5 Dangerous Myths About Leading Software Teams
A booming industry, technology draws young leaders from all over the world. As one of those leaders, you may end up in charge of anything from a scrappy team of startup warriors to a group of veteran professionals within a large, well-established organization.
Many of the core leadership principles apply to software teams, but there are also certain considerations exclusive to the industry that young leaders and entrepreneurs need to take into account. Here are five of the most dangerous software team leadership myths and the problems they can cause:
1. Progress Is Predictable
Those unfamiliar with software development assume it’s a lot like an assembly line: If a programmer spends eight hours coding, then the project is eight hours closer to completion.
Absolutely not! Leading programmers is a lot like leading writers or artists. Programmers are just as prone to writer’s block, especially when facing a thorny problem they don’t know how to solve. They also experience moments of sudden inspiration where everything falls effortlessly into place.
Don’t treat your team members like machines that can pump out code at will. These are craftsmen who will do the job as fast and as professionally as they can, but at their own individual paces.
2. You Need to Know Everything
It is impossible to know everything in software development because there’s always something new on the horizon. Even if you learned every software language in use right now, a new one would be released within the year.
Don’t feel like you have to be the team expert. Learn your chosen expertise as best as you can, then recruit people who can fill in the gaps in your team’s knowledge. It is more important for you to focus on keeping your team organized, motivated, and supported.
3. Strong Leadership = Absolute Authority
Authoritarian leaders never do well in software development, because there will always be a situation where the leader is wrong. If the leader creates an environment where nobody questions orders, they will eventually drive the team off a cliff. This is especially true in custom software development, where experimentation, testing, and revision form a major component of the process.
Leaders of software teams have to foster collaborative environments where suggestions and advice flow freely in any direction. A 10-year veteran can learn just as much from a fresh grad as the fresh grad can learn from them. Maximize the information flow between the people you lead.
4. Bring People in to Help
It’s only natural for a leader to want to help their team by bringing in reinforcements when the going gets tough. Many hands make light work — right?
You’ve just run into Brooks’ Law, which states that “adding manpower to a late project makes it later.” This is because your team has to spend so much time getting the new people up to speed and minding the new output that their own results suffer.
Focus instead on making your team’s existing work arrangement more efficient. What obstacles are holding them back? Are there any bottlenecks in the process that are slowing them down? Ask team members for feedback on any issues they’re currently facing, and then do your best to solve them.
5. In-House Is Better Than Remote
Many leaders fear that remote employees are more likely to waste time goofing off. Without proper supervision, the thinking goes, employees are lazy, unproductive, and difficult to manage.
News flash: Employees goof off in your workplace, too. They just wait until you’re not looking to do it.
If you recruit the right person, they will give their all no matter what work arrangement they have. Focus on results, and don’t get too hung up on what your team members are doing. Software development is a stressful job, and you want to make sure your developers take breaks when necessary to keep from burning out.
Effective leaders understand how to help their software team members realize their potential individually and collectively. Discard the leadership myths that stand in the way of success, and guide your team to its goals with greater efficiency.
Brandyn Morell is cofounder and CTO of HelloCecil.