5 Principles for highly effective tech-leads

A reflection back from when I was running an engineering team of 70+ engineers at a medium size startup prior to joining ASI...

Things get intense and crazy at times. We ship on a daily basis with 10 to 15 parallel tracks going on at any point in time. We had to get grounded on few things and do it really well. Following are some principles we follow to be an effective tech-lead (a.k.a. team leader, line manager, etc).

1. Have Intense Focus on Key Strategies and Activities

Highly effective tech-leads are able to distinguish and delegate their time between problems and priorities. There are everyday fires — real problems — that need to be addressed. The downside is, they pull tech-leads away from the real work.

Effective tech-leads are proactive and disciplined in their planning and focus to make sure they minimize the issues and execute day in and day out.

2. Set the Speed of the Team

Effective managers aren’t scared of being tough. They have goals, command high standards and expect results. At the same time they are sensitive to the human dynamic, relationships and needs of their people.

They also set the tempo for the team. They lead by example, hustling when it’s time to hustle. Jumping in when it’s needed and reacting and resolving problems with immediacy and tact. Like many good leaders, they are the first one to show up at work and the last to leave.

3. Develop The Team and Delegate

Unfortunately, tech-leads find themselves in “lead by crisis” mode, which can seriously dampen a team’s energy.

Effective tech-leads, on the other hand, clearly define each team member’s role, empower each team member, hold each team member accountable and know how to swiftly navigate the team through challenges.

They recognize that delegating some of the day-to-day duties to trustworthy team members frees them up to focus on bigger issues, like grooming the next senior engineer.

4. Celebrate the Wins … and are Accountable to the Occasional Loss

Highly effective tech-leads know how to celebrate a win and take responsibility for those less than stellar failures. They encourage their team members and provide positive reinforcement when something great happens.

When something doesn’t go as planned, effective tech-leads don’t point fingers. Instead, they focus on solutions and build positive momentum. They nip bad attitudes in the bud and don’t tolerate constant complaining. They also take ownership for their occasional slip-ups and use it as an opportunity to grow as a leader.

5. Promote Company Values

Effective tech-leads know that their actions are always on display. They support the overall goals of the company and promote the culture and core values.

They also know how to keep it real. In a small company where everyone knows everyone else, transparency is vital for success. Everyone wants to feel like they understand what’s going on in the business. Effective tech-leads open the line of communications with regular standup meetings, 1-1's and positive encouragement.