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How Your Team Can Help Your Career

Most agile principles and practices deal with teams. It is a foregone conclusion that strong teams are central to progressing along your agile journey. With all this talk about teams, it’s easy to forget that teams are collections of individuals. As individuals, we all have some common attributes.

  1. We all want to choose when we change jobs

  2. We all would prefer not to change jobs if the one we have is going well

  3. Most of us would like to advance our careers in some manner and fashion

  4. We all want to find happiness or at least enjoyment in the work we do

  5. We all have personal lives with demands and emotional ups and downs

Sometimes, these things that motivate (or demotivate) us can conflict with the interests of the team. Like a garden untended, unwanted things will grow and ultimately take over if team members do not address these conflicts.

One common example that I have seen many times is when a team member is working hard to advance their career. In order to demonstrate to their supervisor that they are doing the “right things” to move to the next level, they must take actions to assert themselves in new ways. When they just start doing this, other team members often find these behaviors pushy, overbearing, and/or non-inclusive (among others). The reactions to these new behaviors often create conflict between team members, especially if more than one person is adding behaviors designed to enhance their future.

The fix for this issue is relatively easy, but like so many personal team challenges, it requires a reasonably high degree of trust between team members. Assuming that level of trust exists, try discussing individual goals with the team. When each person shares their goals with the underlying question of “how can the rest of the team help you achieve them,” agreements can be reached and behavior patterns can be established that support everyone without conflict. If conflicts do arise, team members should be able to quickly identify them as a result of individual efforts towards goal attainment. Hopefully, this acknowledgement will present a learning opportunity for all involved.

Approaching conflict with an open mind and a primary objective to learn and understand first, is far more likely to result in a positive outcome. Without a doubt, hot emotions can stifle such opportunities, so cooler heads must acknowledge the emotional heat and recommend some approach to cooling off before proceeding.

The point here is that we all need to take care of ourselves, but we must learn to put the team first. If we cannot take care of ourselves in this context, then maybe we’re on the wrong team. Leaving that unaddressed is unfair to ourselves and the team. We often endure tough situations hoping they’ll get better, but they’re unlikely to do so unless we acknowledge the need for a change with the people who can help us make it. Sometimes, having a great team takes courage.

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