Welcome! This is the second article of this series of four articles related to evaluating and training a leading figure in your company.

In the first article we talked about the hard skills and the most critical soft skills a technical manager should have, so now let’s keep up the pace and let’s talk about the other fundamental soft skills: managing skills, problem-solving (aka, taking logical decisions), proactivity, and teaching skills.

Managing

A technical leader has management duties so he should be able to manage people implying the following activities:

  • organise their work: “who should do this task? “and “this employee finished his job earlier, what can he do now?”
  • planning for failure: “what are we going to do if this task takes more time than estimated?”
  • be receptive to unhappiness: if an employee has been overloaded with tedious tasks, “how can we give him something better to do?”
  • learn and adapt to his team members: if an employee is always giving wrong deadlines, “how can we adjust the schedule? How can we help him be more accurate during estimation?”
  • empower them: honestly speaking to his team members about a daunting task assigned to them and how everyone can deal with it

Problem-solving

Being in a managing position, a leader will find himself making decisions usually, and he has to take responsibility for it. When he was a simple employee, he could always delegate this decision burden to someone above him, but now the leader will decide by himself sooner or later.

When he is making a decision, there are many factors that he needs to take into consideration , like:

  • “can I make this decision by myself, or do I need to consult with some superiors, peers, or team members?”
  • “if I have to make this decision with others, how can I bring all the risk-reward elements needed to make the most informed decision?”
  • “Are there different solutions to this problem?”, “Which one costs more and which costs less in terms of time, working people and money?”, “Which one will give us the highest quality product?”, “Which one respects the deadlines?”
  • “do I have the technical skills needed to evaluate the solution properly, or do I have to reach out and trust the opinion of some more specialised employees?”

After all these questions and the analysis process, it does not matter if a technical leader has the last word or is only here to facilitate the discussion: he should be able to behave and think logically. Suppose all the team agree that the proposed solutions are valid solutions for the problem at hand. In that case, even if they differ in the implementation or slightly differ in the ending results, he can sincerely choose what he thinks is best and advocate the reason behind this choice. So when he can advocate with others with concrete reasons and justify why he makes some decisions, his choices will not be taken as personal matters. Beware, sometimes time constrains the ability to assess a situation accurately, so a team leader can’t look at all the different perspectives, it is okay as long as he behaves logically, and he is conscious of this factor.

Proactivity

One definition of the word Proactive is “taking action to make changes yourself rather than reacting to things that happen.” Understanding this concept is crucial while managing employees in a management situation because a technical leader will find himself usually in a position where he will give other colleagues tasks to do when their workload is low, and he also needs to find something to do for himself while his workload is low.

Proactivity comes into play even in the company “grey areas.” I call “grey areas” jobs or tasks that need to be done, but there isn’t a clear appointed employee for that responsibility. A team leader should actively look out for grey areas and work as a leader by pointing them out, talk about them to a responsible, or by doing the job himself, or by finding a colleague that cares for this matter and find him some time in the work schedule to address this problem. While managing, a leader is not waiting for the work to fall on him from above, he is in a position where he has to search for his tasks and voluntarily takes some curved balls.

Teaching Skills

So, that’s the point: while managing some people, leaders are also responsible for the result of their employees’ work to some degree, so if a leader wants to be trusted and to trust them, he should help them improve. There are two significant ways a leader can help his team grow:

  1. he can teach technical skills: the teaching can take place during working hours, when helping with a problem or when reviewing completed work, or the leader can suggest video tutorials or books to read, or he can make a working schedule with some time dedicated to theoretics training for a new task.
  2. he can point out recurring patterns: when he manages people, he can find out some recurring behaviors, e.g., an employee lacks basic math knowledge, or this employee is too distracted while performing a specific recurring task. So, when a technical leader sees some recurring patterns, he should act to improve this behavior with an informal and private discussion with his team member, where he will explain what he noticed and ask his team member’s opinions. The goal of this discussion one to one is to understand how to break the behavior together: e.g., “I see you usually fail your tasks estimation time, have you considered adding a couple of days to your first rough estimation by default?” Or “can we find a way to notice when a delay in task completion is as soon as possible?”

Remember that technical leaders’ teaching skills are critical because even if your company is going to hire only super-skilled people, your employees will work where they do what they like and where they can improve. So, it is essential to take care of your employees’ training in various ways since it will help your company retain its employees.

Conclusions

And these were all the remaining soft skills needed for a good manager and a team leader.

In the next article, we will evaluate how every skill interacts with each other and how they can boost each other for better outcomes in managing. Then, in the last post, we will talk about how we can find and train these leaders inside your company.

For any question or talk, you can find me at my work email loris@zuru.tech and on linked-in.

Image made by Pablo Stanley. Free for commercial or personal use. CC0 Public DomainLicense. https://www.humaaans.com/