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What a Good Team Lead Does and Doesn’t Do

Dmitry Shvetsov
July 25th, 2020 · 2 min read

This is a chapter from Team Lead 101: Manage and Grow Engineering Teams in Small Startups book. Learn more here.

Photo by Frederik Højfeldt Nielsen on Unsplash

A team lead’s main concerns are team performance, interactions with other teams, and delivering projects on time.

Team leads should not be a bottleneck. You shouldn’t assign the most important and/or most complex tasks to yourself. You shouldn’t tie all processes to yourself.

Trust and acceptance of failures is the best way to eliminate yourself as a bottleneck. You should allow teammates to make mistakes, but it’s also important to be in control of how crucial mistakes will be.

As a team lead, you should trust your teammates and give them challenging and meaningful tasks. They need to feel their importance. By challenging them, you create growth opportunities. No one wants to be bored with tedious tasks all the time.

Look for a balance. Tasks that are too challenging can make the programmer question their confidence. Too many challenges will put them under unhealthy constant stress.

With self-doubts and stress, a member of your team will work on their tasks exponentially slower than they could with confidence and a good mood.

You can offer help when you notice that your teammate is struggling. Watch for signs from their mood. The simple question “How are things going?” is a tool to spot the problems.

By listening to your colleagues about their troubles and obstacles, you help them relieve their tension and regain their feeling of confidence. And if you can offer advice on how to solve the problem, that’s even better!

Pairing up with a colleague in trouble is another way to unblock the project.

By not burdening yourself with important projects with tight deadlines, you create time. Use this time to:

  • Be conscious of the current state of your team members
  • Be available to offer help
  • Think about processes, what is working, and what is not
  • Think about current, upcoming, and past projects

A good team lead does the following:

  • Assigns important, challenging projects to teammates
  • Assigns blocking tasks to teammates
  • Is available to listen and offer help to teammates
  • Has time to be aware of the current state of team members
  • Has time to reflect on processes and projects

This is a chapter from Team Lead 101: Manage and Grow Engineering Teams in Small Startups book. Learn more here.

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