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Candost Dagdeviren: How to build a high-performance team

Candost Dagdeviren: How to build a high-performance team

Based in Germany, Candost Dagdeviren is a Software Engineering Manager at Jimdo.

When not plugged into his 9-to-5, he’s mentoring and advising; writing articles and blog posts; hosting “Software World,” a biweekly podcast; and working on “Mektup,” his biweekly newsletter. For the second installment of this two-part series, we sat down with Candost to dive into:

  • What exactly a “high-performance” system looks like
  • Three steps to building a high-performance team culture
  • The importance of open feedback for a thriving workspace

How Do You Define a High-Performance System?

That phrase obviously means different things to different people. As an example:

  • It could mean a successful project that brings on lots of users.
  • Or it could net-zero users but still be a technically well-performing application.

I've built various apps. In my early career, I built the former, like a banking app with 1.5 million active users. These days, my benchmarks look entirely different.

Right now, I define a high-performance system as one that solves user or business needs while performing technically well in the process.

Many engineers forget that, for the most part, we're here to solve someone's problems with technically durable solutions — not just to build the most impressive architecture possible.

How Do You Build a High Performing Team?

I’d start with three elements.

1) Building Trust

If you’re building a team from the ground up, you must establish trust among everyone. That often starts with being aware of both individual differences and commonalities.

Those commonalities can bring out the best in interpersonal dynamics, while enabling everyone to bring their uniqueness to work goes a long way.

2) A Culture of Open Feedback

Once there’s a sense of trust, it becomes that much easier for team members to easily give and receive feedback. So I personally put a lot of emphasis on fostering a culture of open feedback.

In my experience, people just trust each other — that they’re providing feedback with the best intentions for everyone’s performance, not to carry out a personal attack on your work.

3) United By One Mission

The third step is creating a common goal or motivator. If we’re solving a problem, we need to be aligned on why we’re doing it and why it matters to us as a team.

Once that’s clear, it almost makes it easier for people to want to show up, perform well, and, again, give and take trustworthy feedback to improve themselves, the project, and the company.

How Do You Foster a Culture of Open Feedback?

If you’re a manager of any kind, you’ll have to lead by example.

It's a tricky balance: being open about your own vulnerabilities to encourage honesty and feedback but also standing tall in your strengths and power.

Lead with Vulnerability

You need to know yourself well to honestly divulge your weaknesses — not necessarily your deepest struggles, but how you’re also constantly learning and need feedback at work.

There’s a common misconception of leaders in this industry as strong, silent people who don’t make mistakes. I really do not agree with that image. So I try to set a more realistic, well-rounded example. I tell people when I don’t know the answer to a question, or I’ll acknowledge at a meeting where I messed up.

Once you open yourself up to sharing your mistakes and receiving feedback, it sets a precedent. People will hopefully follow suit and mirror that.

Know Your Strength

At the same time, that balance I mentioned is vital because that openness and feedback need to be followed up with action, accountability, and performance.

Again, you set an example as a leader, so sometimes it’ll fall on you to follow up on tasks or follow up to make sure the feedback is getting through and resulting in stronger work.

As much as you show your vulnerability, don't forget to show up as a full, skilled leader. These are all concrete moments where you can encourage and create that feedback-oriented culture.