Why Attitudes Are Crucial
Let me begin by saying that I’m not a native English speaker so please be tolerant and forgive my inevitable mistakes. My adventure in IT started almost 10 years ago. I was very excited about my first job challenge. That was for two reasons: I could do it from scratch and I could use the latest technology stack. I didn’t overthink and dove right into it. It was supposed to be a small internal web application for tracking employees’ vacations. It should have been a piece of cake for one guy. The start looked promising: I got the requirements and created a nice-looking proof of concept. Everything went quite well until I encountered two challenges:
- I was frustrated when expectations were changed so frequently. My solution was not ready for it.
- I was used to working alone and suddenly I had a team. I knew how to work by myself but not how to lead a team. This new responsibility was a heavy burden.
As the author of this solution suddenly I became the leader. At that time I was desperate for some good advice on leadership. With hindsight, a list of these 5 Leader Attitudes would have been very helpful at that time.
Thinking Like an Engineer
My first project showed me what qualities a good software developer should have. During the project, I was responsible for designing, analyzing, building and testing. I realized that as a technology expert, I should be good at those. However, at each step, you can make bad decisions. How do I try to avoid bad decisions? I think like an engineer. An engineer fulfils requirements while considering the limitations of time, budget and scope. If you make your assumptions based on measurable things, facts and numbers, you can formulate a no-nonsense plan of action. The business may not know anything about technology so you need to partner with them and together discuss the Project Triangle. This approach can lead you to one of the most valuable things: trust. I found this out with the client when we spent time talking about many possible solutions. They see in me a partner who can help them achieve their business goals. In addition, not thinking like an engineer can have the following negative consequences: lost effort, money, trust and even losing the client completely.
Boosting Your Team
Last summer, during Armed Forces Day, I had a chance to talk with one of the soldiers who were there, standing by their tanks. He introduced himself as the tank commander and immediately started introducing his team to me. What impressed me was how he did it: “Adrian, this is my loader, and he is the best loader in the entire army”. I saw how the soldier puffed up with pride at being recognized by his leader and it made me think. Every time you have a chance to motivate your teammates, do it!. Every time that you praise and recognize a team member will cause him or her to be motivated and more engaged in their work. You are supposed to present your team members in a positive manner but it doesn’t mean that you need to smooth their feathers or praise them when they misbehave. If you see some issue that needs to be corrected, individual 1 on 1 meetings will help you with assisting the team member in making improvements. Remember.. RECOGNIZE PUBLICLY / CRITICIZE PRIVATELY.
Acting In Advance
Who wouldn’t like getting something for free whenever we order a service? Even if the clients only ask for your consultation, you can be proactive and give them some extra benefits. It’s always good to make your own analysis and see if there is a better business process solution even if you get approved job to do. You can challenge them with new ideas, even if they don’t ask for them. Without your valuable insight, things won’t move forward. Once, I had a situation where we had to define a new branch strategy. I observed that one of the managers had a wait-and-see attitude. I needed to change this. So, I organized a meeting with necessary stakeholders (including architect and DevOps engineer). I facilitated that meeting and posted follow up agreements, questions and suggestions. I divided this process into smaller steps and got to work without waiting for permission. Without this extra proactive effort, it would have taken till the cows came home.
The most important part of being a Tech Leader is building trust in your workplace. When everyone trusts each other, it means that everyone moves in the same direction and has the same goal. How does one manage this? By starting with yourself. The Tech Leader role requires being accountable for results. Simply stated, you are the owner of success or failure without any excuses. You are going to deliver what you promised on-time, within the scope and budget. If you can’t deliver, be honest and act in advance to prepare a recovery plan. This kind of behaviour is a major factor in increasing trust. Furthermore, when the level of trust is appropriately high, everyone on the team takes care of each other and takes care of what they deliver. In addition, when your teammates see this type of environment, they will be more willing to take ownership themselves.
The IT world is full of traps and each project has different characteristics, nevertheless, it is possible to organize it with some degree of predictability. We can handle all situations into the predictable process that makes your team members comfortable with their work. If there is a bug in production, let’s have a standardized checklist ready, with a list of steps that need to be performed in order to check all elements of the system. Being predictable demands efficient and well-organized work. Every time you find repeatable actions, try to automate the process and speed it up using dedicated tools. If the automated process works, it’s good to delegate it to one of your team members.
What Is Your Right Path?
The answer to this question can give you a list of leadership qualities that are worth following and can be learned and implemented. It’s important to get back to this list frequently and review your behaviours. Your awareness of being a Tech Leader will grow and help you understand how to face challenges and be genuine with your people. Let me know in the comments which of the Five Leader Attitudes is your favourite. And if you have one that isn’t on the list, please discuss it in your comments.
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