A few days ago I received an email from an old work colleague.
“This is a bit of a random, out-of-the-blue question, but I was wondering if there were any words of wisdom you had on being a team leader?
Back in the UK, you always seemed to maintain control of your projects and keep your team motivated, especially since it was a bit of a challenging environment. I’m finding the workload my team and I have now to be pretty intensive and there’s a lot of competing demands to manage (e.g. sales staff wanting demos, supporting clients, just doing projects).”
I was pretty chuffed to receive the email and began to think about how I could help out.
To tell you the truth I had no idea what it entails to do any of it.
Some of the things that I tried to live by were……. (a bit of a warning, most of these suggestions came about because I lived for the job and not much else got a look it)
9 – 5 is not your time
Your main task between 9-5 every day is to facilitate your staff in getting as much work done as possible with as little distractions and hold ups. This means that the plan for the staffs daily tasks needs to be done either the night before or when you get in early so it’s ready to go when the guys arrive.
If you’re working on something and someone needs some help, it’s pencils down for you go over to spend time with that person until they’re back on track.
Your work comes before and after those hours.
Don’t wait for anyone to come and ask you a question about something. Most of the time people will hit brick walls and continue to bang their heads against it until they get sore. The team will be concerned that they’re always asking questions and don’t want to interrupt you at all, so hold off until they have a few things to ask you.
Walk around the office to each person and ask how they’re going with the task and if there is anything that wasn’t explained at the beginning that they’re having trouble with. 90% of the time I do this someone has always had a question for me to answer.
Reward Good work
With absolutely anything you can! I’ve worked in places that make you use 1/2 a days leave to see the doctor and be an hour late in the morning. Not cool!. I used to give the guys who deserved it time off to wait at home for BT or deliveries, or duck away early to go on holiday etc. It’s a pretty small thing to do, but it’s one of the best things to do.
I used to send my guys electronic books that I had bought, or if there’s budget buy books for the guys. Send them on conferences, buy them a beer, invite them to after work talks. Anything you do will make them feel more wanted, and therefore know they are appreciated.
Give them a voice
Meet with the team once a week and get them to cover off anything they are missing in the office. Software, hardware etc. New monitors, wrist pads, bigger monitors, extra monitors, should all be put through as requests. Anything they don’t like about work, either explain why it is that way or work out a better way to do it.
Then make sure you follow that up with the boss to try and change things and keep your team informed.
Spend time being really good at something. You should be putting in more research than the guys on the ground building stuff, and then sharing that knowledge with them. I used to read hundreds of tweets every morning, and 10’s of articles based on that. I’d then create a list of recommended reading items for the staff each week. When someone needs help, see 9-5.
You should also know what your staff are great at, and when given the opportunity let them shine those skills. If I had a JS question then I would pull in Adam and get him to explain the answer, for CSS it was Ola or Dan etc etc.
Tell them the whole story
A lot of the time the teams are given small snippets of work and are only given the technical details to allow them to complete it.
You can program computers to do that.
Tell them the bigger picture about the project and how they are going to affect it with the work that they do. If they know what they are contributing to the project they might come up with a way to build it slightly differently and make it much better!
There’s some other stuff, but I hope that helps for now. All this stuff means that when you ask them to work late or longer they’ll do it for you, regardless of what they think about work.