Assessing Humble Team-First Attitude in Software Engineers

Assessing Humble Team-First Attitude in Software Engineers

Humble Team-First Attitude

Thereís a silent killer on the loose. Itís the killer of productivity which results from low team morale. It takes on many shapes and itís often reincarnated in the form a self-serving team member who puts individual needs and desires before the needs of the team. It knows not the boundaries of gender, race, religion, nationality, or technical competency.

The behavior of self-serving engineers causes resentment and unrest on software teams. The behavior manifests itself in a number of the following ways.

  • Opportunity hoarding Ė an attempt to own a majority of tasks that create personal growth opportunities, such as tasks that involve researching new technologies. Itís usually coupled with a failure to take ownership for the tedious or unglamorous tasks that arenít particularly interesting.
  • Credit hoardingĖ an attempt to claim credit for every good idea ever produced by the team, a failure to recognize other team memberís contributions, and an over-emphasis on the contributions of self.
  • Insincere flattery- Attempt to ingratiate and curry favor among leadership while speaking negatively about other team members behind their backs.
  • Unchecked ego- arrogant and condescending comments to other team members.
  • Insecure - inability to be vulnerable or admit when theyíre wrong or donít know the answer.
  • Dominate discussionsĖ during technical discussions, these engineers often shut down the ideas of other engineers and create an environment that lacks psychological safety.

These traits are more difficult to recognize when disguised in the form of a highly competent software engineer. Iíve worked with multiple who had the potential to be extremely valuable, but were continually held back by their counter-productive behaviors.

Their inability to be vulnerable made it more difficult to connect and influence other team members. Their failure to admit fault caused other team members to become resentful. These negative behaviors significantly reduced both their overall personal effectiveness and the overall effectiveness of the team.

The importance of hiring engineers with a team-first mentality canít be overstated. These types of engineers exhibit the following behaviors.

  • Helpful extremely willing to help team members with issues.
  • Level-up team Ė constantly educating and assisting other team members to grow and develop their skills and talents.
  • No task is too smallĖ a willingness to take on any necessary task, regardless of the associated glamour or level of interest.

These behaviors result in a more educated and knowledgeable team, and improves the team morale while fostering a psychologically safe environment.


Sample Interview Questions to Assess Humble Team-First Attitude

Tell me about a time when you helped skill-up or coach a team member on a particular technology. I am looking to learn about a candidateís propensity to help others and better leverage their skills to help improve the overall effectiveness of the team.

Talk about a time you experienced conflict and how you handled it? Some conflict exists on every team. A certain amount of conflict is healthy, as it fosters discussion around technical choices, decisions, and direction. However, itís extremely important that team members can handle conflict in a professional and appropriate manner that doesnít negatively affect team dynamics.

Talk about a time you had to give constructive feedback to a member of your team. This is an opportunity to learn how open a candidate is to providing feedback, as well as learning about the approach they take when providing it.

Talk about a time you received constructive feedback from a member of your team or your manager. I am interested in how a candidate handles feedback. Do they take responsibility for their actions, or do they continually deflect blame to others.




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