Passion: One of the Secret Sauces of Successful Teams

I was recently thinking to myself about some of the things that make up a successful team. I was doing a comparison of two teams that I know of and I realized that one of the main differences between them was that the more successful team had people that were passionate & cared about about what they do. Don't get me wrong, this isn't the only factor, but one of a few that make up a successful team.

A Heaped Teaspoon of Passion!

From my own personal experience, when people are passionate about a subject or topic, you give it your all and you believe in it whole heartedly. This is exactly one of the reasons I started this blog. I realized that leadership & soft skills were one of the other major factors to a projects success and as such, I have gone in head first to try learn as much as I can about the topic.

Now if we look at people who are passionate about their work you will see that they often show the following traits in their work envrionment:

  • Care about other team members
  • Care about the quality of software that they develop
  • Understand and care about the customer and their needs

What this translates to is a product that is really well thought out and polished. When you have a group of people that don't really care about the product and just treat this as a job, you will find that they just try to get the job done as quickly as possible, which often means taking shortcuts. However, people who care about their trade will often go above and beyond what is required of them and will usually try try to find the best way of doing something after weighing up all the pro's and con's.

In addition, you will see that these people are usually highly involved and are always proposing ideas and suggestions on how to improve the product or process. They ask questions about what they are working on & how it will contribute to the end user. With that understanding they then try to think of ways in which to simplify the process for the end user. They don't just take the specification and implement it. Instead, they take the time and try to gain an understanding of the problem and see if there is a better way of achieving the goal.

A Lack of Passion

If we take a look at the other team that was lacking passion, you will see that they just treat their job as a 9-5 thing, where they put in the bare minimum to get the task done. Even though there were one or two people who did show the traits of the passionate team, their effects were essentially nullified as they were just being pulled down by the other people. In addition, they were also the complete opposite of the other team when it came to helping each other out. Instead of offering assistance or advice, the people would just keep quiet and pray that they weren't asked for assistance.

This has led me to believe that most people in the team needs to care & be passionate about what they do. If they aren't you may find yourself in the situation where the passionate leave your project, as they may get frustrated with just being "pulled down", which then leaves an opening for another "bad apple" to fill the spot, until you have a project which is "rotten to the core".

Agile...Maybe Not

Often companies may say that the adopt an agile process, but being agile means that you collaborate with the customer and ensure that they get what they want through constant delivery. However, if you have a group of developers that really don't care about the product, or customer, and just implement what they are told, then how are they in anyway collaborating with the customer to make the product better? How are they being agile?

This again leads me to believe that one of the factors that needs to be present for a team to be really agile, is the ability to care and take pride in your work. Without it, how are they going to think about how to make the product better, or different ways of doing things?

It Isn't All About Talent

The older I get, the more I come to realize that there is more than just talent that makes a person, or team successful. There are the soft skills, the ability to fit in with the culture, the ability to care and take pride in the work that you do. With raw talent you will be good, but with these other aspects, you will be great!

So next time, before you go hiring the most intellectual person on the team, just take a quick checkpoint and see how they rank in these other aspects. In my experience, I have seen a few very smart people join a team, only to not fit in or just go solo, which can bring the entire team down. At the end of the day they need to care!

Until next time...keep learning!

Mauro Da Silva

Learning everyday about software development, leadership & self improvement

South Africa