Leading and managing a team in the innovative and complex tech sector is an exciting opportunity. However, it’s not without its challenges. If you’re responsible for your first technical team, what helps to be an engaging manager and leader?
In fact, almost half of new managers say they feel unprepared for the role, with 87% stating that they wished they had more training. It suggests that businesses aren’t providing first-time managers with enough training to properly lead a team, and this can have a hugely detrimental impact.
Demand for tech talent is enormous. Growing skills gaps and the constant creation of new positions has created a job seeker’s market. Recruiting tech talent like developers, engineers, and admins is becoming increasingly tricky. Businesses need to know what to look for, and how to keep them. A focus on retention and employee satisfaction is vital—and both of those things start with good managing and leading. Here are three key tenets to help you be effective.
1 One size doesn’t fit all
We’re often told to treat others the way we’d like to be treated, but this doesn’t always fly in a management role. Why? Because the motivators for everyone on your team will be different. They are likely to respond to different management styles.
Getting to know your team members is paramount. Aim to do this using a mix of formal, one-to-one get-togethers and showing an interest in their lives. Find out what drives them, what they like and dislike about the way the team operates, and how they prefer to be recognised. Most importantly, follow through on what you learn—79% of employees who leave jobs cite a lack of appreciation as a primary reason for quitting.
To summarise, never assume you know what someone wants; people will appreciate your curiosity.
2 An empowered team is a happy team
An empowered team is one that feels ownership over its work and has the authority and permission to act or make sure that work is completed to the highest standard. Therefore, fostering a culture of empowerment within your team means both more responsible people and greater productivity.
Help your people develop in a constructive way that’s going to embolden them. Take care not to knock them down, even inadvertently: praise in public, correct in private.
Obviously, as a technical team, you’ll have processes and operations that need following. But that doesn’t mean you can’t give your team room to strike out on their own. Empowerment is largely about trust. Nurturing an autonomous team means giving people space to work in a way that produces the best results, encouraging them to innovate, and forgiving their mistakes.
3 Lead, don’t dictate
The ability to coach is often the difference between managers that get results and those who don’t. Helping your team members work autonomously is central to creating a strong, efficient technical team. This not only helps them grow and maintains motivation, but it’s also essential for new managers who are learning to delegate.
When you’re new to the role, the temptation is often to answer your team’s questions for them. You might be the person with the most practical experience and the most technical knowledge. So, it can feel easier just to hand your team what they need on a plate. But you don’t always need to be the team’s saviour, galloping in on a white horse and fixing their problems.
The adage about teaching a man to fish really applies here. Giving people the tools to do things for themselves takes a little longer the first couple of occasions, but it’ll save you time in the long run.
Landing the best tech talent isn’t just about the compensation package. Money is not the prime motivator for many of today’s new generation of tech workers. They want to work on exciting projects, towards a greater mission, and space to make their mark. As a team leader, you’re in a great position to be able to offer a chance at all those things.
If you’re focusing on offering tailored support, empowering your team, and leading rather than commanding, then you’re already well on the way to cultivating a culture that attracts and retains people.
Currently CIO at niche IT staffing firm FRG Technology Consulting, Mark Hill has 25 years of experience in delivering complex mission-critical technology across both the capital markets and broader financial services sectors.