When you take on the development manager role, it can feel like you're doing a little bit of everything. Your job is no longer to focus purely on code — and you're not leading your average team. In your day-to-day, you're representing, strategizing for, and even developing with your engineering team.
With all the tasks filling your to-do list, it can be easy to forget: Getting quality results depends on the quality of your leadership. Work isn't just about projects — and you're not a project manager. Great development managers are equally as good at working with people, building culture, and supporting their team members as they are at boosting efficiency and working on all things technical.
To get the most out of your team, here are five tips that every development manager needs to know to get the best from their team.
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1. Offer guidance, not micromanagement
Have you ever gotten anything done with someone breathing down your neck? It's not comfortable, and it creates a culture of distrust. In an agile environment, this goes against the principle of having a self-organizing team — one in which each team member takes charge of their own responsibilities and timelines.
A great development manager knows that each team member contributes their own unique work experience and knowledge to a team. Your job description isn't to do other people's jobs for them or boss them around. Rather, it's to ensure the engineering team produces quality products in a timely manner.
You'll get more out of your team by inspiring them instead of telling them what to do. Instead of dictating deadlines, guide your team in the right direction by illustrating the importance of your priority projects.
How will each person's contribution impact the broader company? How will finishing one task early unlock new opportunities for the team? Nudge your employees toward better decisions that they make themselves to build a team that's enthusiastic about their work.
2. Plan with the big picture in mind
While members of your product development team may be diving into the details — writing code, checking off smaller tasks — your job as a development manager is to think big. Development managers play a key role in the agile planning process by figuring out which projects their team should prioritize and how to best complete them.
Instead of just thinking solely about what's best for your team, you need to consider which projects and tasks best align with your company's broader business goals. This will help you build a development team that creates stand-out results for the entire company.
At the same time, you should be fully aware of what's possible for your team to take on. Will committing to one new product up one person's workload far more than others? Does your team have the capacity for more work at all? No matter how many years of experience your team has, they — as individuals and as a whole — need room to breathe so they don't burn out.
With Easy Agile Roadmaps for Jira, you can better align your engineering team with the rest of your business by visualizing timelines and grouping issues into high-level streams of work. You'll get the big picture of what's happening with each product, so you can improve your strategy and get the best from your team.
3. Keep your technical skills up-to-date
"Manager" may be the brag-worthy highlight of your job title, but that doesn't mean you can let your technical skills go. Odds are, coding will still make up a chunk of your day-to-day — or at least your week-to-week. Even when you're not directly assigned to a software development task, you'll still need to guide your team members through their individual tasks.
To give your team the support they need, you need to be able to speak their coding language. This will help you lead code reviews, take part in technical conversations, anticipate (and prevent) roadblocks, and ensure you're implementing the most efficient technologies. Regularly taking courses and joining a coding community are two simple ways to be a problem-solving champion for your engineering team.
Your technical expertise will help your team stick to your product roadmaps and meet key milestones.
4. Bolster your communication skills
When you take on the development manager job, you become a liaison between your engineering team and other parts of your organization. For example, you might communicate the needs of your developers to senior management or pass on requests from sales managers to your team.
People without a technical background might think you're talking about music if you start talking about C#. Engineers without business management experience may roll their eyes if you start talking about five-year plans instead of an upcoming product launch. Even though coworkers share the same company culture, they don't necessarily "get" each other all the time.
Developer managers are translators who represent their team and deliver messages back to them as needed.
Since you're constantly working with people from different backgrounds, you need to strengthen your interpersonal skills. Get to know how you can best communicate with different people. Which teams prefer email over texting? Who's the go-to contact person for each team? Does anyone listen better when they're not hungry? 🙋
The stronger your communication skills are, the more likely your team will get the resources they need, and the better they'll connect their priorities to your company's.
5. Be available to support your team members
Development manager may be a part-time managerial and part-time technical role, but in this position, you need to be a full-time leader for your team. When you want to consistently improve your team's output, you need to put your top-notch leadership skills into practice day in and day out.
As a development manager, you need to act as a coach of sorts for your team members. Schedule out recurring one-on-ones with your team members, during which you can chat about career goals and pain points on top of current projects. When you have a new hire, chat with them about their desired career path during the onboarding stage.
Based on what you learn, you can brainstorm ways to support their professional development. You don't have to pay for their bachelor's degree to help them succeed. Connect them to mentors, send them to conferences, recommend them for speaking opportunities — your options are endless (and simpler than you may think).
Offering support on both current projects and in long-term career goals is your chance to invest in your employees. It'll help them become better workers — and they'll feel valued, too. Did you know nearly half of employees leave their jobs to gain new skills? Keeping your development team at its best in the long run requires you to help each employee grow.
Lead your team as an effective development manager
Leading your development team to success takes an unbeatable blend of people skills, technical skills, and leadership skills. In your multi-faceted role, your ability to communicate and align your team with the rest of your organization is invaluable.
With Easy Agile Roadmaps for Jira, you can make team alignment simpler by dragging and dropping any Jira issue on a visual timeline. Watch our demo today to see how this tool can help your engineering team shine!
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