Being a leader is no easy feat. And being a leader of a development team takes particular skills and expertise. Development teams work together to create or implement a particular product or service. While they operate with some independence, they often rely on other teams for execution. No matter the business, a development team can play a crucial role in the success of the overall company.
Whether your development team is three people or 30 people, it’s your responsibility to help lead them to success. Just like any manager, you will have specific needs and requirements to get your work done. Some of your team members may be completely remote, which can add another layer of complexity.
Despite the challenges, leading a development team can be very fulfilling. It will hone your resilience, as you will likely come up against various challenges and uncertainties. It also takes a certain level of maturity and self-awareness to lead. Keep reading for four ways to assist your development team and ensure they have everything they need to get their jobs done.
1. Communicate Effectively and Frequently
The key to any great team is communication. You need to be able to convey to your employees what is expected of them. They also need to feel empowered to communicate with you, informing you of developments and asking for help.
Communication is particularly important for teams working in software development. The field itself is subject to rapid change, and clients’ priorities can shift on a dime. If you don’t make your team aware of these changes in a timely way, it can lead to wasted effort and rework. And if your team doesn’t make you aware of any delays in progress, you could communicate invalid delivery dates to other teams.
How you communicate with your team and vice versa is entirely up to you. When you’re leading a smaller team in person, it may be valuable to hold regular stand-up meetings. If you’re leading a larger team, then a Slack team channel may be your best bet. You may also have an email alias where you can inform the whole team of developments all at once. No matter how you communicate, make sure you do so effectively, frequently, and professionally.
2. Stay on Top of Deadlines
One of the main differences between a development team and other teams is the sheer amount of milestones involved in a product launch. While every team has a slew of tasks and demands to manage, not all of them operate under such precise timelines and corresponding dependencies. A product launch, for instance, requires your team to execute on time and fully. Other teams, from marketing to customer service, are relying on your team to get their work done within a specific timeframe.
It’s up to you to stay ahead of team deadlines. To do this, you’ll almost certainly want to use a project management system. While spreadsheets may have sufficed back in the day, modern project management software can keep much better tabs on tasks and their due dates. In one centralized place, everyone on the team can see what is expected of them and by when.
Of course, it never hurts to point out upcoming deadlines during team meetings. Ask each team member how their work is progressing and if they see any reasons for delay. When you’re aware of potential obstacles, you can begin to find ways to remove them.
3. Delegate Responsibilities
One trap leaders too often fall into is trying to do all the work themselves. If you once held the job your subordinates now do, it can be difficult to let them get on with things. Remember that your team members were hired for their skills and expertise — your real job is to help them use them. They can’t do that if you won’t let go of the reins.
With any new project, plan to delegate tasks and responsibilities up front. Before you do so, ask employees individually what they are interested in. Take into consideration their past work achievements as well as their personal career goals and objectives. By matching team members’ strengths to the tasks that need doing, you’ll increase both team efficiency and employee satisfaction.
Of course, you may not be able to please everyone all the time. A software development team, for example, still needs someone to write the documentation even if everyone would rather be coding. However, you can explain to each person how their individual contributions help the overall team. That can motivate team members to power through even their least favorite tasks.
4. Be a Supportive Cheerleader
Nobody wants their work to go unnoticed. If someone on your team is putting in the hard work, congratulate them. Your team may be more motivated to do a great job if you offer praise when it is merited. Furthermore, encourage your team members to acknowledge their colleagues’ above-and-beyond efforts, too. Both approaches can boost overall morale and foster a supportive, inclusive workplace environment.
Being a good cheerleader also means telling other executives about the great work your team is doing. If there is a company-wide meeting, your team could be recognized for a job well done. Or perhaps your company has a recognition system for rewarding exemplary team members. If so, take full advantage of it.
Even providing snacks during a deadline period is a way of showing support as a leader. Monday morning donuts or Friday pizza can bring a sense of community to the office.
Leading a development team is a big task. However, with these tips in mind, you can help your team stay on track and meet deadlines. Of course, your team’s responsibilities may shift and changes may occur over time. But by staying focused on your main goal, you can keep your team’s progress from being derailed.