As Team Leader, where is your focus?

As a technical team leader, your time is spread across a number of projects and a number of issues. You will have a plethora of different forces pulling and pushing at your time, so much so that you are putting in more hours than is healthy, just trying to get some work done.

focusWith those external pulls and pushes, you can often find that you can look back and find no useful forward motion in your work. It is these times that you will need to re-ground yourself. One way to do this is by asking the question: “What is my focus?”. This one question allows you to re-establish where it would be best to spend your time and know your priorities.

It would be easy to say “the team”, but the answer is not as easy; you could also say “assigning resources” and while that is a large part of your work, it may not be your focus. Ask yourself what is the core focus or single reason for each of the team members. For example, a Developer produces code. Yes, the developer also considers requirements; code reuse; standards; UI and all the other areas, but his/her core focus would be to produce code.

In the same way, you as a team leader have a large amount of areas under consideration at any time including looking after individual team members (e.g. reviews etc); looking after customers; negotiating with suppliers; internal contacts (e.g. the infrastructure team); the boss; the senior leadership team; implementing and confirming the methodology and processes; ensuring correct supply of resources to projects; support; HR issues; budgets; and plenty of other areas of concern, all pulling at your time.

However,if you drop down to your core need, what you were employed to do, why you are there, then you may be able to place a focus on your work that will ground you. In my case, it’s “delivery”, in your case it may be “Team” or you may be there to implement “process”, whatever it is, that core focus should allow you to ensure that you are spending your time appropriately.

Taking that core focus of “Delivery”, you can then ensure that whatever you’re doing relates to the delivery of product. Knowing this, you can be of great service to your team, knowing that you can assist each member of the team. For example:

  • the Business Analyst can focus on producing requirements, but as you are focused¬†on delivery, you can ensure that the Business Analyst doesn’t analyse too thoroughly, but produces the requirements so that the developers can work. In the same way, you can rely on the Business Analyst to gather the correct requirements and can define the correct business needs, and not just deliver the least possible to tick the box “delivered”.
  • The developers can code, but you can assist them by ensuring they know that they have to deliver to a schedule. This means that they can focus on outcomes and not be too tied into finding the most efficient¬†algorithm, but “get it out”. In the same way, the developers can assist the team by ensuring that the code delivered is to the standards required, that it’s good code and that it will work to their satisfaction.
  • The test team can run through their regression and other tests, but you’re there to ensure that they do deliver. If not for the delivery focus, they could test and retest for the next 12 months without releasing the product. On the other hand, the test team will ensure that what is delivered has at least gone through some sort of rigorous testing regime so that they hold a reasonable expectation of not releasing something that could effect the company adversely.

We all hold our focus so that the team can deliver good quality work. Each of us contributing in our own way. Just because a team leader holds that title does not mean that they are more than a single cog in that delivery wheel. Yes, the team lead also holds HR and financial considerations, but that is so that the team members don’t have to worry about that.

Enjoy your service to the team. You are a member of that team even if you sometimes don’t feel that way.

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