As a manager for team/teams of software developer, you are in charge of a highly skilled set of people. As a manager you have multiple roles to play: a guide that others look up to, a friend who listens to others, a problem-solver who identifies disputes before they can blow up, the glue that holds a team together and a task-master who ensures that everything gets done in time.
Just like their personality, every manager’s style will be different. Some believe in involving themselves in day-to-day running, while others have a more laid-back style. Managerial style also often depends on the team. For instance, a team of trainees will need a strong guiding manager, while a team of experienced, skilled developers will need more of a guiding hand.
However, some managerial hacks remain constant. No matter what the level of skills in the set of software developers you are leading, a manager must pay attention to some essential tools and tips. Here are our top picks:
Let them focus on development work
Usually, software development company has to carry out tasks that are in addition to their basic development work. That is inevitable in many modern organisation where it is all hands at deck. But as a manager you can try and keep non-development work off their table as much as possible. For instance, handle any queries by clients as much as you can.
Create a strategy from the very beginning
Every team needs a clear definition of its goal and the path to achieve it. This is strategy. It is very important that a strategy is devised at the very beginning. It gives developers the objective they are working for, their role in it and a clearly defined plan to achieve that goal. A clear plan will always show roadblocks that can crop up. This can help us in keeping a Plan B and even a Plan C in reserve if things do go turtle later on.
An early strategy also ensures that your team is focused on the goal from the get-go. However, it is also important to provide for a little flexibility in the plan in case a member goes absent or the goalposts are shifted.
Emphasise on punctuality
This is very important to ensure that the whole organisation works smoothly. Delay in one department has a domino effect, creating a loss of valuable time and money. A good manager leads by example, by always keeping to the timetable. But really efficient managers go a step further.
Set a clear deadline with a small buffer if you can. Then make it clear that the deadline is non-negotiable. Break down long-term tasks in smaller chunks with weekly deadlines. Formulate a daily schedule and insist on everyone sticking to it. Any deviations must be explained in writing. Make sure that exceptions are made only in case of emergencies. But always keep in mind that you are dealing with human beings. Occasional lapses are inevitable and must be overlooked.
Avoid changing tasks
While some flexibility is required in any modern organisation, avoid changing tasks once you have assigned them. Try to find a new developer for unexpected tasks. Assigned tasks should be changed only if it is absolutely unavoidable. It disturbs a developer’s focus and by extension, the team’s focus. Changing tasks in between projects is seen as a mark of bad management and planning.
Keep merit as the sole criteria for awards
While this may seem obvious, many managers allow their own bias to creep into the way they evaluate or award individual team members. However, this is both unethical and likely to boomerang in the long-term. Deserving employees feel under-appreciated and it breeds an environment of discontent. Use an interpersonal or a bias-free system of evaluation. It could be a simple form or a Q&A.
Bring the personal touch
A manager must also double up as a guide and friend. Bringing a personal touch to your interactions shows your team that you care, that you see them as dynamic members of a team. Know their name, find out about their family. You can create an automated anniversary mailing list, address them by their name and interact with them outside the office environment or send them mails that may interest them.
Award high achieving team members
This does not always have to be in terms of promotion on other incentives (though that is always great). Instead, make it a point to commend them in front of their teammates. There are many ways to do this — point out their achievement during a team meeting, inform by mail on an extraordinary achievement or just start a simple ‘achiever of the month’.
A manager has an important role to play in an organisation, acting as a motivator, leader and friend. While every manager may have his/her own style of functioning, these are the universal tips that can help every manager.
Written by: Rosina De Palma, Senior technical writer/editor, author and blogger. Aspiring minimalist.