The 7 most common mistakes of a technical leader

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The 7 most common mistakes of a technical leader
The 7 most common mistakes of a technical leader


I have been fortunate to have led multi-million dollar projects for companies on the Fortune 100 list; projects that have had a positive impact on millions of people and projects that have failed catastrophically.

It is precisely one of those last projects that I want to talk about: The vast majority of the time that projects that have failed catastrophically have been because of weak or inefficient leadership.

Here is a list of common mistakes that I have observed throughout my more than 10 years of experience in the software development industry.

Your chances of success as a technical leader will increase significantly if you can avoid these mistakes.

1. Pretend you know how to do something.

Many rookie technical leaders pretend they've done it all. Do not do this. If you are put in charge of a 100% Android team and you only have Java experience, don't pretend to be an Android expert.

Technical leaders often choose their communication and organizational skills, not just for technical knowledge. To tell the truth, if you were the best programmer on your team, the most coherent thing would be to leave you as a programmer to exploit your skills to the maximum.

It is best, to be honest about your abilities. If you don't know how to do something, let it be known in advance and find an ideal solution with your team and your superiors.

2. Don't hire better programmers than you.

One of the big differences between world-class technical leaders and mediocre technical leaders is that world-class technical leaders hire better programmers than themselves.

The best way to trash a project is to hire programmers who just blindly obey your instructions.

When you are a technical leader, you have the opportunity to have a huge impact on a project. The success or failure of it is in your hands. Don't screw it up by hiring boot-licking programmers who aren't going to have the courage or the ability to tell you when you're wrong.

Naturally, you need to have members on your team who trust your technical vision, but you also need people who have more technical experience than you.

3. Propose impossible work plans.

The best technical leaders come up with aggressive but achievable work plans. World-class technical leaders even negotiate cash bonuses for team members if the work plan is delivered on time. Yet no world-class technical leader will commit to a truly impossible plan.

Do not accept or propose a plan that mathematically you will not be able to achieve. Don't assume that your team will work 60 or 70 hours a week in order to deliver the project on time. It never ends well. At the end of the day, it will be your fault and you will probably be fired.

4. Assume that more programmers will finish the job faster.

This error goes hand in hand with the previous error. Many rookie leaders believe that if you come up with an aggressive roadmap, that roadmap will be reached in time with more programmers.

Remember: 9 women don't make a baby in 1 month.

Naturally, you need to have an adequate number of programmers to be able to attack the work plan from different fronts, but the more programmers you have will also increase the number of conflicts in the code, the number of opinions to solve a problem, and the amount of time you have. to host to manage your team.

5. Not collaborating with the marketing and sales departments.

I understand that many times it is difficult to find time to have meetings with other departments or to have the patience to endure comments that make your blood boil such as:

"We need to change everything you spent a week building"
"Why don't you add a green button to the center of the page? It's JUST a button, it's easy."

But still, somehow, you have to do it.

As a technical leader, you need to know exactly where customers are coming from, what motivates them to buy the product you are developing, and what features of the application are going to make sales and marketing work easier.

On the other hand, having a real and deep understanding of the problem that you and your team are solving helps keep your programmers motivated. As a programmer, it's hard to stay motivated if you think your work is purposeless. However, if you communicate to your team the importance of the work they are doing, you will generally have a productive and happy team.

6. Not having a mentor.

Everybody needs a mentor. Celine Dione had a singing mentor, Serena Williams has a Tennis mentor, Floyd Mayweather has a boxing mentor, Bill Gates has a business mentor.

The vast majority of technical leaders almost never look for a technical mentor. If you have worked for someone you respect and admire, invite that person to have a coffee or lunch, clarify your doubts with him/her and listen to their opinions.

For example, I go out to eat every month with my former supervisors. We talk about what they are doing, what I am doing, we share work plans, we exchange opinions to find out if they are ideal, we discuss the performance of our teams and we give each other recommendations about opportunities in which we could be interested.

Having and being a mentor is one of the most important things you can do to improve your career dramatically.

 7. Lack of transparency

It is important to know what things to protect your computer from, and what things not. There is no need to tell your team that a customer yelled at you on the phone, but you MUST let them know that your supervisors are nervous because your team is one week behind the work plan.

You also have to be transparent with your supervisors, if your team tells you that they will not be able to deliver the project on time, you should stop everything and talk to your supervisors immediately. Bad news doesn't get better over time.

In short, a good technical leader hires better programmers than himself, motivates and manages his team, communicates expectations with superiors and subordinates, and seeks help when he needs it.

Remember, your superior chose you as a technical leader because he trusts you will do a good job.

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