How developers master team leadership


How new managers get on better How developers master team management

Those who rise from the ranks of a development team at its head do not always have it easy. You are faced with various challenges that do not exist for people who push in from the outside. However, internal climbers also have some advantages.

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New to the team and yet well known to everyone: this constellation of leadership change offers many advantages, but also requires some necessities.New to the team and yet well known to everyone: this constellation of leadership change offers many advantages, but also requires some necessities.

If department heads and company founders transfer the leadership of a team to an employee from their own ranks, this offers some advantages. Gans this is particularly true in the field of software development, because despite the enormous degree of digitalization, a deeply human, coordinated way of working often prevails here.

There is simply no adequate substitute for the experience and human relationships that only develop over the course of many months and years. A colleague who has risen from the team at its head knows every single team member. He knows about their strengths and weaknesses and knows which motivational measures are best for whom.

In this way, a change of managers is possible, which can avoid many of the friction points that are always to be feared when the new team leader comes from outside. However, the ascent also carries dangers. New leaders of development teams need to know them, face them, and master them in order to master their transformation from team member to leader.

1. Maintain tonality

Most development teams have an exceptionally relaxed, downright relaxed atmosphere. Typically expressed by a pronounced duz culture, perhaps supplemented by various rituals, slang words and the like. Many new leaders believe that they must now distance themselves from it in all respects – assuming that too friendly an attitude would prevent them from establishing the necessary authority over it.

However, this is wrong. Authority arises in these teams primarily through professional expertise and good relations with the members. To replace the loose tonality with a more distant, sober approach would be to equate it with a willful break of the collegial, low-threshold relationship.

With the other developers, the fatal impression would most likely arise that the new manager would suddenly no longer be “one of them”. This would confirm one of the biggest concerns in this type of leadership change. Accordingly, the opposite rule should apply here: simply continue and continue as before. This is the healthiest way to maintain this vital relationship with the team.

2. Maintain a particularly high attitude as a contact person

Even though the hierarchies in the digital field are among the flattest of all professions, there is always a certain degree of gradation here as well. And anyone who may have been part of a team for years knows very well how to think about the further management level of the department and the company; also, what worries, fears and needs there are.

Such intimate knowledge is not only valuable, it is valuable. Because the new manager recently belonged to this circle herself, she not only knows its views in detail, but nurtured them herself. Not least because, of course, some developers now have expectations of their new supervisor, he should also strive to at least not completely close himself.

In general, this means holding regular meetings with the team soon after starting work and afterwards. In persona is the preferred approach. Where this is not possible due to spatial separation, the possibilities of video telephony should be used – in image and sound, the feeling of belonging is much stronger than just over the phone or even via distant communication methods such as e-mail or group chats.

These meetings should be about the following:

  • The new manager should address topics that she still knows from her time as a team member.
  • All members should have the opportunity to offer their wishes and criticism openly and honestly.
  • The manager should inform about what can be implemented, what the state of affairs is – for this the meetings should take place regularly.

Above all, the last point is of central importance: the team must not get the impression that its words go nowhere. A real loop must be created. This also means that the new manager should at least try to offer suggestions and wishes to superiors.

But: promises should never be made for short-term popularity points that cannot be kept.

3. Stake new relationship claims in the team

A well-rehearsed team works harmoniously with each other – on a professional level. However, this does not mean that everyone can suffer equally. Of course, even in small developer teams, closer and less close connections arise, determined by human and professional affection and aversion.

This means that the new manager will be able to make some team members suffer more, others less well. In this the strongest necessity is to distance oneself from the usual. Because a good team leader knows neither minions nor he holds against other (open) antipathies.

So here it is necessary to adjust its relationship to the entire team. Not only with words, but in the whole behavior. Otherwise, an internal competition situation quickly arises that can damage the climate in the long term. Especially with well-behaved people, new managers should look for a one-on-one discussion and explain to them why they need to behave more soberly in the future.

4. Delegating for the sake of your own responsibility

Depending on the process model the team works with, and even in the case of the scrum model, which does not have any special roles, the new manager will have done work in it earlier that was particularly good for her-or that she was simply assigned particularly frequently. Now, inevitably, someone else in the team will now take on these tasks, perhaps also as a newcomer in the group.

Here, then, is the next great danger for the new manager: it is exceptionally easy and tempting not only to take a particularly close look at this person, but perhaps even to intervene much more frequently than would be advisable with regard to the new position.

This is understandable, after all, it is the former day-to-day business. However, the emphasis should definitely be on “former”. Those who now assume management responsibility simply can no longer deal with the details of day-to-day business:

  • The current management tasks leave hardly any room for this realistically.
  • For the one who is now taking over the work, it most likely seems as if he is not performing his task correctly. In addition, he is repeatedly disturbed in his approach.
  • It seems to the team that their new leader cannot let go, would be suspicious.

As much as it might hurt, but the new team leader can’t help but delegate all the tasks that he used to work on in the team. He can be available as a contact person, can give advice. More, however, only brings disadvantages.

* Alicia Egger is a recruitment consultant. Her professional focus is on personnel transformation processes within the company, so that they run as smoothly and effectively as possible.


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