Rogers. Stark. Banner. Romanoff. Barton. Odison.
When Nick Fury started the Avengers Initiative he knew that saving the world would take much more than the talents of only one individual: It would take a TEAM.
The challenges we face at XWP every day are less likely to result in Armageddon, but our success is dependent on that same factor – teamwork.
As human beings, we have a natural instinct to surround ourselves with others who get stuff done. Even though teamwork is deeply ingrained in our DNA, too often teamwork doesn’t seem to work! Teams can be unproductive, and inspire more groans than high-fives.
At XWP, we recognized the importance of quality teamwork; so much so, that we invested in the art of creating and unleashing extraordinary teams, ready to tackle even the most arduous obstacles.
In these teams, individual team members achieve a sense of belonging – those magical moments when they’re grateful to not be a lone wolf and instead belong to a pack.
With this in mind, we had a virtual roundtable to discuss what those moments were, and to recall specific experiences that helped us to become the close-knit team we are today.
Here are seven of those experiences:
1) Rallying around a huge challenge:
Ryan Kienstra shared the benefits of knuckling down when XWP launched ‘v1.0’ of the AMP plugin for WordPress, and amp-wp.org on the same day, in time for WordCamp US a few months back. When it comes to working as a team, nothing beats being in the trenches, smashing out last-minute bugs. Everyone already had the technical proficiency required, but the challenge demanded much more. As Mackenzie recalls,
“I have never seen so many people come together to take something to the finish line. It was truly impressive!”
It’s in these high-pressure environments that team spirit and cooperation are born and nurtured.
2) Beyond Slack
Dan Louw rightly pointed out that any opportunity to meet in person – for real – takes team unity to a new level. While we’re blessed with a plethora of resources to connect with each other online, you can’t quite replicate the intimacy of getting to spend time with your fellow teammates. As Matt Geri put it,
“I fully believe that in-person interaction is a cornerstone of any successful remote-based team.”
It’s especially great to be able to hang out. The personal relationships that stem from meeting face to face stay with us once we go back to online mode – especially if we preserve little rituals like Rocket League battles!
3) Meeting Our Clients
Getting to know our clients and partners is also a central part of our work dynamic. The opportunity to come onsite to a client’s location is always a highlight (and we’re known for the legendary meals we treat our customers with, too!). Having a chance to meet in person also has a measurable benefit of leveling up communication. As Luke Gedeon described–
“It helps us to make decisions with confidence and produce results that fit together with the work others are doing because we are on the same track.”
4) When Online, Don’t Forget the Offline
Due to tight deadlines, online interactions between co-workers can often be geared around work. So even when we can’t meet in person, we still try to foster deeper interpersonal connections – be it by talking about hobbies, or the meaning of life. Putting in the effort to leave aside “work” talk at times and to have the occasional candid conversations: asking about little ones, loved ones, hobbies, travels, etc. – goes a long way in ensuring that we build a community that truly cares for one another. As Rob Baumert explained,
“We can’t meet up in person all of the time, so for me, regular and structured connections, whether via Slack or Zoom, are necessary to keep those bonds fresh, not necessarily because of their format, but because of the number of people involved and the relevance of the discussion to our common goals.”
Creating special opportunities to get everyone on a call together is truly magical. XWP has a history of having XWP Live! sessions, which are so popular we run them multiple times to make sure that people can participate no matter their timezone.
5) Wearing Multiple Hats
Mackenzie Hartung found that some kind of wonderful magic takes place whenever people step outside of their comfort zones. There are always times when support is needed beyond the current team. Sometimes there just isn’t a resource available to tackle a specific situation, unless someone comes forward, taking on a role they were not necessarily hired to do. At XWP, we thrive in this respect. One of our Project Managers, Brendan Woods is a classic for not only managing the project but filling in whatever role is needed! Additionally, there are many, many Engineers and Architects here at XWP that are willing to push the limits of their skill sets, learn new technologies and/or wear multiple hats to get a project off the ground. As Mackenzie noted,
“I have had conversations with many team members, asking them if they were comfortable or interested in working on something outside of their comfort zone… And the answers, 99% of the time, were ‘yes’.”
6) Find Your Common Ground
Luke Gedeon rightly believes that a great kick-start is finding things different team members can relate to. As Luke says,
“There is any number of experiences, goals, values, projects, locations, tools, problems, anecdotes… Even race, religion, and shared office space, where one can find common ground for a personal relationship to grow that goes beyond the task at hand”.
This helps cement the unity of a truly connected team. Having as much in common as possible will increase our overall coherency and operational efficiency.
7) Code Reviews
David Cramer found a golden nugget when he realized that the secret to feeling part of the team lies in code reviews! Code is a language, and by reading someone else’s code you get to understand the way they express themselves in it! It’s a medium for learning, sharing and discussing – it enhances communication. An important thing to have in mind while doing this, however, is reviewing in a way that is constructive. A tip for achieving this is to explain why you think the code is wrong, if it is, rather than to just provide a fix for it. As David put it,
“When you have a good team, you can combine how we all think together. This is how I have experienced being in a team at XWP.”
Ultimately, we’ve just skimmed the surface on some of the experiences that certainly help create a team. You can’t force it. You need to commit to it. You need to want it. None of these experiences would work unless you can create a foundation, a common culture, a purpose that you can align around. At XWP, that purpose is care.
As Mackenzie said,
“We know each other, and care about each other… which, in my mind, is the essence of teams.”
We are certainly glad to be a part of such an extraordinary team and look forward to bringing more people into our family.