The top 6 things I learned after 6 months as a Team Lead
4 min read
It's not quite been 6 months, but on the 1st November 2021 I took up the position of Team Lead after 4 months at a new company where I started as a Senior Software Engineer.
I came from a previous company where, although I had not had it explicitly in my job title, I had been working at a senior level, including an informal but frequent role as Deputy Team Lead.
I was ready for the real thing!
So, 6 months on, here are the top 6 things I have personally learnt after becoming a Team Lead.
1) More meetings, less dev time is unavoidable
Despite the fact I was assured I would still be doing a majority of development work, this soon stopped as other responsibilities ramped up. Especially during periods when we were hiring, and I had to spend hours looking over CVs and sitting in interviews.
It fluctuated, but I'd say overall my hands-on dev time has gone to 50% or less.
2) Line management takes a lot of time and effort
Line management isn't just about accepting holiday requests or answering the odd question - it's usually a whole lot more. In my company we do fortnightly one-to-one meetings. With a team of 5 people, that was suddenly a lot of meetings! And in those, I had to assist with setting SMART objectives and making sure everyone was happy, keeping up with their workload and their objectives.
Also onboarding new starters takes a lot of time too - I'm not the kind of person who wants to throw people into the deep end with no support, so I take my time to ensure everyone is doing ok.
3) Not everyone will instantly recognise your leadership straight away
In fact, some people still don't seem to! It is one thing to receive a promotion, but another to earn the respect of those around you. Especially when you are relatively new to the company, and they may have been around for a while, so you likely don't know the processes and the product so well.
Add on top the fact that I am fairly young to be in this position, plus female, I feel I have had to work hard to prove that I'm suitable and capable to be leading the team.
4) You're not there to be the best in the team
This one is so important, but is a bit of a flip from being in a senior role. Before, I was looked to as a technical expert and have opinions on design and implementation. I enjoyed the process of debating solutions with other developers. However, now in a lead role, I instead have to recognise the strengths of my team members and foster an environment which allows and encourages the team to input. Otherwise face the unsavoury label of "micromanaging" or "dictating"!
That's not to say you can't have opinions or be an expert - but you shouldn't force everyone to do things your way just because you're in charge.
5) Not everyone wants to be "managed"
Some people don't want a manager, some people don't want to be coached or mentored. You simply can't force them along the process. And that's ok.
However if they are actively resisting you, or being disrespectful, that's not ok. It should be a process of mutual respect.
6) I really hate confrontation
In the times when things have been difficult, I've had to really summon up the courage to confront people and own the situation. It's something I will have to continue to work at, as it doesn't come so naturally to me!
Confrontation doesn't (and shouldn't) mean anything aggressive or argumentative - but if you're the manager, you can't avoid it if someone is underperforming, or being rude, or causing an issue in some way. It's your responsibility as the team lead to ensure that conflicts are dealt with.
However, it really sucks sometimes! I want a great working relationship with people who I work with and the environment to be friendly and fun. As a manager though, you just can't always truly be liked by everyone.