What’s Your Team’s Pulse?

Having an overall pulse of the team will help you as a leader know how to help the team stay healthy.


Calvin Bushor

2 years ago | 4 min read

Fitness trackers are all the rage these days. Apple Watches, Fitbits, and Garmins are seemingly tethered to our wrists everywhere we look. These fancy fitness devices tell us how far we walk. They tell us how many calories we burn. Mine even tells me my pulse and my stress levels.

These trackers have recently been known to help people identify heartbeat irregularities. This information influenced people to talk with their doctors where they’ve found real health issues. Without this information, these issues may have not been found in time and these people may have experienced a heart attack, stroke, or other life-threatening events.

We opt into these fitness trackers to keep us informed of our health through visualized data, push notifications, and goal statuses. We do this because we want to be healthy by increasing our fitness and reducing our overall stress.

How do you know the fitness level of your team? I don’t mean literally. I’m not asking if they can run a marathon or not. I am asking if you know the health of your team. Do you know if they are stressed? Do you know if there is conflict within the team? Do you know if people are happy and fulfilled?

Having an overall pulse of the team will help you as a leader know how to help the team stay healthy.

Okay, so how do we do it? How do we know if the team is healthy or not? We can’t attach fitness trackers to them that automagically inform us when the team’s heart rate is too high. Or, can we? No. No, we can’t! Don’t do that.

Instead, as leaders, we have a few tools in our tool belt to help us gauge the overall health of the team. Here’s two.

  1. We do have data — As a technology leader who’s team writes software for a living, I have access to several dashboards that keep me informed. I have a Jira dashboard that tells me how the team is executing. I can see if we are going faster or slower than the previous day, week, or month. If we see a dip in our team’s performance, I can start to drill in to understand, why? I also have access to Github metrics. I can see how the engineers on my team are contributing to the overall codebase. When someone hasn’t committed code in a while, I can reach out and see if they need help. You may have other information-radiators to help you know how your team is doing. These dashboards are one indicator of team health, not the end-all-be-all.
  2. One-on-ones — As leaders, regular one-on-one meetings with the people on our team is the best indicator of individual and team health in my opinion. Unfortunately, most of us are terrible at having meaningful one-on-ones. Some of us whip out those execution dashboards I just mentioned and focus on the data and performance in their team member conversations. To me, one-on-ones should focus on everything else besides execution. This is a time to learn about the people on your team. This is a time to hear what each person is struggling with, in work, and in life. When, we as leaders, can get to a place where we can be vulnerable with our team members and they can be vulnerable with us, we will start to learn a lot about the team’s health. From here, we can find ways to support the people on our team and improve the overall pulse.

What happens when we don’t keep an eye on our health?

When we are not careful and don’t mind our health, our bodies and our minds start to fail us. They shut down and start to do funky things, like have heart attacks.

The same happens with our teams. When we don’t monitor our team’s health, bad things can start to happen. We will start to see the conflict between team members. We will see greatly reduced execution. We will see an increase in bugs or issues. We will see an increase in client complaints and poor client experience of our product or service.

People on the team might quit out of the blue. It’s critical that we have information flowing to us that helps us understand our team’s vitals because when we don’t, our team can become unhealthy very quickly.

Health trackers don’t tell the entire story!

Just like the fitness tracker I wear on my wrist, I can’t assume the health monitoring system I install for my team has all the answers. Often, I read my Garmin’s output and I need to interpret it.

My Garmin doesn’t know I am typing this sweet article right now. It knows my pulse and tells me that I might be stressed based on its sensors, but I know that I am feeling excited and motivated to write this piece. I need to read my watch’s information as just that, it’s information.

If I read it as absolute truth, I would be on my way to the hospital right now, but I know that I feel good and that the Garmin is only one piece of data. As leaders, we can’t get caught in the trap as reading our team health systems as gospel, there’s a story behind the data. Read it as just information to ask better questions, and to seek to understand.

How do you monitor your team’s health?

Do you have mechanisms that help you understand the overall health of your team? How do you identify when you may have a team health issue? What’s your team’s pulse? We can be better leaders by investing in a system that helps us know the overall health of our team. From here, we can ask better questions and be better leaders.


Created by

Calvin Bushor

Technologist, leader, writer, and I created to help new tech leaders be better leaders and build awesome dev teams! #LeadershipLife







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