Traits of a Good Engineering Team Lead

A good engineering team lead is incredibly valuable. They’re important and crucial for the company as well as the people managed. However, it’s not easy being a leader, and it’s not clear how to be a good leader. What makes a good lead is a balance of many things, and balancing what’s good for the self, the company, and your people.

Traits of a good lead

  1. Continuously grow as a person. As a leader, you have to keep evolving. What works for you today, likely won’t serve you the same years from now. You have to keep up with the times, work on your flaws, and strengthen what you’re good at.
  2. Be empathetic. Use empathy in everything that you do. This is a huge differentiator between being a good leader and a leader that people leave. After-all, many people leave bad managers as the number one reason for leaving a company. When you apply empathy, you allow yourself to go beyond your own vision on how things are done, planned, orchestrated, and more. It will allow others to feel that you have their best interest at heart.
  3. Grant people autonomy. Many people in general thrive off of being able to solve problems on their own, and enjoy the creativity and freedom to do their job how they think it’s best. It’s a delicate balance to enable people to have those freedoms, but still maintain order, reporting, and transparency. You need to strive no matter what though to enable people to run on their own. That will give them a greater sense of ownership, accomplishment, and they’ll grow at a much faster rate. And you’ll be setting them up for future success as they grow in their career.
  4. Evolve your processes. All engineering teams and organizations need processes. It helps keeps things moving, enables transparency, accountability, planning, and more. Many people, especially engineers, find processes to be restrictive, but as a leader, it’s necessary so you can do your job. However, a team process is meant to enable your team, and you, to do the highest quality job. So you must continually improve your process to ensure that it fits the needs of today. Ask for feedback. Experiment with things. And allow your team some influence. Enable your process to be the team’s process, not yours.
  5. Practice good one-on-ones. One-on-ones are your lifeblood to keeping people happy. Make sure that you keep them regular, and effective. They’re not just about giving your people feedback, it’s about you getting feedback too. Plan ahead, and keep people engaged. Learn about each person individually, help them with their career goals, make sure they’re not burnt out and more.
  6. Treat people like adults. Treating your team like adults will net you more positive results than you realize. They’ll appreciate and respect you. They’ll value your team, and the company more. They’ll take ownership of their work and give you their best. It will mean that sometimes they’ll have to run an errand in the middle of the day, miss a meeting, and situations like that will arise. But they’re adults, and so are you. Treat them as such.
  7. Communication is crucial. Your communication skills have to be constantly evolving. You need to know how to speak, when to speak, how to adjust how you communicate to different people. It also means understanding what to talk about and to who, and when you need to keep things private. You have to master how to bring people together across teams and departments. You’re the bridge that your team needs to rely on. Practice good communication skills, and help your team grow their own skills too.
  8. Bubble up successes of your team. You’re the gatekeeper between your team and leadership, so use your position wisely. It’s rare that someone above you will know a win that one of your engineers had. So make sure that you elevate your team, and bubble up successes to the people above you. That will make it easier for them to see how well the team is doing, how we’ll you’re doing, and how well your individuals are performing. If you aren’t doing this, no one else will. So, fight for your team to be successful all the way up the ladder. It will pay dividends for you too.

There’s a lot more to being a great team leader for an engineering team, but these are some key highlights to focus on. It’s not easy to be in this position, but the more you grow, the more success you’ll find.