There are many ways to improve your products, but investing in the strength and morale of our team has been a very important approach for us. This article is an attempt to share why we are passionate about the people more than the software and why that is helping us build even better products.
As 2017 was coming to a close, we had lots of momentum in our product. Many features were in the pipeline and development was moving quickly.
In parallel, we knew it had been almost a year since the team synced up together in the same space, and as a globally distributed team, this was a major concern of ours. We debated if it was worth pausing production and flying the whole team to Los Angeles, but at the end of the day, we felt it was important for one primary reason: people come first.
A team is more than just a collection of employees, it is a unified power designed to accomplish goals.
This means it is not just a piece of equipment; it is a living organism composed of human beings that needs to be nurtured and maintained. We decided it would not just be worth it, but even critical, for us to set aside this time to build up the team and set our eyes on the goals of this year together.
All the details were prepared, the agenda was set, and the team began to arrive. This is what we had planned.
- Pre-Retreat: Two days at a beach house in Oceanside set aside for the team to get to know each in a relaxed environment.
- Talks/Workshops: Two days of skill sharing and presentations to enlighten fellow team members about what we have been working on.
- Mini Sprint: Two days to collaborate in the same room, smash bugs, and blitz-develop a few new features.
- Brainstorming: One day to put our minds together, share ideas, and focus on how our team can achieve more together in 2018.
Between all of that, we had many walks to the local coffee shops, tasty meals together, and recreational activities in sunny LA.
After the dust settled and the team dispersed across the globe, did we still feel like it was worth it?
The time together accomplished many things, but by far the biggest value came from the deeper rooted unity amongst the team. By experiencing both the work and the fun sides, each member could now see each other as a human being rather than just another profile in the Slack channel. With a reinforced sense of humanity, we could go our separate ways but continue to treat each other with greater respect and care.
We also had the opportunity to share ideas and concerns with each other in an environment where everyone felt heard. That coupled with immediate planning and action from the leadership to address the concerns of the team was empowering to each member and showed that the team was truly the most important part of the company.
What about the product?
You may be wondering, "But how does this help the product?". It may be hard to see how the boosting of team morale can directly bring value to the product, but by looking closer we've noticed it to be true.
In a very tangible way, after the retreat we noticed that team members were:
- More likely to work with another team member they had never worked with before
- More empowered to contribute to other projects after learning about how they worked
- More happy on the team because they had connected with the other team members in a real way
- More excited about the product itself after hearing the vision from the leadership
Once the team is united by common goals and empowered by equality, the desire to work harder and take ownership of the success of the product is directly impacted.
Technology changes and markets evolve, but with a great team, you can accomplish anything.