Know Thyself

So you've probably heard this ancient aphorism, but what does it have to do with software development? Very few of us deliver software in isolation. We generally have customers, managers, testers, designers, operations, and fellow developers on our development and delivery teams. Because we have to interact with all of these other people, it is in our best interest to know who we are, what motivates us, and what our strengths and weaknesses are.

For the last couple of years, I have intermixed a few books and videos on psychology with my standard technical fare in an effort to get to know myself better. It appears that many in our industry are doing the same.

At the Agile Alliance 2011 conference, Dr. Barbara Fredrickson spoke about Why Care about Positive Emotions?. Linda Rising has spoken about The Agile Mindset at several conferences including Agile Roots 2012. At the recent WindyCityRails conference, Steve Klabnik spoke on Development and Philosophy. And many members of my local Ruby user group have read Dr Martin Seligman's Learned Opimism on the recommendation of Dave Brady.

Personally, I have taken the Myers-Briggs test and learned that I fall in the ENTJ/ Field-marshal personality variant. I have also read Strengths-Based Leadership in the last couple of weeks and took the associated test. My Strengths Finder results were unsurprising and correspond well with my Myers-Briggs. My top five strengths in order are:
  1. Input
  2. Communication
  3. Learner
  4. Woo
  5. Analytical
When I looked over the list, I immediately saw several synergies and began to understand why some things come easily for me, while others are quite challenging. I feel that this is a great set of strengths and describes me well.

So is there a point to all this navel gazing? I believe that by knowing ourselves, we can work better with the other members of our teams. When we know what we bring to a team, we can look for others that will bring different and complementary strengths. To quote Strengths-Based Leadership, "While the best leaders are not well-rounded, the best teams are." And don't we all want to be on the best teams?

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