Effective leadership empowers teammates to do their best and make a significant breakthrough in their work. Being a leader and being a manager are not the same thing. Engineering leadership is primarily about building trusting relationships in the team rather than people management. The credit goes to the team and the leader.
Olena Ratova, delivery manager at Innovecs, shares her thoughts on how a challenging time helped her grow professionally and personally. The article was previously published on BetterProgramming.
Before embracing the delivery manager position, Olena worked as a project coordinator and cooperated with several delivery managers on different projects. During that time, she had a chance to learn and inherit the best leadership practices. A massive amount of knowledge was acquired due to mentoring from her colleague. Since Olena joined us, the number of people on the project has increased from 12 to 30. Having advanced to delivery manager, Olena understands leadership responsibility as a whole. You are in charge of a team’s performance apart from your own.
So, today I touch on the key do’s and don’ts in engineering leadership.
Do: Listen to More Than Seniors
Before working in the tech sphere, I was in tourist management, where I conducted tours and communicated with clients. During that time, I figured out how pivotal this is to acquiring listening skills. It is about identifying a customer’s needs and working with objections. If you put your time into listening, it means you try to understand others. The same principle works in the tech sphere. Listen to all employees’ ideas.
Every teammate can share experiences and come up with inspiring solutions. This mainly works in the case of cooperating with junior specialists who may have little experience yet fresh and interesting ideas. Never underestimate their insights. Sometimes even senior specialists with long-term experience lose the sense of a new vision, whereas junior specialists are enthusiastic, inspired, engaged, and generate remarkable ideas.
I would recommend listening not only to seniors but juniors. Why? Because quite a few of their ideas are really cool and top-notch.
Do: Nurture a Supportive Space Inside a Team
No company will exist without people operating processes. The result is key, but the process and method are also significant. Mind the human factor. Human needs must be placed above your team’s challenges, difficulties, and troubles. Anyone can be in dire straits. Anyone can be struggling with family problems or force majeure events. It may look like a snowball rolling ahead of a person’s life, and there is no need to contribute. Rather, it is essential to offer support.
Tech leaders should build trusting relationships and create a supportive space for their people. Informal communication is also pivotal. In such a way, you can strengthen your relationships.
In our project’s team, we create a great environment and cooperate effectively. We not only work together but are friends. This is why we are so united and get along well. Respect for each other’s dignity, readiness to offer a shoulder, and giving advice bring us together.
Do: Take Care of Team Development
Remember to encourage team educational programs and individual development. I recommend forming a Personal Development Plan for everyone. I communicate with every teammate to understand how employees want to grow professionally. It motivates them to perform better and work with passion.
Investing in your people is always a win-win strategy. As a rule, it boosts commitment and morale. Everything you have invested in teammates will boomerang. The more frequently you as a manager are tracking the reached goals of the Personal Development Plan, the more speedily your employees achieve results.
It is not easy to conduct a one-to-one meeting with everyone as my team is big. It requires putting in the time and emotional resources because sometimes you have to be a kind of psychologist. But I still try to do that as I know how pivotal it is for my teammates.
Besides monitoring outcomes and conducting one-to-one meetings, consider setting up mentorship programs. As usual, professional achievements are doubling under an effective mentoring program. The best practices are shared within trusting personal connections. At Innovecs, mentorship is mainstream, and best practices are easy to follow if acquired from person to person.
Don’ts: Criticize Teammates in Front of Others
Normally, this is taboo for tech leaders. Even in the case of low employee performance or failure with deadlines, discussing an issue in a one-to-one meeting is essential rather than having the whole team watch. If a team lead’s feedback is needed, I will engage one, but I will not make it public. In my opinion, scolding demotivates employees, ruins relationships, and is humiliating. By criticizing employees in front of others, you, as an tech leader, ruin your team instead of building and developing.
Don’ts: Draw Conclusions About a Teammate From Gossip
Paying attention to everyone, regardless of your position or workplace, is important. This is the simple principle of work ethics, though only some have figured this out.
Don’t form your opinion about employees based on team gossip. Some people can be subjective and biased, especially in conflict situations. Getting honest feedback on someone is good, but don’t let another’s criticism affect your own reasoning. Before making a final decision, it is essential to have both perspectives on the conflict. The leader must address a problem with a cool head.
Micromanagement is nothing but a drag that degrades quality instead of improving it. And worst of all, it demotivates people. It is something that ruins many companies and projects. Micromanagement is always about mistrust.
Delegate instead of control. Otherwise, you will definitely turn into a snowflake that is likely to burn out and vanish. Time and emotional resources are never sufficient to take everything under your control. In the best case, such a project stagnates. Progress and growth depend too much on you. In the worst case, such a project will be closed. There is no need to be involved in everything. Appoint responsible people, communicate transparently, and trust their decisions. Follow this advice, and you will make your life easier. Moreover, your teammates will advance and grow, even if they fail some tasks. Next time, the lesson will be learned.
For example, I cooperate with four team leads who are experts in their professional areas. I will never micromanage my subordinates. If a team lead considers a certain decision the best, I trust them. As usual, by behaving in such a way, you respect your colleagues as professionals.
To sum it up, engineering leadership is a broad theme that includes management approaches, acquiring expertise in certain areas, emotional intelligence development, and so on. The essential thing is a strong IT leader’s willingness to grow, improve, develop ways to manage effectively, and create a positive atmosphere in a team.