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Key Two: The relationship with individual team members

When taking over a new team, the second key is building is the individual, unique relationships with each developer.

Thus, it’s time to get to know each one of them individually, and as quickly as possible.

One-on-one meetings are helpful here, but how you frame them says a great deal about the kind of leader you will be.

Take the passenger seat

It can be helpful to make a deposit into the emotional bank-account before you ask for a withdrawal, so consider topics which they find beneficial:

  • Discuss their career goals and how you can help them achieve them
  • Discuss the project/idea they are most excited about working on
  • Discuss areas they would like to take a bigger role
  • Discuss how they view your presence on the team
  • Discuss what’s working well on the team, that you shouldn’t mess with
  • Discuss what kind of leader they hope you will be

The goal is not to pass information back and forth, though you’ll be doing that as well.

The goal is for both of you to make sense of this new landscape by creating a trust relationship together. I promise that the way you see the landscape won’t be how they see it. This can will lead to all sorts of problems in the future.

Engage in meaningful dialogue to make sense of this new reality.

In doing so, understand yourself and their viewpoint better.

See, a dialogue isn’t how we communicate what we believe; it’s how we discover it. 

Every question above could go in a thousand different directions.


Allow yourself to be energized and curious, fascinated by their answers. Dig in by asking “Why?”, “What’s behind that?” and “Tell me more!”

Don’t just act interested, become interested.

Let them drive, then note where they led. Where they lead will be the essential thing you need to know about them, right now.

Letting them take the wheel as you begin the new relationships shows you trust them, and are more interested in them than you are in yourself.

It’s not everything you need to know, nor is it everything important, but you can guarantee that it’s what they want you to know right now, which is a great place to start.


[SPONSOR] Free eBook: Twenty Patterns to watch for in your engineering team. Which will you recognize?

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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