Leading technical teams


AS you move up in managing people, you will notice that your people skills increase while your technical know-how declines. This is natural since your focus is more on managing people and their development than on the technical requirements. This is because as you grow your leadership skills and influence, you will have more people doing things for you and your job is to get things done through people.

Some become people managers because of their technical expertise but invariably they will discover for themselves that focusing on people development gets more done in less time. Others will find themselves being assigned to other groups because management sees them as a potential leader to manage another group.

Whatever the case, you will be working with people whose technical knowledge and expertise are superior to your own. This, however, does not mean they make for better people managers. Leading and influencing people is a different skill set. And when you find yourself leading people who are technically better than you, the challenge is to work with them and influence them, so the team’s goal is achieved.

As someone leading a technical team, you need to upgrade yourself. This does not mean to become as technically proficient as every member of your team. It means knowing enough of the tools and processes they use such that you know the end result. Understanding what your team can do will help you evaluate requests from other departments and help you decide who to tap for certain tasks and projects.

If you can, team up with a team member who can reverse mentor you. Reverse mentoring helps you understand key elements of the team’s tasks and deliverables, and at the same time provide you insight to the workings of the team. Make sure you get someone who understands the workflows and timelines so you can make informed decisions on work assignments and deadlines.

Probably one of the pain points of leading

technical teams is communicating clearly. The end goal of any communication is to be understood. And that entails knowing where your audience is coming from, and using words and actions that they can understand so your message is received. Make sure you speak their language, and you use words and phrases they can relate to and understand. Ensure also that goals and deadlines are understood, and how each of them contributes to the organization’s success.

A common problem of technical teams is that they use jargon, idioms, or slang when they talk among themselves and even with you. This is an opportunity to teach your team how to communicate to other departments in a clear and precise manner, and weed out any word that might be misconstrued by other teams. Your team needs to understand that communication with one another is not the same as communicating with other teams.

Aside from what you can do for yourself, there are several things you can also do for your team so they can be a cohesive and efficient team. One of those is creating an environment where they can thrive. This means ensuring the team understands what needs to be done and providing them with the correct information and resources to achieve the organization’s goals. This means allowing them the means to adapt and be flexible to craft creative solutions to issues encountered, and trusting them to do their work from a distance.

Part of creating a good environment is managing how members relate to one another. Provide venues for collaboration, and for your team to get to know each other better. Deliberately set aside time for talking to them individually and as a team. Be available when they need you especially when they have issues you need to act on quickly and decisively.

Empower your team by delegating responsibilities. Know who can take on more responsibilities and are willing to be trained for them. You will only know who is ready if you spend time with your team and understand their motivations. The best thing is when your team members volunteer to take on more responsibilities and chart their own development.

To empower your team, make sure you continuously upgrade your people, process and tools. Get to know your team and create an individual development plan per team member so they know their career options, and they can also identify which areas they are good at and what skills they need to work on.

Allow your team to look for process improvements and creative solutions to issues which they might encounter. Listen to their recommendations but also allow the team to comment and give their feedback. This ensures you have their buy-in early on and if it helps your team work smarter, then support its implementation.

Your role as a people manager is to clear roadblocks to your team’s productivity. Make sure your team’s tools are updated and upgraded regularly so they can do their work efficiently and quickly. Be on the lookout for emerging technologies and applications that might impact the way your team does its work.

And, lastly, reward your team when they do their work well. This goes without saying but praise your team publicly but reprimand them privately. There are so many ways of rewarding your team. But the best rewards are those that fuel their motivations and aspirations for working. Some teams are content with being treated for lunch, while others need a promotion. Knowing what drives your team can greatly help in developing a reward program for them.

Leading a technical team is not easy. But always remember that leadership is about influencing people to do their work well and harmonizing the efforts of individual members into a cohesive goal. This requires people skills more than technical skills. So, expect that when you go higher up the leadership ladder, you will be entrusted with more people to manage. And that is fine as long as you remember that your role as a people manager is to ensure your team lives up to their potential.

Image courtesy of Dylan Gillis on Unsplash

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