Becoming a software team leader can be a challenging transition even for a seasoned developer. This is primarily because you will only use part of your skills and experience as a developer in your new role.
While you may have once spent all your time designing and writing code, now you will be responsible for the whole development team. This translates into dealing with different types of personalities (both technical and non-technical).
People management is a totally different ball game to coding, so many may not have the necessary skills to understand colleagues and resolve any conflicts that may arise. Further, a software team lead also might end up having to do more tasks than they ever had to deal with before.
Taking all these different variables into consideration, how can you grow and become a better software team lead? Here are some tips to consider.
1. Don’t be a know it all!
While you might have years of experience under your belt, don’t lose sight of the fact that you might know less than certain individuals in your development team.
Take time to get to know each team member and find creative ways to not only motivate them but also get the most out of their unique sets of skills and experience.
2. Learn to delegate
You’re no longer just a programmer, so it’s not possible to take on all the coding tasks. Furthermore, regardless of your experience, you just won’t have time to take up the challenge of difficult or interesting problems.
While there will be opportunities where your skills and experience will be needed, you will have plenty of responsibilities that will need your attention. So it’s critical that you learn to delegate and place significant faith in your team to deliver.
Whatever you do, don’t bottleneck solving problems by keeping them for yourself. After delegating tasks, you can still be involved. You can also regularly review the progress made and once you build enough trust, you can spend more time focusing on other important tasks.
3. Be social and enhance your communication skills
Whether it’s a one-on-one situation or a team meeting, encourage participation. Two-way communication on a regular basis can go a long way to help build trust. It can also be a good idea to bring food for everyone and improve your bonding opportunities.
In this new role, you will need to develop relationships outside the coding environment. This means dealing with sales teams, marketing managers, product managers, and others in business roles. They won’t understand the vocabulary that you have grown accustomed to, so you will have to find ways to speak their business oriented language.
For you to be truly effective at your job, non-technical people need to be able to easily understand technical concepts. To achieve this, find out terms that business people use, take advantage of visual models, and use a whiteboard if it will help get your point across.
4. Focus on the bigger picture
From day one, you need to start focusing on the bigger picture and start visualizing your architecture. It’s important because a small technical decision can have a significant impact on the wider architecture.
As a result, you have to make sure that your developers clearly understand the broader picture. You can do this by using visual representations of your system architecture during discussions with the team.
Additionally, conduct whiteboard sessions with the whole team and review the overall architecture as it evolves over time. This is also a great opportunity to focus on key quality attributes that can communicate your architectural vision (and this can be anything like performance, usability, and scalability).
At this juncture, it’s also a good idea to encourage your developers to utilize the historical context and call out assumptions to make everyday decisions. While there is a lot that goes into becoming a better software team lead, this is a good place to start.