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Posted by: Chris McIntosh Posted on: Mon, 12/02/2019 - 11:00 Posted under:

How to Lead a Successful Drupal Team

There are probably many things that can scare a web developer, but close to the top of that list would probably be something like, "You should be the Team lead for this project."

It can be a scary thing to take on such an important role for something that will probably last for 3 to 6 months.  There is planning, scheduling, execution, and communication with clients. However, there is also a lot of things to be happy about, for example, it's a significant step up in a developer's career and indicates that your team values your efforts. 

To help those new to the Lead developer role, I have done some research and thought in order to provide some great tips and suggestions to be successful.

Having the Correct Mindset

When you first make the move from being a mostly independent developer to being the lead and manager of a remote team you need to be ready to adjust how you approach things.  The following items are some of the most important among those.

The most important of them is to remember that you are not the only expert on the team.  You need to remember that as the leader, your job is to direct the rest of the team and provide a way forward, but you do not have to be the only one to provide suggestions on how to get there.   You can trust your team to search and find the best possible solution to any challenge.

Remember to be available if they need you and guide them towards how to find the solution rather than always providing them the solution, and avoid forcing them to write code in a certain way. Every developer programs a bit differently and that is okay as long as it meets the client's needs.

Make Communication a Priority

The heart of any optimally functioning remote team is good communication.  Nearly all of the project hiccups will come from some form of miscommunication or misunderstanding between developers.  That is why the frequency and quality of communication cannot be overstated.

When you first kick off a new project, make sure to communicate the goals and expectations for that project, also detail the work ethic you expect from each of your team members.

The next thing to be aware of is that remote work projects give a new dynamic to software development because you are not always working together or even in the same time zone.  Unexpected problems cannot always be dealt with in an organic manner as they would normally be handled in an office. 

In situations like this, it is worth adding in some extra time to handle time that may be needed for discovery or troubleshooting an unexpected challenge.  If possible try to sort out some of the possible roadblocks prior to code being created, and provide some possible solutions or resources if those roadblocks materialize in the future.  Another useful tool is to have a knowledge base that your team can use internally for things that commonly cause delays.

Learning solutions to the common roadblocks and documenting them will make future projects easier and allow your team to provide better estimates for your clients.  This can lead to your remote team to be more efficient than all on-site teams.

The final step for setting up a good communication workflow is defining your communication channels, use a tool like Slack or something similar that will allow your team to quickly know where to share information regarding specific topics.  Having transparent communication in shared channels will always benefit your team.

You can keep these channels tidy by tagging relevant people when you need to announce something, by utilizing threads, and by highlighting information that the team needs to know.  Slack is really well suited for this purpose as you can use a variety of tools to accomplish this, including emoji walls.

You should also ask your team to provide regular updates so that you know what they are working on and notify the team of any changes to when they will be available.  This is extremely important because everyone is working remotely it will not be obvious when someone is not available for work unless it is communicated to the team.

Meetings

Team meetings can be an extremely important part of making your team efficient, but if handled poorly can actually decrease your productivity.   

You will want to make sure you keep your team meetings to the point, and that they are marked on a shared calendar.  Additionally, you should have a policy that your developers let you know if they are unable to come and a way for them to provide invites either prior or post-meeting.

Meetings are also another excellent way to assign action points to people on your team.  This makes sure that all action points are assigned before the meeting ends,  never l action point unassigned.

Providing Feedback

When providing positive feedback, make an effort to do it publicly.  It is important to share good feedback on channels or public calls, keep it straight to the point.  A simple statement of what the team member has achieved and the good impact it made is enough but can go to help build the relationship in the team.

In regards to negative feedback, take care to share and discuss it in private in order to avoid embarrassing someone.  Additionally, when a member is not performing well, try to investigate why.  Often times there is a deeper reason someone is not performing as they normally have.  It is important to not assume they are trying to sabotage the team and be empathetic to their situation.

Sometimes this is not always easy in a remote team, but it is worth working on and probing a little deeper. Show the other person that you are there for them and if they want to talk about what could be causing them stress. If someone wants to talk, it's sometimes much faster to get on a call instead of back and forth over slack.