How to Work Well on Teams

January 03, 2024

In the realm of software engineering, success is rarely a solo endeavor. It's a team sport, where collaboration, understanding, and mutual respect play pivotal roles. This blog post delves into the cultural and social aspects of software engineering, offering valuable insights for anyone looking to enhance their team working skills.

2024 01 03

Understanding Yourself: The First Step

The journey to becoming a more efficient and successful software engineer begins with introspection. Acknowledge that like everyone else, you're inherently imperfect. By understanding your reactions, behaviors, and attitudes, you gain critical insight into handling people-related challenges more effectively. This self-awareness is the first step towards contributing positively to a team.

The Team Endeavor

Software development is fundamentally a team effort. To thrive in this environment, you need to adopt core principles like humility, respect, and trust. These aren't just buzzwords; they are essential qualities that facilitate smooth collaboration and project success.

Battling Insecurity

A common theme in software development is insecurity – the fear of judgment over unfinished work. Recognizing this can help you understand a broader trend: insecurity is often a symptom of a larger problem in team dynamics.

Debunking the Genius Myth

We often idolize individuals like Linus Torvalds or Bill Gates, attributing monumental achievements to their singular genius. However, these successes are usually the result of collective efforts. Recognizing the team behind each 'genius' helps dismantle the unhealthy focus on individual accomplishment in favor of a more collaborative approach.

The Reality Check

No matter how skilled, a single person's contributions are just a part of a larger picture. The focus should be on collaboration and teamwork, rather than individual brilliance. This mindset is crucial in a team setting, especially in large organizations.

Collaboration Over Isolation

The notion of working in isolation, hiding away until your work is perfect, is a counterproductive approach. Open collaboration, early feedback, and embracing the "bus factor" (the measure of how well knowledge is distributed in a team) are essential for effective team functioning.

The Ideal Working Environment

The debate over private offices versus open spaces highlights the need for a balance. Teams need both uninterrupted focus time and a high-bandwidth, readily available connection to other team members.

Building a Great Team

The Three Pillars of Social Interaction

To build or find a great team, embrace the three pillars of social skills:

  1. Humility: Understanding that you are not the center of the universe.
  2. Respect: Genuinely caring about and appreciating your teammates.
  3. Trust: Believing in the competence of others and letting them take the lead when appropriate.

These pillars are foundational to healthy interaction and collaboration.

Practical Tips for Teamwork

  • Lose the Ego: Adopt a collective ego focused on team accomplishments.
  • Give and Take Criticism Constructively: Understand the difference between constructive criticism and personal attack.
  • Fail Fast and Iterate: Embrace failure as a learning opportunity.
  • Learn Patience and Be Open to Influence: Adapt to different working styles and be willing to change your mind based on new evidence.
  • Embrace the Culture: This includes thriving in ambiguity, valuing feedback, challenging the status quo, putting the user first, caring about the team, and doing the right thing.


Building a successful software project hinges on the strength of the team. A healthy team culture, rooted in humility, trust, and respect, is vital. Remember, the solo genius is a myth; real progress is made by teams working harmoniously towards a common goal.

Profile picture

Victor Leung, who blog about business, technology and personal development. Happy to connect on LinkedIn