Engineering Grit for Successful Software Teams
By Yousef Awad, CEO
Grit is one of the core characteristics we look for when hiring and it’s one of Integrant’s core values.
While we have successfully created and implemented key tools like our 4Plus1 Shadow Engineering Program, CodeVoyance, and a squad lead structure to continue our vision of transforming the software development lifecycle with predictable results, Integrant, at its core, is all about people.
We want to work with people who will have our backs, are transparent, work as one-team, and are passionate and dedicated to solving not just software development challenges, but business challenges that will help change the world for the better.
We do that through finding software engineers who have an aptitude towards grit.
While defining what grit means to me may be easy, explaining its importance and the role it takes in creating a healthy and thriving workplace takes a deeper dive into what grit is, how it's measured, if it can be trained, and how something like competency comes into play.
What is Grit?
As defined on our website, grit is the secret sauce at the core of each of our employees. It means that each of our team members is committed to getting the job done right and never giving up.
Our engineers are relentless in pursuing project innovation and success, no matter what roadblocks may appear. For Integrant, grit is a critical key to the success of our team members, customers, and company.
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What is Competency?
Competency is what pushes success and efficiency in a workplace. Baseline competence is made up of varying characteristics and skills that come together to create job performance and efficiency.
These characteristics and skills include areas like technical skills, leadership, business acumen, communication and project management soft skills, critical and analytical thinking, and teamwork. All of this can also come together to directly influence grit.
Increased competency can mean providing better solution options, higher efficiency, improved learning, and more.
How to Measure Grit and Competency
When it comes to measuring things like grit and competency, there’s a bit of a customized approach. It’s important to note that grit and competency shouldn’t be assessed through a competitive lens, but instead, what does the measurement and combination of both tell you about the individual and their capacity for long-term coaching and success.
The purpose is to understand each individual and their strengths and contributions.
Thinking about grit and competency should include several factors:
- What does this person do every day?
- Do they enjoy this position?
- Are they good at it?
- What are their strengths?
- Do they struggle in specific areas?
- Could they be a better asset elsewhere?
- What are they really interested in or passionate about?
These are all questions that need to be asked to get a good sense of reasoning behind any measurement regarding performance.
In addition, we can measure grit by looking at factors such as:
- Commitment to problem solving
- Willingness to see a challenge or task through to the end
- Dedication to continuous learning
- Desire to win as one-team
- How thoroughly concepts are learned
- Technical skillsets
- Non-technical skillsets (communication, project management, etc)
- Understanding of feedback and how to effectively implement it
Evaluating grit and competency in this way isn’t meant to intimidate our team members or cause them to be competitive with one another. We utilize continuous feedback and objective fair assessments to understand how we can coach and train our engineers. We focus on individuals’ strengths and what roles they can play that they’re both passionate about and will excel in.
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Can You Train Grit?
Training grit can be viewed similarly to training anything. For example, one of my favorite hobbies is boxing. I didn’t start at the gym by boxing three-minute rounds right off the bat. There’s conditioning, technique work, strategy, and shadow boxing practice that help build the stamina to get to the point where one can spar.
But my training plan for boxing may look different than someone else’s. Grit is the same. Because of the different variables that we discussed above—strengths, interests, background—their motivations may be different.
It’s important to understand what methodologies will be most effective for the team members you’re coaching in grit.
Let’s say we have a team member who is a little lower on the grit scale and we’ve noticed their passion in their position is starting to wane. They seem less engaged and more distracted. We can ask further questions to validate our assessment but uncovering why could be the key to unlocking their grit.
For example, this team member is a software engineer who was recently shifted to a new project. In their 1:1 meeting, the Squad Lead discovers that the software engineer is learning about a new industry that is complicated and they aren’t sure if they enjoy it or are interested in it.
The Squad Lead provides a high-level view of why the engineer was selected to be on the project (their competency and ability to bring a team together) and how the exposure to a new field might help how they think about other industries to improve their work overall.
The team member continues to stick with it. Slowly over time, you see an uptick in the team member’s contributions and engagement, but maybe still has some days where they’re unsure about the project.
Whether the team member eventually gets rotated to a new project for career development or they continue to build passion for the current project, they have increased their grit for following through on challenging or less than ideal situations.
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Now let’s look at someone who is higher on the grit scale. While this team member has high grit, you still notice their passion is starting to fade.
This team member was recently promoted to a Squad Lead. Over a few months, they are dropping the ball on things when they have never done so before. After continuous assessment on how the position is going, what roadblocks they might be encountering, you notice they always gravitate toward project management work.
After several more months of coaching and assessment, they are relentless in self-improvement and learning new skills to improve in their role, but it’s a grind. It looks like they would be better suited for another role that highlights their strengths in purely project management.
You slowly transition them into this new role, and you see a change in energy and motivation. Uncovering their interests and narrowing in on what they are good at helped change the work environment for this team member.
Could this team member have continued to be a Squad Lead because of their grit? Absolutely. Would they have been happy? Probably not. And they would have likely looked for a new opportunity.
This is one of the many reasons I like to focus on strengths. It’s generally more motivating and yields better results and higher morale. It’s unreasonable that all the engineers we have will be good at everything.
This is also why proper team building is so critical to the success of our software development projects. We’re able to match strengths together in the same project to create impactful teams.
Grit and Our Core Values
When it comes to recruiting, we are guided by our core values. We know when new team members match our core values, everyone is more successful.
When it comes to assessing something like grit and baseline competency in the recruitment process, I believe there are three layers to a person that need to be assessed individually.
The first layer is their characteristics. I believe a person's characteristics are formed and built early-on in life and grow from personal values. This layer can take time to change and, in some cases, it’s extremely difficult to change.
The second layer is a person's skills. These are learned and developed and there is typically a correlation between someone’s interests and what they dedicate time to learning.
From skills, we get to the third layer: experience.
Many people will mix skills and experience as one and the same, but for me, these two should be looked at individually. For example, you can have a skill in coding and enjoy doing it but having a solid foundation of experience in coding will create a whole new layer of knowledge.
By assessing each of these layers separately, we can better determine how all these pieces will fit into the roles we have open and our existing company culture. This level of commitment to understanding each person we recruit is beneficial to not only our success as a company, but to our customers and potential candidates as well.
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Grit in Recruitment
For potential candidates, you can be assured that our selection is thoughtful, non-discriminatory, and in the best interest of both the individual and our company. We want everyone who works at Integrant to feel equal, comfortable, challenged, and supported. This is one aspect of our goal of creating the best workplace on earth.
We put in our best effort to find team members who match our values and identify what positions will build and maintain their passion for software development. Above all, we want all of our team members to succeed.
This dedication to our recruitment process also means a more carefully curated group of experts for each software development project. The better our teams fit together and the more we are able to dedicate time to their growth and development, the better project outcomes will be. These efforts also help lower turnover rate at Integrant. Long-term team members result in better, more efficient teams, and more passion and experience in every project.
All in all, we approach our workplace with an Agile mindset, just as we do our software development. We are constantly utilizing retrospectives to see what needs to be addressed and improved. We understand unique ways as a person grows in their professional life.
At Integrant, we will continue to put forth our greatest effort in determining the best ways to nurture grit and growth in the workplace.
To learn more about our company culture or how our teams are structured, read more related content below.
About the Author: Yousef Awad
Yousef Awad is the CEO of Integrant Inc, a company that reflects his personal and professional values and prioritizes relationship building and predictability. Prior to starting Integrant in 1992, Yousef spent much of his career on the technical side of software development. This experience solidified and fueled his vision to start Integrant. Yousef has dedicated the last 30 years to building Integrant’s brand, recruiting and retaining the best employees, and strengthening relationships with our customers. Yousef considers himself a customer and employee advocate, always striving to do what’s in the best interests of customers and employees alike, prioritizing transparent, long-term partnerships.