September 13, 2013

Effective Management – the Carrot or the Stick?

I’ve always believed that there are three vital components to the running a successful software team -obviously the talent of the developers is critical, but process and management are also essential. So what makes for effective management of a software team? There are many attributes, but here’s what I think is most important

  • Motivation. Although both “tough” and “kind” have their place, the carrot is more important than the stick. Creating challenges to motivate people and making sure those challenges result in positive team thinking is critical. I’d rather spend my time coming up with appropriate motivational challenges (thinking positively) than ranking people (thinking negatively).
  • Active listening. This means listening carefully and reflecting back what you hear in an empathetic manner so that the speaker feels understood. Everyone talks about it. Not many people do it.
  • Get out of people’s way. Why do you have team members in the first place? Because you can’t do it all yourself. So let your team members do what you hired them to once you set goals and talk about how to measure results.
  • Provide clear and consistent direction and goals. This seems rather obvious, but again, not many do it. Work on your team’s goals and communicate them, then constantly work towards achieving those goals with periodic reviews to make necessary changes.
  • Be excited. I think this is important. Just being excited about what is going on will help everyone perform better.
  • Turn disappointments into learning opportunities. When things don’t work out, turn the disappointment into a lesson learned and an opportunity for growth. Remember when one door closes, another opens.
  • Understand needs and feelings in yourself and others. Understanding your own needs and feelings will pay huge dividends in motivation and effectiveness. Always go back to the practice of what universal human needs and feelings are alive in you and your team, especially when things are tense or there is conflict.
  • Know your own weaknesses and work on them.
  • Leaders serve their teams. Being a leader means you are serving your team members and enabling them to do the best they can do. Do whatever it takes to make things work.
  • Clear and decisive, but caring too. Sometimes the most caring thing you can do is make hard decisions. Don’t prolong the agony and remember you can’t do everything – just make your decisions.
  • Use good tools, so the organization collects and refines its knowledge. All of the above are only as good as your methods to disseminate, store, and develop information and best practices within your team. So find tools that work for everyone and use them. Email is a start, but there are many more sophisticated and effective tools available today.