When you are part of a team that understands each other, there’s a magical dynamic. You have a sense of what each of your teammates cares about the most, how that translates to them pushing the project forward with their strength, ways you can leverage your strength to either unblock or build on top of what others are working on, and expectations in each other’s speed & deliverables between the milestones. In a well-oiled team, this is an implicit understanding shared across everyone. This tends to build over time and experiences together.
While real experiences continue to be the best way to gel as a team and build this together, is there a way to smoothen (or even accelerate) this process? Perhaps a way to shortcut the misunderstandings or reduce overhead early in the process?
Overtime, I’ve embraced a simple ritual discussing the following questions with the team — either when a new person joins the team or when I am the newcomer.
Q1. What part of the process do you enjoy the most?
To phrase differently, where do you find play in your work? I love this question, because you get to listen to and share what excites each of us the most (Also get to see people’s eye sparkle as they talk). This helps with building an understanding of where each person will naturally gravitate and when thinking about how to divide & conquer on a project.
Q2. What are your pet peeves?
Everyone has a pet peeve, especially in collaboration. This tends to be true when you are working closely with different disciplines or in a creative field — where everyone brings a unique strength and approach to solving problems. Pet peeves are often small things that happen day to day, which should be relatively easy to talk about. Getting this out into the open can help save unnecessary attention spent in being bothered emotionally or second-guessing each other’s action.
Q3. What do you think is your superpower?
This one can start with a bit of cringe 🙂 There’s always some awkwardness when you sound like you are complimenting yourself. But once you get past that, I’ve found this question to be incredibly helpful (especially with teammates I haven’t worked in depth with yet) in knowing what each person prides themselves in and how each person perceives their impact in the larger scheme of a team. Of course, your view of their superpower can be calibrated through experiences working together.
A fun side-effect I’ve observed in teams that bond well is that this question turns into a kudos roundtable of what we appreciate about each teammate. It is heartwarming and becomes a potential opportunity to discover new superpower about yourself.
Q4. What is your weakness?
Similar to pet peeves, everyone has a weakness. If a teammate doesn’t think they have a weakness or can’t seem to note one about themselves, I would be concerned about their level of self-awareness.
The goal here isn’t to find a weakness to embarrass or fault another person for. It is to see this adjacent to their strength (which we discuss earlier) to build a comprehensive awareness of what each member of the team is capable of. It is very important to pair this with the last question below. If you are the leader of the team, it helps to share your weakness first to set the tone.
Q5. Is there anything you would like your teammates to help hold you accountable for?
This is the opportunity to ask for help on what you called out as weaknesses or pet peeves. You are setting expectations with others that you recognize and are working on improving these areas, but the change can take time and you will need help. When used right, this question can bring out the best in working as a team to improve yourself and the overall efficiency of gsd together.
These questions have been a great prompt to discuss together live. For some, I’ve found a structure that allows each person to think about and share their thoughts prior to the live discussion to be helpful. Here’s a collaborative