Congratulations! You are the tech lead now!

So you just got promoted. It is time to say goodbye to full time coding and it is the moment to step into a new role filled with opportunities, excitement but also uncertainties. 

Will I be a good tech lead? Do I have what it takes to succeed in this new position? Will my team members have issues with me?

These are just some of the question, that most of us ask ourselves in this early phase. In this article, I would like to share with you a couple of tips so that you can make this migration as smooth as possible.

Define and communicate your expectations

This is one of the most important things, where I see a lot of leads struggle or take action when it is too late. Your team needs to know what you expect from them or what kind of behavior you like to see. But more importantly, YOU need to know, as this will influence how your team will develop in the next year.

What means for you good quality or good quantity of tasks? How will you evaluate individual and team performance and results?  

These answers you need to find as early as possible so that your team members are not surprised or considered mistreated. Involve them in finding these answers, as it also shows that you value their opinion and it fosters ownership and accountability.

colleagues communicating

Make sure that you communicate expectations clearly and there is no space for misunderstandings. Be specific, give examples and avoid vague terms. E.g. Instead of “I expect that every developer knows about good code.“ use “I expect you to read “Clean Code” (or any book on this topic) and that you are able to identify three code smells or anti-patterns“.

Write down your expectations, share them with your directs either via email, wiki page or a document that they can use and reflect whenever they want. If they are surprised by something you said or did, reflect if your behavior was part of this expectations document. This will make it easy to align all team members so that you go, as a team, in the same direction.

Set your feedback systems and processes

One-on-one’s are a must in any team or organization as they represent the place and time where your direct can tell you what is on his mind. Let him speak and make sure you listen.

One of the biggest mistakes that I did, and still doing sometimes… is not listening enough. It is tempting to react, give some additional context or try to push your view, but this meeting should be about how your direct feels and what he thinks about the last two weeks (By the way, make sure that you have regular recurrent meetings, my recommendation once each other week).

Don’t let these meetings to become like a time waster for the other party. Always come prepared (here are some of my favorite one on one questions), take notes and follow up on what you agreed in the previous meeting. Show to your direct that you listen by solving his issues, challenging him and supporting him in reaching his potential. From time to time, use different games or techniques to discover what is important for him and know how to adapt your behavior to each individual.

The second meeting I recommend to put in place as soon as possible is a sync meeting between your team members, where all of you can discuss about technical debt, coding conventions or any common concern or problem that the team encountered.

Use this meeting, to take decisions and align everyone on the same page. Make sure you moderate this meeting accordingly, that all team members are listened to. Document all decisions and action points. Always make sure that they are completed.

Continuously learn and adapt

Each of your team members will have their own strengths, their own interests. Your project will have it’s own needs and requirements. You need to be able to observe and detect all of them and also how they change in time. Knowing how to use them and finding ways how you can foster and connect them can make the difference between the success and failure of your project.

You will find out more and more things about your team, about your peers or even about yourself. You will be faced with situations that are new and they are your responsibility to solve them. Even with so much input coming towards you, make sure that you put your personal development as a priority.

Now, more than ever, it is important to continue your learning process. Observe your team, your environment, your systems. Act the best you can do at that moment. See the results and learn new ways that can take them to another level. Always iterate towards an improved version of yourself, either on how you work with people, or how you tackle challenges and critical situation to new tools or programming languages that can have a difference on maintenance costs of your project.

The IT industry is changing at super speed and you need to be in front of it, otherwise, it might be too late. Follow the latest trends, have your RSS aggregated with articles and techniques that will not only help you but also your team members or even your company.

How do you feel in the new role?

After three months passed in this new role, be true with yourself and answer this question. Is his what you expected? Is your current position and responsibility making you happy? Is work for you “work” or is it something you look forward to doing each day?

The path will not get easy and it is not for everyone. Don’t be afraid of saying NO, as this would be the right moment to decide where to go in the future. You have on your shoulders not only your happiness but also your team members. Make sure that you take the next step for the right reason.
If this direction resonates with you than CONGRATULATIONS. You are the glue between technology and people and by working together great things will be achieved. Be true to your core values, respect everyone and always continue growing.


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