Lovers or fighters--Whom do you want on your team?

What do you look for when putting a team together? Is it better to have a team full of individualists who challenge each other, or a tightly-knit group where harmony reigns? Weigh in with your opinion.
Written by Shelley Doll, Contributor
In building a successful development team, not only do you need to make sure all the required skill sets are covered, you also need conscientious team members who communicate well and want to put their name to a great product. Weakness in any area can mean weak projects.

To be a strong manager, you have to define your role in building a solution before you can know what to look for in an employee. But you also have to think about the nature of the team you want to build. As a manager, are you more excited about building a team that thrives on spirited debate, or would you and your employees do better in an environment that feels like one big, happy family?

Strengths over skills
In his recent article, “Building the killer development team,” guest contributor Jeffrey Kay made a compelling case for hiring individuals who, in addition to having a knowledge base in their particular area, can adapt to your particular situation. In this type of team, the individual must be willing to exceed the parameters of the job by offering expertise wherever it’s needed.

Kay also points out the importance of finding people whose strengths complement your own. If you’re an architect type, find troubleshooters and integrators. If you’re detail-oriented, find people who can communicate abstract concepts.

Your chief directive should be to find people who can think independently and who aren’t afraid to defend their position, even if the discussion becomes heated. Yes, this means you’ll be hiring very opinionated people. But if you’ve assembled the right team, everyone will benefit from one another’s perspective.

Mutual support
While Kay’s article was received very well and is chock full of great advice for any team-building endeavor, another issue was raised in the related discussion. In some situations, you may be better off putting together a team built on mutual values. In these cases, developers aren’t looking for a potentially adversarial environment where they can display their prowess; they’re looking for satisfaction of another type—being part of a team that creates a bond among members.

One Builder.com member offered this perspective: “Recently, I had to run an organization where developers didn't look so much for technical challenge (still was important) but for a family-style environment—this can also perform miracles.”

Another member offered this observation, which also supports the idea of a less intense environment: “I agree that disagreement is healthy and necessary, but if it disintegrates to the point of shouting matches, you have a problem.”

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