A guide to managing technical teams successfully

Women in yellow jumper holds pencil whilst in a meeting.

Leading a team of technically-minded experts might seem demanding at first, but our guide shows you how to get the best from the techies in your charge.

Whether it’s developers, software engineers or any other kind of tech specialist you’re leading, managing a technical team can come with all sorts of challenges – especially if you’re not well versed in tech to begin with.

Factor in working in a sector not especially known for its people skills and getting the best from your team can seem even tougher. But just because they respond in ways other teams might not, there are still plenty of ways to successfully manage and guide them towards greatness.

Here, we’ll present a series of methods, approaches and strategies to engage and inspire the tech-focused teams you’re managing.

Reward problem-solving

Technical people are all about solving problems, delivering upgrades, and suggesting improvements. As their manager, it’s up to you how you can incentivise and reward these actions.

With tech teams, the dynamic in this regard tends to differ from, say, a business team. While business teams may be more motivated by power, your average tech person will favour recognition for solving a problem instead.

Make sure you’re giving them the appropriate credit any time they overcome a challenge. And do it in a way that displays their skills and talents to others within the company.

Use cross-team meetings, group messages or blog posts as an opportunity to fly the flag for your team and highlight their technical achievements.

programmers talking

Share customer feedback

Technical folk might not be too concerned with the intricacies of the business, but they most certainly like knowing how their work is being used. Let them know how helpful their efforts are by presenting data that shows how it benefits customers.

By regularly sharing customer feedback with your team, it not only acts as a confidence booster but also shows them what steps they need to take to improve product delivery.

Don’t be afraid to take a backseat

In a technical team filled with knowledgeable, skilled experts, the last thing you’ll want to do is disrupt their workflow. As a manager, you should be making sure everything is progressing nicely as opposed to involving yourself in everyone’s to-do lists.

Tech teams don’t like to be told to do things exactly this way or that. So, instead of intruding on procedures and setting rules that must be adhered to, allow them to define how the work will be accomplished. Ideally, all you should have to do is set clear objectives and give them a deadline to finish things by.

After all, it’s the team themselves that know how a product can best be delivered. By offering them this much-needed flexibility, you should receive enthusiasm and energy in return. Being dictated to by someone with less knowledge and expertise than them, on the other hand, will result in quite the opposite.

businessman looking at his phone

Ask the right questions

If you find yourself managing a tech team who are more on the introverted side, interacting with people who only speak when it’s necessary can take some getting used.

To get these team members to open up, it’s up to you to make your questions as thoughtful, specific and focused on improving product delivery as possible.

Don’t try to fake it

Ideally, the manager of a technical team should come from a technical background. But even without prior grounding, a project manager can still be effective in their role by learning basic tech principles and terminology.

The key thing here, however, is pretending you know what you’re talking about. Sometimes it might be the case that non-technical managers feel intimidated by unfamiliar jargon and processes. By all means, read up on specific topics, but don’t try to act like an armchair tech expert.

Instead of exposing your ignorance, focus on the managerial skills you know you excel at and let your team solve the complex technical questions instead.

Know how to cope with intense workloads

The tech sector tends to have its fair share of tight deadlines and short project cycles – which can leave employees feeling the pressure. When employees feel like they can never really switch off, it can lead to disengagement, burnout, and turnover, as well as pressure on relationships outside of work.

colleagues having a conversation

Helping teams deal with their workloads without falling into unhealthy behaviours that impact wellbeing and productivity is certainly challenging. But as a manager, it’s important to be equipped with the right tools to help others cope.

One way of addressing this might be to focus on the outcome rather than the activity. Look at the work that’s being done and ask yourself whether it’s necessary for the outcome. Minimising these superfluous tasks can help to reduce disengagement amongst your team.

Click here for more tips on how to recognise and remedy burnout.

Don’t force technicians to be managers

Although some people will want their career path to progress to managerial roles, not everyone is the same. Certain team members are content with developing their expertise in their current role.

If that’s the case, you should create a system where technical staff don’t need to become managers to grow their careers. Don’t undervalue their efforts; make sure they’re being paid well to reflect the value they bring to the company.

Rather than knowing they’re confined to a rigid system of progressing through a company, technical people are far more receptive to the idea of controlling their own career path. You should try creating a “technical hierarchy” where people are rewarded and recognised for their technical achievements and capabilities instead.

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