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So you just got thrown into a Leadership Role but you have No Experience?
On Friday afternoon, your boss approaches you with a smile and asks you to step into his office.
He tells you how happy he is with your work within the team and tells you there is a vacant leadership position for which he believes you will be perfect. Naturally, you feel flattered to be offered the role, and because you don't want to disappoint your boss, you say “Yes”.
When you get home, and the thrill wears off, you realize you don't know what the new job means. Suddenly you feel a little intimidated, and the imposter syndrome starts kicking in. So, where do you go from here?
When a software engineer moves into a leadership role, they are typically responsible for managing and leading a team of software developers. They may also be involved in planning and coordinating software development projects and ensuring that the unit meets project deadlines and delivers high-quality work. You are no longer just a software developer; you are now also a People Leader.
You've been dealing with code, algorithms, and maybe a bit of mentoring on how to write a clean, testable recursive function up until now. These things are deterministic; People are non-deterministic and will provide you with a new set of challenges.
As a People Leader, your role on a fundamental level is to remove obstacles so your team can deliver the initiatives your stakeholders expect. As you can imagine, there are many other aspects to leading people, but for now, we will focus on what you need to do on your first day and we are happy to provide you with a useful tool to help you on your way.
First up, we recommend you download our 1:1 Meeting template - you can find that here:
This template will be the first of many tools you will need to lead your team effectively. We recommend the first thing you do when you arrive in your new role is set up a recurring 1:1 meeting with each of your direct reports in a room or online meeting where you can talk privately, face to face.
It’s likely as a software developer, your leader held 1:1 meetings with you. You’re now on the other side of the table, things might look a bit different from this side. Let’s recap what 1:1 meetings are all about.
The ultimate purpose of a 1:1 meeting is to provide a dedicated time for a leader or manager to have a private and focused conversation with each team member. 1:1 meetings are an effective tool for building trust and fostering open communication between team members and their leaders.
Some of the main objectives of one-on-one meetings include, but are not limited to:
Provide regular check-ins and updates on individual and team performance.
Identifying and discussing any challenges, obstacles or issues the team member may face.
Provide guidance, mentorship, and coaching to help a team member improve their skills and achieve their goals.
Gain valuable feedback and suggestions from your team on improving yourself, the group or the organization.
As we said, the very first task on day one in your new role is the most important, getting to know your team on an individual level, and this will begin the process of continuously improving yourself as a leader.
Why is a one-on-one meeting essential, and how do you make it effective? Here are a few steps to help you out
Before you get into work topics, it's good to open the discussion with an icebreaker.
The icebreaker could be as simple as 'how was your weekend?'. If you have something in common with them, you can talk about that but try to talk about something other than work. This approach will open the lines of communication and make them feel at ease and open to talk about work matters.
If this is the first time you have had a 1:1 with this team member, it’s best to set expectations. Explain what purpose of 1:1’s and how often they will take place.
Secondly, you need to ask your team members if they have all the tools and resources necessary to do their job. Without these, work stops. This is often referred to in leadership circles as 'basic hygiene.'
Thirdly, you will need to understand if there are any immediate and urgent obstacles the team member faces in the course of doing their job. Note that your role is to be a 'Roadblock Remover' so your team members can get on with the task.
The last fundamental step in running an effective 1:1 is to set goals for your team members and formulate some initial actions you can take and follow up on for your next meeting. One method of setting these goals is to guide your team members through the GROW model. If you haven't heard of the ‘GROW’ model, it is basically a framework used by many employers to help employees improve their work performance, solve a problem or identify and learn a new skill. If you’d like to learn more about the GROW model and how to implement it, or what other ways you can run effective 1:1’s, contact us for mentoring opportunities.
There is much more involved in being a good People Leader, and to be a great People Leader requires skills and attributes that we will discuss in upcoming articles. But for now, focus on the task at hand, get to know your team, and begin the process of leading by first actively listening. Then, you will learn how to proceed and what actions you need to take to help your team members succeed.