Tech leads: Build real relationships at work

I was in a great, simple example of team building yesterday. Even though many of us have worked together for some time, we went around the room and explained where we grew up, how we ended up at the company, what about the company’s culture mattered to us, and basically told each other a lot about who we were.

It risked being tedious, but when people actually open up then I feel like we made a ton of progress in jelling the team. People opened up because it was being led by a leader (two leaders, actually) who in fact wanted to hear the stories and get to know his or her people – not merely their roles, or titles, or performance in those things – but actually get to know them as individual human beings.

Most remarkable was the effect it had on the director who called the session. When we finished, you could see on his face and hear in his words how getting to know the stories made his burden as a lead heavier. His tone became more reverent; he seemed to resolve to make this task we’re working on successful not just for the company but for us as individuals.

Sometimes I think managers don’t take this step and don’t engage in this deeper understanding of the team because they know, instinctively, that it will raise the stakes on their leadership.

It’s one thing to fail yourself or even cause the company to lose money, but when you’re aware that Swetha could have to go home to tell her second grader that she lost her job because the team failed – now you’re playing a different game.

I just thought today was a clean example of a leader who didn’t shy away from it.

What are you doing as a tech lead to get to know your people and their families? Are you embracing it, as my director did, or shying away from it?

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