|Feel your feels. |
The software business is filled with plenty of highs and lows. It is a profession filled with intelligent and mercurial people. The trade is one of the few which resists automation because it requires humans to wrangle ones and zeros into something which mimics human thought. You would think the people who work in this profession would be cold bodies of logic. Instead, software developers are very messy and human. Today, I want to discuss how we need to embrace the spectrum of human emotions that are part of the agile software development process.
To learn how to write software, you have to have a unique mix of skills. You need to understand the logic and how programming languages can execute that logic. You have to learn how to be creative and manage levels of stress most employees never face. Finally, you have to deal with frustrations and uncertainty because your first solution to a problem often does not behave as it should.
The level of frustration combined with deadline pressure does something to a person. If they seem grumpy or distracted, it is because they are attempting to solve a knotty problem. When they are working, they are often trying to concentrate and focus. Concentration is essential, so when someone interrupts them, the natural reaction is to lash out. Spending time with computers and other inanimate objects creates a sense of isolation, making it hard to transition into social situations. Finally, pride and ego issues come into play because developers want to look smart to their peers and valuable to the organization.
Mix all these factors with traditional office politics and team dynamics, and it creates a complicated landscape for a coach or leader to navigate. Spend time listening to people, both what they have to say and how they are saying it. When a developer says, “I am fighting with a few bugs,” the tone of voice decides how you should react to the situation.
The office's pressure affects the team, home, and personal life can upset an individual’s balance. A talented developer was having marital problems, and he quickly devolved into a weird and counter-productive spiral. I squirmed as he shared very personal details of his marriage and its dissolution. I should have been grateful that he trusted me enough to share those details. Unfortunately, the team became front row spectators to their peer’s emotional disintegration. It went from something which was a personal tragedy to a distraction for the entire team. The kindest thing we did was take him off the team and work on independent projects. It was what was best for him and the other developers at the office.
The easy thing to do is fire the employee and not deal with the chaotic behavior. Working with people is messy, and we should embrace that reality. We welcome it because of the interaction of emotions, ideas, and people creates friction, generating the heat and light of new ideas. A person I respect very much says, “you just need to feel your feels.”
We need to respect and understand our emotions. We also must respect and understand others' feelings if we are going to lead and coach them. It is both the human and logical thing to do.
Until next time.