How they will help you excel at your role.
If you manage a team you already know that this experience can be as challenging as it is rewarding. At Octobot we have different management roles, and one of the most essential is the Tech Lead position. Our Tech Leads are seasoned developers with a highly analytical mindset that can fluently articulate technical problems to peers, delivery leads, and clients. These professionals lead the tech implementation in our projects and are the main advocates for enhancing our code quality and development efficiency.
Technical Leaders understand the importance of creating a healthy learning environment for trainees and junior developers, and actively contribute to their technical mentoring. Part of this understanding comes from applying soft skills in their daily work and interactions with the team.
Let’s explore the most important soft skills to be a successful Tech Lead and share some experiences and learnings from our own Tech Leads, which illustrate the importance of these abilities.
What are soft skills?
Before diving deep into the article, let’s clarify some concepts! Soft skills are social and emotional skills that relate to the ways in which a person interacts with others in the work environment.
These skills can be applied to different situations and jobs, and are highly valued by employers because they can increase productivity, satisfaction with the work, teamwork, and permanence of employees in a company.
Tech Leads aren’t the exception: they need these skills to effectively lead their software development teams to success.
Soft Skills for Tech Leads – according to our teams
For the purpose of this article, we asked Octobot’s Tech Leads which skills they consider most important for the job; here’s what they shared.
Empathy and creativity are among the top mentions. These allow better understanding of the needs and expectations of their teams’ members, and help find innovative solutions to problems that arise.
Another is effective communication. It’s crucial to communicate important information in a clear way, not only to team members but also to clients and other stakeholders.
Being humble is another essential skill for Tech Leads; this is what will allow them to recognize their own strengths and limitations, and stay open to learning from other members of their team. It’s important for Tech Leads to remember they are not above their teammates.
Critical thinking and problem solving also rank highly on the list for Octobot Tech Leads. These are necessary when seeking effective and efficient solutions to complex situations, as well as when comparing benefits and disadvantages of different technologies for a certain project.
Last but not least, a collaborative mindset is key for Tech Leads to succeed; they must be able to work within a team and promote collaboration through debates, brainstorming, and more, always taking into account different points of view.
Which soft skills are developed when working as a Tech Lead?
When talking with our Tech Leads about which skills they’ve learned and developed while on the job, they highlighted the following:
- Being patient: They need to remain calm to manage complex problems and stressful situations, and find an effective way to proceed.
- Building trust within their teams: As technical leaders, it’s fundamental to trust their teams’ skills. This way, their teammates can work together toward big goals with no fear of judgment. A Tech Lead must be open and honest, trusting their own knowledge and also accepting when they are wrong.
- Translating technical language: Tech Leads usually have the responsibility of sharing complex technical information with non-technical people. This is why it’s important to have a deep understanding and be able to explain concepts in a clear way, adaptable to their counterparts.
- Questioning given solutions: Sometimes, being thorough means questioning the answers and analyzing why things are done in a certain way. Asking important and critical questions will help any Tech Lead to make better decisions.
- Being a positive leader: A good Tech Lead must strike the right balance between guiding their teams and allowing them space for individuality and development. This will help team members gain autonomy and be more creative, leading everyone to the common goals more effectively.
Tech Leads face many challenges, and one of the main ones is undoubtedly maintaining a collaborative, motivating, and safe working environment.
One of the skills that a Tech Lead has to master is asking the right questions. Questions are a powerful tool to lead a team to success. They can help think critically and identify issues before they become obstacles. The art of asking questions involves doing so in a respectful and effective way to avoid putting the members of the team on the spot.
Another big challenge is building up the team’s motivation. A Tech Lead has to be able to identify members of the team who are lacking motivation and what they can do to foster enthusiasm. A Tech Lead also has to pay attention to their team’s needs and worries, create a safe conversational environment where people can give constructive and honest feedback, and ensure everyone is confident in sharing their thoughts despite seniority level.
Lastly, it’s important for a Tech Lead to recognize their teammates’ work. It’s a way to motivate the team, and can boost the general mood. The leader should identify the strengths of each team member, and give praise for their contributions to the project’s success.
How to develop these skills
According to our Tech Leads, a great way to develop and practice soft skills is through the experience of working with different teams. Interacting with different people and understanding their personalities is helpful to improve one’s soft skills.
Additionally, many companies offer programs to train soft skills such as leadership, conflict resolution, critical thinking, among others. In our case, we offer coaching with our People Care team, and we often work with enneagrams to get to know ourselves better, maximize our strengths, and work on our weaknesses.
In a recent article, McKinsey highlighted the importance of promoting learning and practicing soft skills within a company with public recognitions and appraisals, along with investing more in the development of soft skills within the organization. According to the article, it’s equally important to train the team as it is to hire new talent that already has soft skills.
A combination between work experience, good training, and the right motivation can help an organization’s team improve immensely on their soft skills, which in turn helps improve the culture and overall performance of the company.
Some data to back up the effectiveness of applying Soft Skills
In SHRM’s survey about the most wanted skills in the job market, it was found that the most important soft skills are critical thinking, problem solving, work ethic, professionalism, leadership, and written communication.
These findings suggest that those skills are fundamental to the success of both employees and organizations. It’s important to highlight that these soft skills are relevant for many roles, including the Tech Lead.
To summarize, Tech Leads need a combination of technical and soft skills to successfully lead software development teams and achieve their projects’ goals. By focusing on learning these skills, they can improve the outcome of their teams’ jobs by being more effective, and creating a more positive and collaborative work environment.
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