11 Pro Tips for Leading High-Performing Development Teams

Software Development Team Productivity Tips
IT Consulting / Process / Software Development / Technology / Thought Leadership

11 Pro Tips for Leading High-Performing Development Teams

By Trae Moore – Principal Consultant, Technossus

I’ve been very fortunate in my career to lead a diverse array of highly-capable software engineering teams for some high-profile companies. A frequent challenge that is difficult to overcome during periods of high development is when the engineering team repetitively struggles to meet deadlines for their latest project due to a lack of direction, goals, or clearly defined expectations.

In this post, I will share some software development productivity tips and techniques I have assembled over many years as a development team leader. These productivity tips may work to help you resolve similar challenges you could be facing by offering some simple recommendations for how best to course-correct stalling teams and align them on clarity of purpose and defining what success means.

Examining the problem

Let’s say, for example, you’re a dev team leader, and you’re noticing your team members are feeling overwhelmed and unmotivated, and you’ve also been seeing a significant increase in errors and rework. As the team leader, you are responsible for finding solutions to these issues in order to ensure that the project is completed on time and to the required quality standards.

Let’s pull simple problem statements out of a high-level team problem analysis.

  • Lack of clear goals and expectations
  • Overwhelmed and unmotivated team members
  • Increased errors and rework
  • Missed deadlines

As an engineering team leader, some of your responsibilities include setting clear goals and expectations for your team, providing ongoing support and guidance, and effectively communicating with team members, other departments, and stakeholders. As leaders, we should always strive to create a supportive and collaborative environment where team members feel valued and motivated to contribute their best work.

Clarify goals

Once we identify some key problem statements, you should examine what these problems represent and what processes we can change to stimulate improvement.

  1. Set clear goals and expectations: It might seem obvious, but when problems arise, look here first. Clearly define the objectives and tasks for each project and provide specific deadlines and performance metrics to track progress. This will help team members understand what is expected of them and how they can contribute to the success of the project.
  2. Provide ongoing support and guidance: We all think we are doing this as a natural byproduct of doing our jobs, but when things aren’t running smoothly, stop and examine your level of effort here. Make sure team members have the resources and support they need to complete their work effectively. This may involve providing extra training or coaching, answering questions, and addressing any new challenges your team members are facing.
  3. Communicate effectively: Easy to say, hard to do. Take extra care to ensure you regularly communicate with team members, other departments, and stakeholders to ensure everyone is aligned on project goals and timelines. This may involve holding regular team meetings, providing written updates and guidelines, and responding to questions and concerns in a timely manner. Additionally, be open to feedback and suggestions from team members, and work to create a collaborative and supportive work environment. The easiest way to head off a never-ending stream of delays is to make sure all team members know they have an open-door policy with you to bring questions to you as soon as they arise.

Simplify communications

Effective communication is absolutely crucial to the role of an engineering team leader. It’s imperative to make sure you listen to the concerns and ideas of your team members and clearly communicate project updates, expectations, and feedback. You should also be skilled at problem-solving and decision-making, as leaders often have to identify and address issues that arise during projects and make informed decisions that align with the overall goals of the organization.

  1. Use clear & concise language: In a software engineering environment, it is important to use clear and concise language when communicating with team members and other stakeholders. This helps to ensure that everyone understands the goals, expectations, and requirements of the project.
  2. Use visual aids: Visual aids, such as diagrams, flowcharts, and mockups, can be useful in helping to convey complex information or ideas in a clear and understandable way.
  3. Encourage feedback & dialogue: Effective communication in a software engineering environment requires a two-way exchange of ideas and information. Encourage team members and other stakeholders to ask questions and provide feedback, and make sure to listen carefully and consider their perspectives. This will help foster a more collaborative and inclusive work environment.

Promote tech education & training

In addition to our goals and communications responsibilities as leaders, we also have to maintain our own technical expertise and stay up-to-date on the latest developments in our fields. Leading an engineering team requires a combination of technical expertise and strong leadership skills, and it can be a challenging but rewarding role. We must be committed to helping our teams succeed and contribute to the organization’s overall success.

A few examples of the ways you can do this are.

  1. Engage in ongoing learning and training: To maintain your technical expertise, it is important to regularly engage in learning and training opportunities. This may involve taking courses or workshops, attending conferences or seminars, or participating in online learning programs. It can be very motivating for a team to see their leader lead by example on this front and share their learnings.
  2. Stay connected with industry peers: Networking with other professionals in your field can help you stay informed about the latest trends and technologies and can also provide valuable opportunities for collaboration and learning. This may involve joining industry organizations or online communities or participating in professional development events and workshops.
  3. Read industry publications and blogs: Keeping up with the latest developments in your field can be as simple as reading industry publications and blogs on a regular basis. This can help you stay informed about new technologies, best practices, and trends in the field. Encourage your team to share any and all good industry news items they find on any relevant topics to the project at hand.
  4. Attend industry events: Attending industry events, such as conferences or workshops, can be a great way to learn about new developments and technologies, as well as network with other professionals in your field. Stay alert and post event opportunities regularly.
  5. Participate in professional development programs: Many organizations offer professional development programs for their employees, which can be a great way to learn new skills and stay up-to-date on the latest trends in the field. These programs may include in-person training, online courses, or mentorship opportunities. Sometimes a simple reminder of your company policy on benefits relating to professional development with a link to relevant training programs can do wonders for increasing productivity and morale in tough times.

Many times, we find the best performance-enhancing ideas are not new to us, but just become a little less concrete over time. If you are anything like me, getting into the habit of saving and reviewing tip lists like this is a good way to begin new projects.

I hope this helps you stay focused and excited to build your own checklist for optimizing success in your development roles no matter where they might take you.

And if you have any great team productivity tips I haven’t covered here, reach out and share them with me so I can add them to a continuously improving list.