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Simple Habits for a Happier Team

Tiny Improvements Newsletter:Simple Habits for a Happier Team

No team is perfect.

Working on a team that is in a bad place can be draining, demoralizing, and even toxic.

A few times in my career, I've been part of teams that were struggling to find their footing - and once or twice, I've seen it turn around. There's no cure-all for a bad work culture, but in my experience, the catalyst for change is often remarkably small.

Something I didn't realize until I had been working for years is that every person on a team contributes to its culture. You have the power to shape the environment you work in, and the people you work with.

You probably have a sense of what the perfect team would look like for you. The right balance of autonomy, intellectual challenge, and camaraderie is different for everyone, and it's important to recognize that your ideal team might not be the same as someone else's.

I believe that building a great team is not far off from the golden rule: be the teammate you wish you had, and others will follow suit.

Embrace the Positives

In crafting a thriving team culture, it's invaluable to draw from the positive aspects of past experiences. Think about the best team you've ever worked with - what made it so great? Borrow bits and pieces from that experience, and remix them to fit your current team.

Here's a couple examples that have worked well for me:


Cultivating a habit of expressing gratitude can profoundly lift team morale.

Praise resonates differently with each of us - some prefer public acknowledgment, while others appreciate a private thank you. It can take some time to figure out what works best for the people you work with, but no matter what, expressing gratitude is always a good idea.

Being openly thankful for your teammates' efforts fosters a positive environment and encourages everyone to contribute enthusiastically. Take the time to show your teammates the things you genuinely appreciate about their work and presence on the team; that extra bit of love feels great, and selfishly, it feels good to give it too.

This can be particularly tricky to do when you're feeling overwhelmed or stressed, but it's in those moments that a little bit of gratitude can go a long way.

Weekly reflections build empathy

At Craftwork, we've adopted the practice of a weekly 5:15s reflection, a piece of work culture cribbed from my time at Stripe. Each week, every team member journals about what they accomplished that week, they challenges they faced, and goals for the coming week.

This reflection is time-boxed: they take fifteen minutes to write, and they should take no longer than five minutes to read. The result helps strengthen our understanding of one another's experiences, ensuring that no one's efforts or struggles go unnoticed. They also serve as a handy reminder of personal accomplishments and growth during performance reviews.

It forces self-reflection, and gives us each the opportunity to see behind the curtain a little bit; with 5:15s, we often get to hear more more aspirational and candid thoughts than we would in a typical work chat. It helps connect us better as complex, living & breathing humans; rather than semi-distant colleagues smashing code into a computer week after week.

Fuck the Negatives

Adopting additive team behaviors is just as important as elimination of negative ones.

When was the last time you rolled your eyes or heaved a sigh at work? This is probably a sign of something that's ripe for improvement.

Whether it was a lack of transparency, ineffective communication, or even a culture of overwork, recognizing these pitfalls is the first step in eliminating them. For example, if weekly meetings have always felt unproductive, consider replacing them with more efficient communication methods like brief daily stand-ups or targeted updates through team communication tools.

Encourage your team to be vocal about what isn't working, and be proactive in making changes that foster a more positive and productive environment. This not only improves current team dynamics but also prevents the repetition of past mistakes.

It's a great idea idea to do some introspection, too.

I've worked hard to jettison habits of my own that make me less fun to work with. A wide spectrum of behaviors from procrastination to communicating poorly when I'm stressed out, to recognizing when I just need more sleep. I'm far from perfect, but chiseling away at the these things has (hopefully) made me a more effective teammate over the years.

Be the Change

Here's the thing: every job will involve doing things that aren't strictly fun. In a sense, that's probably why your job is a job. But that doesn't mean you can't enjoy and improve the people you work with, or the environment you work in.

To truly transform your team, start by being the type of teammate you would want to have. Embrace the give-and-take of support, ensuring you're as reliable and approachable as you expect others to be.

The most important team I've ever been a part of is my marriage, and the best marriage advice I ever received was pretty simple:

Always over-contribute. If both partners are always trying to give more than they take, you'll both be happy.

I believe this holds for nearly all relationships - including those with your coworkers. Put yourself out there, be a catalyst for change, and grow with your teammates as you build the team you want to be on.

Tiny Improvements from around the internet

Oddly satisfying spacing

šŸ“ A design agency called Chainlift has been putting out explainer videos on design theory that are juicy and jam-packed with nuggets that will make your apps look and feel better. I've done plenty of shouting about why devs and founders should care about design - this series is a great way to learn how some seriously simple rules can make a massive difference in your work.

Beautiful tutorials for music producers

šŸ“¼ synthet is a fast-growing YouTube channel that has been creating ~1min videos that teach power-user features for producers of electronic music using a tool called FL Studio. I'm not a music producer, and I'm really not a fan of EDM, but these are some of the most engaging, thoughtful, and memorable tutorials I've ever seen. Why? No spoilers here - click through and spend a few minutes taking it in.

Tunes is fantastic at the arts

šŸ”¢ Here's another music-themed rec for you: Charles Cornell did an incredible breakdown of the surprisingly complex musical structure of a song used on Sesame Street to teach children how to count. Titled This Song Teaches Counting But Is INSANELY Hard To Count, it's a great example of how easy it can be to miss the beautiful details that went into something many of us have seen billions of times.


Thanks for reading Tiny Improvements. If you found this helpful, I'd love it if you shared this with a friend. It helps me out a great deal.

Until next time - be excellent to each other!

Simple Habits for a Happier Team

Small changes and management techniques can transform your team's dynamics and boost morale. Explore practices like expressing gratitude, weekly reflections, and eliminating negative behaviors to foster a positive, growing team.



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