Formulate a clear vision for your project (or projects) collaboratively. If each team member contributes to the vision, they'll be more invested in it. 

3. Use collaboration tools.

There are multiple software platforms out there that help foster team communication. Tools like Slack collect all of your team's input in one place, which makes it easy to have transparent, open conversation between members. It's relatively simple, but having all of your team's communication together in one place makes collaboration and contribution much easier. When team members have a freer, more open ability to communicate, it's easier for them to get inspiration and learn from one another.

4. Try team building exercises.

Fortunately, team building exercises have come a long way from trust falls. The basic premise is still the same—people who share personal bonds have higher work engagement and satisfaction than those who don't—but now the exercises are actually fun. This isn't to say that all of your team members need to be best friends, but group activities can help develop these bonds.

Try going to an escape room or setting up a scavenger hunt (both of which can be done virtually). Go on a tour of a winery or craft brewery. Better yet, collaborate with your team to come up with a fun group activity that hits all of their interests. 

5. Show appreciation.

You can't run out of praise. Incentivize your team's learning and growth by showing your appreciation often and sincerely. There are a couple of key things to remember when you're offering praise:

  • Mention specifically what the praise is for. This will help your team members feel seen.
  • Praise in public, admonish in private. If you have to correct one of your team members, don't do it in front of anyone else.
  • No “buts.” Offering praise with a caveat is more likely to disincentivize your team members. Statements like, “Good job, Jerry, for finally coming up with a good idea for once,” make people want to avoid contributing.

The key characteristics of a solid team are open communication, friendly bonds, a willingness to learn, and a high level of engagement. With these tools, you can help instill your engineering team with all of the characteristics they need for creative, successful collaboration.