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Key Three: The relationship with your team as a group

Thus far we’ve discussed getting your footing with yourself and taking the first step with your team.

Now it’s time to get your team together.

Though you’ll be building individual relationships with each person, you need to see how the group interacts.

We don’t act the same in a group as we do in 1:1 meetings, because each person in the room changes the group system dynamics.

When leading a new team, it’s easy to believe you should assert yourself as a confident, in-control leader. It might feel good to present a powerpoint deck with your roadmap for the next quarter, or talking about why you’re perfect for this job, but I suggest you avoid it.

Instead, recognize the basic, fundamental, undeniable fact that you are completely dependent on this group of people.

You will not be successful unless they work together to deliver software.

I suggest acknowledging your complete dependence on them; it’s no surprise, they already know it.

Starting your team relationship this way extinguishes their fears that you’ll be just another command-and-control, do-what-I-say boss. While they hope you won’t be that kind of boss, they may well fear that you are.

After all, there’s a lot of that kind of managers around.

Additionally, when you show your dependence, you are transparent about your needs. You need them.

Do they need you too? Of course – but they know it, so don’t say it. They aren’t confused about the fact that you’re the boss and hold tremendous power over them.

So start by being the kind of boss they’ve always wanted: the kind they want to follow.

Ideas for the first meeting

You want to see your team work together during this time, so you can being to observe the group dynamics. Here are a few ideas:

  • Imagine that you are a team of superhero’s – what is each person’s superpower, and their superhero name?
  • Discuss what metaphor best represents your team: sports team, musical band, family, military squad… or something else?
  • Choose a team name and mascot, and create a team poster together.
  • Publicly ask the team, and each member in the room: what kind of boss would you like me to be? What should I not do? How can we work together best?

I’m sure you can think of more ideas, but I hope you get the point.

You want to watch how people discuss, debate, disagree, agree, collaborate, eye-roll, engage, disengage, bully, acquiesce and (hopefully) make decisions.

If the team struggles, that’s okay. You don’t need to jump in and save things… But if they can’t do a “fun” task that’s unimportant due to team dysfunction, they will undoubtedly struggle when the stakes are high.

You need to know this because you depend on them working together to be successful.

If you see team dysfunction, you’ll need to deal with it.

But helping your team learn to work together is a BIG topic, so it will have to wait.


About Marcus Blankenship

Where other technical coaches focus on process or tools, I focus on the human aspects of your Programmer to Manager transition. I help you hire the right people, create the right culture, and setup the right process which achieves your goals. Managing your team isn't something you learned in college. In fact, my clients often tell me "I never prepared for this role, I always focused on doing the work". If you're ready to improve your leadership, process and team, find out how I can help you.

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