Tips On Working with Technical Teams

Can non-technical servant leaders successfully work with development teams? 

Yes, here’s how…


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Win them over

First up, coming into a new team can be difficult and challenging. To help start off on the right foot, how about bake a cake, go out for a team outing or conduct a friendly ice breaker game? 
Starting off on the right foot is a good start. Get creative, there are plenty of ways to find inspiration.

Do your homework

There is value in having a general understanding of what your team does and how they do it; so do your home work.
There are many ways to do this, start by talking with your manager, and then talk with your co-workers. Additionally, read job descriptions of your team and look at old reports from information radiators, incident reports and retrospective notes etc.
Working out what makes your team tick will help you understand their challenges and appreciate their concerns. 
It also helps build empathy; relationships start to build and grow. You can focus on improving their lives and not hindering.
Doing your homework will help you understand a little about a lot of things. It can also build your own credibility.

Work out how to communicate with your team

The agile framework provides time-boxed opportunities for your team and stakeholders to meet throughout the sprint. These include daily scrums, retrospectives, planning and review sessions. 
Time-boxed events provide opportunities to start building relationships using a designated output and outcome — all designed to provide incremental value overtime as you move forward. 

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Identify your role in working with a technical team

Focus on your job first; not everything else. If you slowly master your role, you will naturally build credibility and gain respect overtime. 
Here are some tips to help build credibility with your team.

Convey confidence and leadership

Even if it does not look like it, you need to convey confidence— know what you do and do it on time with minimum fuss. Your team will see a skilled and competent performer doing a good job.

Get some quick wins

Is there some recurring problems that need addressing? If so, pounce on them quick. If you can find issues and fix them quickly without fuss, it will put you on the map. As I indicated in the last section, building credibility and gaining respect is key to a successful team dynamic.

Communicating with your technical team

There is perception that communicating with technical people is hard. There is a lot of technical jargon. Doing your homework is a first step to combat this. 
Next, look at your communication style, and what the team prefers. Many developers prefer data. Some prefer you to tell them the facts and then you can leave them alone. 
Overtime, once you get to know each other, trust is built and a relationship is established, it becomes easier. 

Getting past uncertainty as a non technical person

Remember, you cannot know everything and should not be expected to either. If you have a knack on getting up to speed quickly that is awesome. However, if you are like me and other mere mortals, then you need time. 

Tips on how to get up to speed quickly

  • Do your homework. As I said earlier, look at existing teams reports and other old project materials such as lesson’s learned, retrospective notes, risk management boards, old invoices — the whole gambit. This will allow you to spot common terms and themes to provide you with some direction.
  • Talk to managers and other team members. Don’t be too nervous. Admitting uncertainty can connect with people and start building relationships.
  • Establish a relationship with a mentor who had the knowledge and time to mentor you.
  • Newbies should pair up with veterans to help them navigate their early days.
  • Create a learning culture. Not only will this help you, but your team will appreciate you for it. Think about a learning path to advance your skills as a leader. Building this culture will enable you and other new team mates to get the proper information you need without too much fuss.

Working with your team

Remember, as a leader, you are not there to do the work. You are there to unblock impediments. So focus on your team. 
As a servant leader, you don’t need to know everything; but you do need to understand goals and deliverables; the timelines and to make sure your team understand what they need to do. 
It is your job to help them make their own goals. 
Remember that in scrum and agile the real measure of success is the overall success of the team.

Final tips

Use these tips to help stay focused on what is most important when working with agile dev teams and the technical challenges that can come with it.
  • Understand what work needs to get done. Then, explain back that to the team to reiterate your understanding and the team’s understanding.
  • You are there to remove impediments and not to be a technical expert.
  • Roll your sleeves up when you need to. There is no ‘I’ in team, simply do.
  • Lean on your team to help you try and understand their issues, so you can help them overcome them.
  • Generally, people respond well to honesty. Bluffing your way out of things — does not help you or your team’s credibility.
  • Think: how can we succeed together?
Good luck!