How to Lead a Successful Tech Team

How to Lead a Successful Tech Team

Mark Hill of Pearson Frank shares three ways to cement your status as a great manager, even if you’re new to the leadership game

By Mark Hill

A good manager can help a team achieve ground-breaking success, especially in a pioneering and multifaceted sector like tech. But adapting to a management role, and making the transition from team player to team leader, can be a challenge.

According a recent study, 44% of managers say they felt unprepared for their new role. Even those who did feel ready to take on a leadership position admitted being a little under-equipped, with almost nine in ten stating that they would’ve liked to have had more training before diving in.

Clearly those doing the promoting in their technical teams aren’t providing their fresh-faced managerial professionals with the training they need to confidently lead a team, and this can have a negative impact on both the department and the business at large.

Tech teams especially can’t afford to be bogged down by poor management. Skills gaps and the unending march of progress in the tech space is creating massive competition when it comes to landing top talent. It’s a job seeker’s market, and businesses need to be offering an attractive package if they want to hire developers, engineers, and admins. Businesses need to know what to look for and how to retain talent; and we all know that inadequate managers are the biggest cause of employee turnover.

Here are three ways you can cement your status as a great manager, even if you’re new to the leadership game.

1. Tailored leadership

A strong team is a unified team; everyone should be on the same page, working towards collective goals.

But while they come together to make a single, well-oiled machine, the reality is that your team members are distinct entities. They’ll be motivated by different things and have their own career goals. They’ll have their own unique ways of working. And because each one of your team members is an individual, the management style that works best for one might not land you such great results with someone else.

You might have one team member who lives for praise, and is motivated best by public recognition. To one of their colleagues, however, having the spotlight shone on them in front of others might be their worst nightmare.

If you want to get the best performance out of your team and keep everyone happy, you need to get to know your employees. You can do this using a combination of formal catch-ups, team get-togethers, and simply showing an interest in their lives on a day-to-day basis. Find out what inspires them, what they’re proudest of at work, what they’d change about the way the team operates, and how they like to be acknowledged.

Once you know how best to recognize their efforts, make sure you put what you’ve learned into action—79% of employees who leave jobs say a lack of appreciation is their main reason for seeking a new role.

2. Let your team spread their wings

There’s little a team appreciates more than having a manager who empowers them to take the lead on their own work. As a new manager, there can be a temptation to micromanage, and try and keep control over everything that your team is doing.

But giving your team members ownership over their projects, and leaving them with the authority to make sure their work is completed to the uppermost standard will create more reliable employees and higher productivity.

The professional development of your team should be a top priority as a manager, but there’s a real knack to adjusting behaviours without disempowering people. You don’t want to cultivate fear or aversion to risk; that way, innovation dies.

When you’re running a technical team, you’ll no doubt have distinctive goals and procedures that need to be followed. But, that isn’t to say you have to be super rigid about managing your team. You can still give them space to do their own thing, and spread their wings a little.

Creating a confident, capable team is about trusting your people enough to let them work in a way that produces results and emboldens them to try new things. And in a fast-changing sector like tech, having a team that is willing and able to innovate and adapt to new things can make all the difference.  

3. Coach first, manage second

The key to being an engaging and effective manager isn’t actually about managing at all. All great managers are coaches above and beyond everything else.

As a new manager, you’ll need to get used to delegating, and it’ll be far easier for you to do that with confidence if you have a team you know can work effectively, and when necessary, autonomously. The best way to create a team like that is to teach, not just tell.

When you’re busy (and you will be) it can seem easier to give your team answers on a plate, to tell them what to do, or even complete their tasks yourself just to get things done. It makes sense — as their manager, you probably have the most knowledge experience with the technologies you’re working with. But by taking a little extra time to coach them through a task, you’ll equip them with the skills they need to do it themselves next time around.

Not only does that help you and your team become more efficient, but it’ll also enable your employees to grow professionally.

How great managers attract great teams

Competition for talent in the tech sector is pushing salaries up across the board. But it takes more than a big check to land skilled, enthusiastic professionals.

Millennials, who by 2025 will make up three-quarters of the global workforce, tend to be motivated by more than money. New generations of workers want to be involved in exciting projects, to work towards a bigger mission, and to have a clear development pathway ahead of them.

Managers contribute enormously to job satisfaction levels, so as a leader you need to be offering the purpose, support, and freedom that employees crave. If you put as much stock in engaging and empowering your people as you do in producing results, then you can be sure you’ll have a dedicated team that people will want to be a part of. 

About the Author

Mark Hill is CIO at niche IT staffing firm Pearson Frank, and has 25 years of experience in delivering complex mission-critical technology across both the capital markets and broader financial services sectors.