5 min. read

September 29, 2022

Top 5 Tips When Guiding Your Software Development Team

Is there a 'magic' recipe when managing your software development team? You better find out!

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Yasas Sri Wickramasinghe, Lead Software Engineer (Past), Lecturer

'Let us all be the leaders we wish we had' - Simon Sinek

Building great software products requires skillful engineers. But, that's not enough. The 'magic' behind a successful team is always about outstanding leadership. A manager who constantly guides the team to go the extra mile without any traces of micro-management.

Guiding a team to achieve goals is an art, and it's not specific only to software engineering teams. If you master the art of managing a team, then you will achieve much more together, while also creating an enjoyable workplace.

So, this article brings you the top 5 tips to guide your software development team, so you can be the leader everyone dreams of having.

1. Be Crystal Clear About Your Expectations

A wise man once said, 'Expectations are the thief of joy,' which is true regarding software engineering teams.

As a team leader, it's a highly challenging task to set the team's expectations to be compatible with each other. For example, let's say your project is meant for a highly competitive industry, and the clients request frequent project deliveries. As a project lead, you may trust your team's skills and commitment, setting expectations high. Still, sometimes you might get disappointed and stressed out when things don't go well. However, building a professional software solution always takes time.

So, how do you manage such circumstances? Below are some practical ways for you to consider.

  • Encourage your team members to attend initial project planning, and discussions, and express their views during meetings.

  • Document new team decisions at project planning meetings, and share them among team members.

  • If a new teammate joins the project in the middle of its timeline, allocate some time to express your expectations, as well as the key performance indicators (KPIs) to the newcomer.

  • Don't over-commit, or adjust delivery velocities because of a 'gut feeling.' Instead, talk with the team before promising ad hoc changes.

  • Always be available to your team and give clarifications regarding project expectations.

2. Constantly Monitor Progress - Don't Forget the Value of 'Creative Freedom'

Your software development process gives you tools to measure the team's progress, and it's essential to monitor it frequently. As a leader, you can focus on measuring three core areas of your software development team as listed below.

  • Quality metrics:

    Ensure your clients receive less impact due to application downtimes, bugs, and defects while maximizing customer satisfaction.

  • Process metrics:

    Ensure you achieve maximum productivity from your team, without overusing or underusing the resources you have.

  • Progress metrics:

    Ensure you meet delivery milestones and predict more accurately in the upcoming project phases, thus making better decisions.

But there is one more thing! Often, team leads forget to allocate some free time for their team. Of course, I mean a real FREE TIME.

According to many studies, including one from Harvard Business Review, employees become more creative with their projects when they have some free time. As a leader, if you can allocate at least one or two hours per week as 'free time', you may observe your team's creativity getting boosted. It also helps to see different perspectives on computational problems your employees are solving in their day-to-day work. These results will be measurable, and you can note them in your progress reports.

3. Empower The 'Leaders Without Titles' Mindset

Controlling each and every step of your employees can create a huge negative impression on your team. Instead, include everyone in the decision-making process. Listen to their thoughts, and make them feel like they're playing a bigger role than their initial designation. You formed the team with the best talents, so trust them. Don't be afraid to delegate responsibilities and empower your team.

For example, suppose there is a particular teammate who has years of experience in the web application security domain. So, when you are to implement a new authentication and authorization module in your project, give that team member the lead. Let them design the architecture and discuss it with the rest of the team. Empower them and make them feel unique and worthy. By doing so, you indirectly guide them to deliver their best job.

4. Support Your Team Whenever There Is a Problem

When we know there are people that have our backs, it makes us inspired, and we tend to go the extra mile. As a leader, if you can create a friendly and supportive team environment, you will notice that your team is happy and productive.

Also, it's essential to support them when it's required. For example, suppose a team member frequently complains that their development machine is constantly crashing, or is too slow to code. Instead of asking them to contact the IT department every single time, you can personally attend to the matter and help them solve it. It can be as simple as a phone call, or an email informing the support team of the issue on behalf of your team member. It'll speed up the process, and that personal commitment can create a positive impression on your team.

5. Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Feedback on Your Leadership

There are two types of team leaders in software development. First, there are leaders with vast experience as developers, who know all the ups and downs when it comes to building a software product. And there are others, non-technical leaders, who may be extremely good at people management, but not coding.

It doesn't matter which type of leader you are, as long as you ensure your team is aligned with a common goal and meet your client's expectations. However, your team might interpret your guidance in different ways. For some, your guidance will resonate really well and inspire them. Meanwhile, it might not be so appealing for another set. That's natural, we all have experienced such situations.

You can set up a 360-appraisal mechanism, where every stakeholder of the team gets to hear feedback from others, including juniors and seniors. Don't be afraid to get comments from your teammates about your guidance. Make this process an anonymous one, so you can receive more genuine feedback. In addition, it'll help you adjust your leadership style to better guide your team in a much friendlier manner.

Final Thoughts

Guiding a software development team is not as simple as it sounds. Developers do not need a micromanager or a leader who pinpoints every small step. They need an inspiring leader they can trust, one they're proud to have.

By practicing the tips mentioned above, I hope you can guide your software development team to achieve much more together while at the same time becoming the inspiring leader that everyone would wish to have.

I wish you all the best! 👏👏👏

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