Three Must-Have Traits for Agile Team Members

During our most recent Agile Orlando Lean Lunch meetup, one interesting topic we discussed was what ideal traits a recruiter should be looking for to vet whether candidates are good fits in an Agile environment and culture. This naturally evolved into a discussion of common characteristics we’d observed in successful team members on Agile projects. Beyond the obvious technical or professional skills required for a particular project, there are some key character traits and behaviors that can mean the difference between adding (or yourself being) a rock star or just another run-of-the-mill team member.

  • Ownership of your deliverables
    One difficult transition for team members jumping from traditional development teams (or not-actually-Agile teams) to the Agile mindset is the need for all team members to be owners. Each team member should feel responsible for the success of the work product being delivered. The deliverable is a result of every team member’s effort. Team members who learn to embrace that ownership and become invested in the product begin to naturally look for ways to improve the product, the process of developing the product, and how to get the best out of their fellow team members. Those who remain stuck in the grind of simply working and closing tasks tend to remain stuck in their silos and disengaged from the team.
  • Engagement within the team
    A team member must be willing to engage with the team on a regular, consistent basis. Many team members new to Agile mistakenly assume the common Daily Standup is the limit of team engagement they need to worry about. The Daily Standup is seen as nothing more than a replacement for the traditional Status Report, albeit shorter and more frequent. The focus becomes “What status do I need to give?” rather than “What is everyone else working on and are there any problems I can help resolve?” A team member who is able to engage with the rest of the team is better able to build trust, know when their help might be beneficial to someone stuck, and feel that they can depend on their fellow team to help when needed.
  • Resilience and the willingness to fail
    Agile is an iterative process, built on the idea of trying things out, discarding the things that don’t work, and keeping what does. Whether it’s a new way of approaching a business process, a new technology stack, or a team ceremony to try, something will inevitably not work the way you or your team hoped. A rock star team member learns what they can from this failure and moves on to their next experiment, which could mean scrapping an idea completely and or a simple modification to the previous experiment. Failure is not something to celebrate, but neither is it something to shy away from. When team members meet with failure of one sort or another, they should reflect on how they can avoid such a failure in the future rather than dwelling on why and how it failed in the first place.

What other traits have you noticed in the members who seem to excel in Agile environments?

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