5 Principles for highly effective Tech Leads

I run a small engineering team at a medium size startup. Things get intense and crazy at times. We are on a fast pace with multiple parallel tracks running at any point in time. We had to get grounded on few things and do it really well. We are organized small scrum teams (3 or 4 engineers) lead by a Technical Leader. Following are some principles we follow to be effective Tech Leads (TL from here on).

Principle 1. Have Intense Focus on Key Strategies and Activities

Highly effective TLs 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 TLs away from the real work.

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

Principle 2. Set the Speed of the Team

Effective TLs 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.

Principle 3. Develop The Team and Delegate

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

Effective TLs, 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 engineers.

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

Highly effective TLs 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 TLs 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.

Principle 5. Promote Company Values

Effective TLs know that they’re 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 want to feel like they understand what’s going on in the business. Effective TLs open the line of communications with regular staff meetings, 1–1's and positive encouragement.