Using Maslow's Psychology to Build Your Best Team 2019

Micah Abbott - @rageear

Principal Quality Engineer - Red Hat

The Bad News

I am not a guru

My advice is not novel

There is no money-back guarantee

The Good News!

I've been in the "industry" for nearly 20 years!

I've seen (and been a part of) bad, good, and great teams!

I have a psychology degree!

Be Agile

The "Old Way"

Silos...silos everywhere!

Problems of the "Old Way"

Silos breed poor communication + lack of collaboration

Poor model for accountability; leads to "throwing code over the wall"

Not conducive to feedback or improvement

Interactions (when they happen) can be stressful

Agile: New Hotness

Encourages inclusivity + collaboration among teams

Agile: New Hotness

Relies on frequent communication!

Agile: New Hotness

Able to continuously improve and evolve!

Agile: New Hotness

Shared accountabilty means we succeed as a team

Enter Maslow's Hierarchy


Intimate relationships,

It is human nature to want to belong to a group

Groups are strengthened through relationships built over time

Stronger relationships result in more trust

More trust allows for honest, open (sometimes heated!) communication

Belongingness: Building Relationships

Best method for growing relationships through in-person interactions

Can be approximated with video calls

Don't forget your remote team members!

Interactions can (and should!) happen during and after work hours

At least one in-person meeting with entire team per year

Belongingness: Confidants + Champions

Find a confidant on your team that you trust

Allows you to share thoughts, ideas, opinions, gripes privately

Even better: find a champion

Supports + encourages your work, ideas, opinions


Prestige and feeling of accomplishment

Everyone wants to feel like their contributions are important

How? Practice regular feedback!

Esteem: Regular Feedback

Show gratitude for things big and small

Celebrate achievements within the group and publicly

Give advice on how to improve

Be cautious not to criticize

Offer and accept apologies

All feedback must be done with respect

Unjust feedback can cause team members to withdraw

"Feedback is a gift"


Achieving one's full potential, including creative activities

Can you pursue self-actualization at work? Maybe...

Having strong, respectful relationships with team members can remove a source of worry

Unlocks potential to pursue creative goals or creative solutions

Allows you to attempt activities that aren't part of your job description

The Heirarchy in Practice

Time and patience

Relationships are not formed overnight

People progress at different pace

Allow strengths and weaknesses to be discovered

The Heirarchy in Practice

Frequent Interactions

Utilize Agile/Scrum activities: standups, retros, ad-hoc "open hours"

Interact during and after work hours

Go visit your office mates!

The Heirarchy in Practice

Lead By Example

Team leader(s) need to demonstrate some effort in applying these principles

Voluntary Participation

Not everyone will be interested in these activities

Do not exclude anyone

Continue to politely invite them to participate

Measuring Your Efforts

Difficult to objectively measure relationships + team cohesion

Consider questions like the following:

  • Do you know more than the name of each team member and where they live?
  • Do you have conversations about things other than work?
  • Have you ever shared a drink or meal with your team?
  • Can you have open disagreements respectfully, with no hurt feelings?
  • Are you able to hold your team members accountable?
  • Are you willing to help your team members achieve their goals?
  • Is your team regularly delivering their milestones?