It’s Not About You AnymoreWhen I’m leading a team, I have to balance my individual contributions against the overall productivity of the team. It usually ends up being more important to focus on the team’s productivity. It no longer matters whether I get any stories done or not; what matters is whether we as a team are successful. I might go through a week and not commit a line of code, because I am bouncing around removing roadblocks so that the team can be effective. This may feel completely strange for those of us that come from a background of “I need to get these features done”, but the reality is that you have to be able to step back and see the bigger picture.
I’ve had a long history of being a bit of a perfectionist and making sure that everything is exactly the way that I think it should be. I discovered that people didn’t like me as a result of that. People don’t like being micro-managed. The reality is that there’s usually more than one solution for most problems and situations.
Let Go of Your Solutions and Encourage Team Decisions
One piece of useful advice that I received early on as a Tech Lead was to go around and talk to people - having 'water cooler conversations' with the people that are the stakeholders in your project. Don’t restrict it to work; understand how their kids are doing, talk about their favorite restaurants. Engage with them, because if you have a good working and personal relationship with someone, they are a lot more likely to let you know when things are going badly, as opposed to waiting and seeing what happens. They are also more likely to get you involved earlier or give you relevant, timely feedback. Those relationships are important. You can’t retroactively create a relationship, but you can proactively build one.
Relationships Are Key: Have 'Water Cooler Conversations'
Growing and giving opportunities to the next set of Tech Leads is crucial. It’s possible to give people leadership opportunities within the project. My leaders gave me leadership opportunities, which is how I grew into being a Tech Lead. I feel it is important to pay those opportunities forward, and having a successor prepared makes it easier to move on to new opportunities. I have always tried to figure out opportunities for others to do cool things and experiment. Sometimes those experiments sprouted into leadership opportunities for them, but sometimes they didn’t.
Build The Next Generation
A lot of what happens in your career is organic or unintentional - the way we help each other become Tech Leads, the way you end up owning the Tech Lead role. At the end of the day, whether you are a Tech Lead or not, success is being prepared for the next thing that comes up. It is sort of like having a toolbox with a bunch of tools that are ready to be used and is about knowing how to pick the right tool to deal with whatever situations come your way. Over time and with experience dealing with different situations, your toolbox gets bigger and filled with more tools. You often don’t know what is next, and the truth is that random things will happen. If you’re lucky, you are prepared for what comes next and as a result, you will be successful.
Build Your Toolbox: Be Prepared for What Is Next
Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.