Process, tick. People management, tick. So, what is there left to learn? Well, more about you and the way you manage. It’s easy to forget that leadership is as much about supervision of others as it is about supervising yourself. Looking at the behaviours you exhibit when managing on a day-to-day basis helps confront the mistakes you make that will indirectly (but negatively) impact your team and the business as a whole. Here are seven of the most common:
1. Making knee-jerk decisions — As a leader, you’re often asked to make quick decisions based on the information readily available. But sometimes stress, lack of time or external distractions cause some people to behave reactively and make decisions that are at best thoughtless and at worst, harmful. Acting this way can induce feelings of fear and disrespect among a team and may breed resentment.
Solution: At all points, decisions need to be smart, well-thought through and rational. If you feel like this isn’t possible in the circumstances or you know you’re prone to reacting emotionally to a particular trigger, say you need 10 minutes. Both your team, peers and senior managers will respect you more if you take the time to consider all the options before returning with a reasoned determination.
2. Not asking for help — Leaders who can’t or won’t ask for help are walking a thin line. A stressed-out manager who has taken on too many tasks (when many are ripe for delegating) or is out of their depth. risks making ill-informed decisions, missing deadlines and neglecting their teams.
Solution — Acknowledge that this might be an area that needs changing and look at ways to change it: learn to say ‘no’, delegate and collaborate with your team and find ways to advance your own development by finding mentors and coaches.
3. Can’t stop coding — Taking a step back from code can be difficult for a first time tech lead, especially if you love it. But continuing to code full-time means that you’ll have less time to propagate and nurture your technological vision, and other areas of the business, including your team, may lack direction.
Solution — Move away from a reliance on the old skills that got you where you are and be open to learning new ones that will help you progress and be a better leader. There will be times when you need to review and write code, but this should not form the majority of your days and it will be a balancing act. Although counter-intuitive, it is beneficial to focus first on any tasks you find more challenging and time-consuming, so that you become used to doing them and eventually, quicker. You can then dedicated periods to coding if/when it’s needed.
4. Poor time management — Juggling the demands of your workload with the demands of your team can leave little time for much else and risks either the former or latter suffering neglect.
Solution — Be purposeful with your time and plan ahead. Your team has to come first so regularly schedule slots with them to provide guidance and support. When it comes to liaising with other departments, encourage people to be realistic about meetings; are the right people there, is a meeting strictly necessary or can it be a conversation etc. By being more proactive with your schedule, others will be too.
5. Being too attached to the company / product — As a company scales and a product is delivered, the challenges faced change with it. And there will come a time when it’s right for a leader to start stepping back before ultimately, passing the reins and moving on. But there remain leaders who are too emotionally attached and don’t change and grow. This is typical of entrepreneurs who consider their startup as extension of themselves, but this often leads to reactionary decisions and loss of perspective.
Solution — Reflect on your behaviour when big changes are being made. Are you open to input? If not, why not? Good leaders also place distance between themselves and the issue in order to make well-informed choices about direction, vision and values.
6. Avoiding responsibility — The title doth not the leader make. Feeling out of their depth or fearing failure can sometimes cause new tech leads to make decisions too slowly or not at all. Shirking management duties can also lead a lack of direction and alliance, and inconsistent (and sometimes conflicting) action being taken.
Solution — When the going gets tough, don’t get going. Take the time you need to make a decision, but once you do, follow through with it. If you need to change paths in the future, it’s not impossible, but own it and accept that maybe, you got it wrong. Your team will respect you far more in this situation than they would a manager who stumbles through and delegates his / her job to others or keeps pursuing a goal despite knowing it’s not the right one.
7. Refusing to listen — EVERYTHING involves discussion; from learning what motivates your team, through understanding the pressures faced by other parts of the business, to creating the best end product. None of this can happen efficiently or effectively without a leader who is willing to sit down, be quiet and take what they are told on board.
Solution — Accept that you don’t know everything and that decisions, particularly crucial ones, need a level of input from peer-managers and your team. You therefore need to create communication channels that allow both input and feedback because it can be invaluable. Decisiveness is not simply making decisions on your own, it’s about getting all the information you need and acting in the way that is going to best impact your staff, the company and the end goal. Because it’s always good to remember that:
‘People leave bad managers, not bad companies.’