Getting your team out of the ditch in 8 not-so-easy steps

Getting your team out of the ditch in 8 not-so-easy steps So you just became a team lead, or maybe you’ve been a team lead for a few years now, but things never really clicked as to how to lead other people. Here’s the bare minimum to having a functional team.

Get out of your head

Up until now, you were in control of all your work. You knew when you were confused. You knew when you were done. And you did a good job at that. Now you’re leading a team. People will think they’re done when you think they aren’t. What you think is painfully obvious is not fucking obvious. Your team is depending on you to communicate what you know.

Establish a feedback loop

People don’t change behaviour unless you tell them what you want to change. People also quit if you only talk down to them. Give positive and negative general feedback in 1 on 1’s. Judge the work; not the person. Use vocabulary to that effect as well. It’s not “you didn’t do X”, it’s “X does not work”.

Establish a backlog

People need to be able to survive at least a full week without you around with no change to daily operations. A backlog of tasks described in enough detail to follow through to completion is a requirement.

Define a process

Fires should not start every time you go on vacation. Establish a quality process for development to assure things aren’t left to chance.

Without a standard process, it is super likely that everything the new person is touching is turning into trash. If your team doesn’t have a process that ensures a quality product, that’s your fault. If you have opinions about how something should be done, you need to build it into the process. Waterfall? Iterative? Agile? Don’t just use the word. Define what that looks like on your team. How do you solve an issue? Do you make a design doc? Do you code review? Do you test?

Define standards

You can’t just say “TDD”. You need a measurable metric of quality, and you need to enforce it. Do you require everyone to pair? Do you write tests? Define this with a measurable metric, and call people out for not meeting it.

Understand how people behave when pushed

If you have a looming deadline, do they get the feature in at the expense of code quality? Do they work crazy hours? Do they ignore the deadline but deliver quality every time? Do they look at their phone all day regardless? If you’re stretching people to get a feature in, something is going to fail. When you don’t know what, you’ll be unpleasantly surprised.

Set up strong input mechanisms

Your boss is a lot more concerned now that you’re wasting 5 peoples’ times. You’re a brand new team lead, and, just like any new person, you have no idea what you’re doing, and everything you touch is turning to trash. Keep bosses in the loop. Get their buy in on directions. Let them know as soon as you know things aren’t on plan anymore.

Establish 1 on 1’s with the other teammates to get feedback about how you’re doing.

Hopefully, with these pointers, you can work on a functioning team that works well together.

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