This article is part of a series. You can start at the beginning: Leading Development Teams on Large Projects.
When your team is first coming together on a project, issues between team members may begin to surface. Not everyone codes the same or has the same values or thought processes. Sometimes things can get heated between team members. As the Team Lead, you’ll want to nip these issues in the bud as quickly as possible because if you ignore them, they will fester and completely obliterate any good intentions the team has/had. How well your project turns out is a direct reflection on how well you built your team. You absolutely can’t build a successful project if your team can’t work well together.
If there are problems between team members, talk to them individually first and find out what the problems are. Usually when I do this, knowing both sides, I realize there is miscommunication going on. Maybe it’s because I’m a girl and I have an easier time communicating my feelings that I can discern this miscommunication. My next step is to bring everyone in the room together. First, I say what one person’s issue is, then I say what the other person’s issue is. Finally, I point out where the miscommunication I observed is. I do not beat around the bush at all. I think women have a tendency to try not to hurt anyone’s feelings, but men are not like this. They say straight up what’s going on, get it off their chest, then punch each other in the arm and go have a beer together. Well, maybe it’s not exactly like that, but my point is not to be too touchy feely here. Be direct, be honest. I like to ask the troubled parties what their ideas are to resolve the problem and if they have none, I come prepared with my own ideas and ask if those will suffice. Sometimes, they just need a few ideas to springboard their own resolutions.
At many companies, contractors are hired to supplement teams on projects. I interview my contractors before bringing them on, because if the contractor is the bad apple, the whole team gets spoiled. I trust they have the skillset the vendor says and when I interview them I focus on their personality, sense of humor, and thought processes to ensure they will fit on my team. As soon as they become part of my team, they are “one of us” and it’s up to all of us to deliver a rock-solid project. If issues arise between a contractor and another team member, I follow the same process as above. I treat everyone as an equal team member.
So what about issues that can’t be resolved? Occasionally, there are just team members that don’t play well together. I have a three-strikes-and-you’re-out rule. I will try three times to resolve issues between team members. On the third time, I’ll explain that this is the last chance we have to resolve the conflict. I’ll explain directly and clearly what the consequences are if the issue cannot be resolved. For example, maybe a team member gets removed from a project or depending on the issue, written up. Or in the case of a contracted employee, he gets removed from the company and replaced with a different contractor. I make sure everyone knows exactly what will happen if this final try at resolution doesn’t work so that way it’s no surprise when the consequences come.
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