The World’s Most Misunderstood “Programming” Language – Teamwork

While not always recognized for their outgoing personalities and easy to understand conversational skills, most programmers “think” and “speak” in a multitude of languages, despite their popularities, that few outside of the programming world know as dynamic object-oriented and general-purposed programming dialects. While incredibly important to this genius that inhabits this universe, it allows me to ponder if programmers play well with others? And, if they want to work well alongside other mortals or, at least, if they begrudgingly recognize the need to do so? In my research leading up to this post, a single question continued to surface when asking programmers about what bothers them most in their universe: “how do I get people to leave me alone so I can just write my code?” I have a great answer to this question: “you should not want to be left alone and you should be excited to share your genius instead of keeping it a secret!”  


While speaking with students on a university campus, they acknowledged the most difficult part of programming was in fact, “working with other humans.” This immediately made me think about a basic task that all programmers need to realize; “what it takes to be an effective team leader.” Understanding this monumental task and coming to grips with the skills that make them an effective team leader – planning, organizing, communicating, and executing, will help individuals rise to the call. You see, some team leaders are born, while others a learned to rise. Or, does it take something else… something more?


A programmers' language is an artificial language designed to communicate instructions to a computer. Programming languages can be used to create programs that control the behavior of a machine and/or to express algorithms precisely.


Programmers understand how to manage process, but the language of teamwork is about leadership behavior and this is not a design that can be communicated as an instruction to a computer. Effective programming relies on intellectual, analytical and technical capacities... and I would suggest the know-how of teamwork.


Effective team leadership and knowing how to “think” and “speak” the language of teamwork relies on appropriate attitudes, behaviors and the ability to socially connect with people on a human level.


Effective team leaders recognize that they must support project initiatives through the accomplishment of departmentalized team goals. They must channel the efforts of others in the appropriate direction in order to accomplish those goals, and in turn, be looked upon favorably by those chosen to work on the team to support the successful outcomes of the project or organization. This leads to the notion that the people on the team are all there to serve the objectives of the project, organization and team leader.


Effective team leaders who “think” and “speak” the language of teamwork, however, reverse that notion. They recognize that leadership involves serving the people on the team and NOT the other way around. They inspire, motivate and assist their team members in the accomplishment of the project objectives and goals rather than direct, demand or otherwise pressure them to take action. They inspire their team members to show off their work, leaving the virtual cubicles to consider the time as an opportunity for peer review.


Effective team leaders who “think” and “speak” the language of teamwork acquire specialized knowledge and skills relevant to managing teams and people, helping them to accomplish desired results.


Effective team leaders who “think” and “speak” the language of teamwork have an instinctual understanding about human nature and why people act the way they do. They are able to observe the social behaviors of others to suggest objective, supportive and constructive feedback to help them rise... even when the behavior fits a programmers' norm.


Leadership isn't the result of any particular management process, but rather the manner by which the process is implemented - the attitudinal qualities the manager brings to everyday interactions. Qualities such as: honesty, integrity, positivity, humility, passion, compassion, sincerity, commitment, confidence, and sensitivity. Followers are drawn to people with these qualities.


Leadership is not an extension of the team leader's formal authority defined by his/her position on the project team or in the organizational hierarchy. Trying to lead by authority does not encourage people's involvement in or ownership of project objectives and goals. And, it diminishes their sense of control over their work. It gives them a lot to resist...which can lead to reduced performance.


Leadership is about encouraging, enabling, recognizing people for their performance and helping others to rise out from the norm. It's about serving the other members on the team, “thinking,” “speaking” and getting others to learn the language of teamwork rather than being a single grain of sand isolated in a far away place.


It's about supporting their efforts in the direction of project and team goals rather than directing their efforts to remain as the status quo, always being recognized for not having an outgoing personality or an easy to understand set of conversational skills.


The distinction between the two may be small, but it's that distinction that defines leadership and those individuals who rise to become effective team leaders.

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