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How to Be a Kickass Team Lead 101

How to Be a Kickass Team Lead 101

Most engineers who get promoted to the role of a team lead, tech lead or lead developer (regardless of the wording of the title) feel like they were thrown in cold waters as they, most probably, lack prior training or education on the subject matter. Most of us that survive and actually get to like the new role and arrive at really good results, manage to educate themselves on the skills and habits required to become an effective team leader.

In this talk, I will cover the most important lessons about being an effective team lead without any previous knowledge about the subject. This is a practical talk and the audience will walk away with a lot of material and advice to upgrade their engineering leadership game, as well as a recommended set of resources for further study. The talk is primarily focused on developing leadership skills and is tailored towards engineers and software teams.

The learning goals are:
- How to develop practical leadership skills for your day-to-day job
- Understand the core components of leadership: ATM (Ability, Team, Mission)
- How to build teamwork on a foundation of trust
- How to overcome the main dysfunctions to look in order to tighten up your team
- Increase your awareness of the main anti-patterns that team leads end up doing


Ahmad Alhour

May 03, 2019


  1. How to Become a Kickass Team Lead 101 Ahmad Alhour

    / Team Lead, TrustYou 03 May 2019
  2. A TEASER 2

  3. 3

  4. Leadership 4

  5. “ 5 Leadership ability is the lid that determines a

    person’s level of effectiveness. The lower your ability to lead, the lower the lid on your potential. ~ John C. Maxwell Leadership = Influence
  6. 6 Ability to Lead Ability to Influence Impact = = Leadership = Influence
  7. The 5 Levels of Leadership 7

  8. Leadership Recipe: 1. Mission 2. Team 3. Ability 8

  9. Mission Starting with the End in Mind 9

  10. 10

  11. 11

  12. Questions to Ask • What is the purpose of my

    team? • How does that help the company achieve its goals? • How can I increase the impact my team has on the broader mission of the company? 12
  13. Example Mission 01 Product Design Team, Netflix: “Our mission is

    to design a television experience that drives our members to discover and connect to stories, characters and worlds they’ll love.” 13
  14. Why is leading by mission so important? 14

  15. Mission Superpowers • Instill a Sense of Purpose • Focus

    on the Right Problems • Objectively Align People 15
  16. How do we progress on a mission? 16

  17. How do we measure progress on a mission? 17

  18. 18

  19. OKRs Objectives are the “Whats” • Express goals, intents and

    provide value Key Results are the “Hows” • Describe measurable outcomes, not activities Doerr’s formula: • I will (Objective) as measured by (this set of Key Results) 19
  20. OKRs Example Objectives: • Successfully implement the weekly newsletter Key

    Results: • Grow subscriber base at least 15% for Q1 • Increase CTR% to above industry average of 3.5% • Increase NPS by 20% for Q1 20
  21. OKRs Timeline: An Example 21

  22. OKRs Superpowers • Align for Better Teamwork • Focus and

    Commit to Priorities • Track Progress for Accountability 22
  23. Leadership Recipe: 1. Mission 2. Team 3. Ability 23

  24. Leading People 24

  25. 25

  26. “ 26 ‘‘It describes a team climate characterized by interpersonal

    trust and mutual respect in which people are comfortable being themselves.’’ Psychological Safety
  27. Psychological Safety is predicated on Trust 27

  28. ... and the individual’s willingness to take risks given the

    perception of their peers towards it 28
  29. 29

  30. 30 The Five Dysfunctions of a Team Inattention to Results

    Absence of Accountability Lack of Commitment Fear of Conflict Absence of Trust
  31. 31

  32. Stems from: • Unwillingness to show vulnerability and open up

    about weaknesses Counter-measures: • Encourage openness by going first! • Reward collaboration and mentorship 32 Absence of Trust
  33. Stems from: • Failure to build trust • Unwillingness to

    engage in debating ideas Counter-measures: • Encourage healthy conflicts as productive and necessary as possible • Frame conflicts under problem-solving 33 Fear of Conflict
  34. Stems from: • Lack of a platform for healthy conflicts

    • The need for clarity • The desire for consensus Counter-measure: • Timebox making decisions • Get buy-in despite disagreement 34 Lack of Commitment
  35. Stems from: • Tendency to avoid discomfort • Unwillingness to

    discuss under-performers Counter-measure: • Ensure high performance through peer-pressure • Encourage people to hold you accountable 35 Avoidance of Accountability
  36. Stems from: • Valuing personal interests over that of the

    group Counter-measures: • Tie team goals to personal interests • Publicly announce declared wins! • Maintain a publicly visible scoreboard of the team's progress to everyone 36 Inattention to Results
  37. 37 Dysfunctional Teams Inattention to Results Absence of Accountability Lack

    of Commitment Fear of Conflict Absence of Trust
  38. 38 Functional Teams Focus on group results Hold each other

    accountable Commit to plans of action Healthy debates around ideas Established Trust
  39. 39

  40. Leading by example dictates taking full ownership 40

  41. Leading by example necessitates being adaptable to situations 41

  42. Leadership Recipe: 1. Mission 2. Team 3. Ability 42

  43. Leadership Ability 43 • The sum total of your: ◦

    Character & Skills ◦ Strengths & Weaknesses • Can be trained like any other skill • Requires time and practice
  44. Leadership style • There is no single best style for

    leading people • It depends on several factors in your environment 44
  45. 45

  46. Anti-Patterns 46

  47. 47 AP #1: The Dictator

  48. 48 AP #2: The Hero

  49. 49 AP #3: The Mole

  50. 50 AP #4: The Tourist

  51. 51 AP #5: The Academic

  52. Leadership Recipe: 1. Mission 2. Team 3. Ability 52

  53. Thanks! Any questions? 53 Find me at:

  54. Resources Videos: 1. How Great Leaders Inspire Action, Simon Sinek

    2. Building Engineering Teams Under Pressure, Julia Grace 3. What I Wish I Knew as a First Time Tech Lead, Pat Kua Articles: 1. OKRs Guide, re:Work 2. Mission-Based Management, Forbes 3. What Google Learned from its Quest to Build the Perfect Team, NYT 4. The Simple Tool that Revives Employee Motivation, 1st Round Review Books: 1. Extreme Ownership, Jacko Willink & Leif Babin 2. The Five Levels of Leadership, John Maxwell 3. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni 4. Measure What Matters, John Doerr 5. High Output Management, Andrew Grove 54