Jared the Nerd

Jared the Nerd

CTO, IT Advisor, Software Engineer, Public Speaker, Traveler, and 100% Nerd

They Vs. We (Part 2)

This post has been a loooong time coming and is the follow up to my original They Vs. We post in 2014. Sorry! I highly recommend reading that first and then coming back to this.

I’ve been paying much closer attention to those around me at work and in the community. I’ve become increasingly convinced that “We” vs “They” is a very powerful indicator of how closely someone identifies to the team or community they are in; “they” is a really bad sign in anyone other than a brand new team member.

From the last post:

"_We_" implies that you're one of the team. The goals of the team are your goals. The risks the team faces are your risks. You're engaged. "_They_" implies you're not connected to the team. You're an outsider who isn't committed.

That’s all great, so what can I do?

I’ve written and deleted multiple posts worth of content at this point because either my opinions have changed, or the things I wrote seemed like common sense. Instead of giving you a bulleted list of the things your team needs to do to improve, I’ve come up with on single thing that you should focus on. Please pardon my language.

The more I think about this, the more I've come to believe that the single most important thing a leader can do to help his or her team is simply care about the team and the people in it. Leaders who care about the needs, wants and challenges of their team members seem to naturally build healthier teams.
This is harder than it seems. You probably don't have enough time or emotional energy to become best friends with everyone you have to work with. Caring about people can be exhausting, and teams can grow much faster than personal relationships can scale. So what do you do?

First, pay attention to problems

Make it clear that you'll listen and try to help whenever someone is having a problem. Sometimes you can fix little things that have a big impact. However, sometimes people will want something you can't give them, or be struggling with a weight you can't remove. Sometimes you will have to tell people "No".
Regardless of the solution (or lack), you'll get a lot of credit for listening and caring.

Second, share how you make decisions

People have a lot of capacity for going along with decisions they don't agree with if they understand why they were made. On the flip side, people can be extremely resistant when they feel like a bad decision is being forced on them.
If you have to tell someone "No", or make a decision people may not like, give them insight into why. You may be surprised with how they empathize with your situation and see your point of view.

Third, make “team” a stated priority

Make it clear that "we" is important, and ask your team members to help grow the team as whole. They may be aware of problems that you don't know about, or see simple changes that can improve the health of the team.
It's a bit circular, but you can strengthen your team and pull people into it by making them responsible for strengthening it in the first place.

So that’s it

That's all I have. I had hoped to provide a lot more insight, but the more I think about it, the more I think it's pretty simple.

Please tell me in the comments if you disagree!