How To Establish Team Trust And Cohesion

Erik Barbara

Engineering Director at Duo Security



As a new manager of a team, my team had already developed practices around how they ran their projects and doing Agile software development. We worked in two-week sprints and at the end of every sprint, we would retrospect on that sprint. I would provide them with feedback on a weekly basis but I lacked a sense of overall team health at the end of a quarter. I wanted to know how people thought things had gone and what they were excited about so I could create and foster a sense of team togetherness and trust.

Actions taken

"Our sales team was using a process called Quarterly Business Reviews. At the start of each quarter, the sales team took a day to gather as a team and presented presentations about how they performed over the last quarter and what they could do better. I decided to adopt that process."

Our entire team took a day to review the previous quarter. Each of the team members prepared a thirty-minute presentation and everyone was able to participate and interact throughout the presentations. This allowed for people to give each other feedback and for peer coaching to occur. For example, if someone said they thought they had done a task poorly, another person may say they actually thought it was mostly done well but there were just some weaknesses in a few areas.

Each thirty-minute presentation only consisted of four slides. The first slide consisted of a chart outlining what the team member, team, and manager did well and what they could do better at. The second slide has the statement "At the end of the next quarter, I'll be glad that I did...". By filling out this slide and discussing it within the team, team members are able to outline the actionable things they will do in the next quarter in order to continue to push themselves.

The third slide outlines where the team member needs help from the team in order to be successful, and the last slide tends to be a fun question such as "What was your favorite activity during elementary school?" or "Would you rather visit the moon or spend a month in Europe?".

Lessons learned

"You have to follow this process more than once, as people will open up more each time you follow this process. Often if a developer brings up a problem they encountered, others will reveal that they really struggled with the same issue. This allows them to support each other and hold one another accountable in the future. As a manager, you should also always present first as this shows others that you are willing to be vulnerable. I focus on what I, as a manager, could have done better, and what the overall team could have done. The more open and vulnerable, as a manager, you are, the better the results you'll get."

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Erik Barbara

Engineering Director at Duo Security

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