Stop me if this sounds familiar.
Your development team is in chaos. For some reason, they seem unable to meet even a single projected deadline. It’s not like you’re being unreasonable here, either. They simply aren’t working.
Instead, they’re just wasting time. More than once, you’ve caught them browsing reddit during work hours. More than once, you’ve walked into the room to see them talking and joking around instead of doing their jobs.
Their motivation, in other words, is in the toilet. They’ve stopped caring. They’ve stopped taking pride in their work.
And there’s a good chance you’re to blame for it.
See, a lot of leaders underestimate just how much of an impact they have on the work ethic of the people around them. A good leader inspires passion, excellence, and drive. They know how to bring out the best in their people, and to help team members be better than they thought possible.
Consequently, a bad leader has the opposite effect.
Stop being a bad leader
Instead of motivation, they inspire frustration. Instead of passion and excellence, they inspire indifference and haphazardness. They don’t bring out the best in their team, they either bring out the worst or do nothing at all.
The good news is that it’s easier than you think to jump over the line from bad to good. Going from mediocre to excellent starts with recognizing your own shortcomings. Start by identifying these toxic behaviors:
- Poor communication. Everyone on the team should have a clear idea of what leadership wants them to accomplish, and how they should go about meeting those goals.
- Unrealistic demands. Your developers should not be forced to work 100-hour weeks simply to meet a deadline. If you’re running your team into the ground, it’s a sign that you either need to adjust your expectations or hire more people.
- A lack of positive reinforcement. As the old adage goes, if you don’t have anything nice to say, keep your mouth shut. Compliment your team when they do something right. And even when someone makes a mistake, frame any criticism you have in a positive context — talk about what they did right, and explain how they can improve in the future.
- No consideration. Do you treat your development team as human beings with their own lives, thoughts, and dreams? Do you care about the personal lives of your developers, and work with each of them towards their career goals?
- No respect. A good leader has everyone’s back. They stand up for their team, even if it means going up against a superior. Perhaps most importantly, they listen and respond from feedback. They address opinions, concerns, and ideas. If you aren’t willing to do this, then it might be time to reconsider your role.
- No agency. One of the most frustrating managerial styles involves micromanagement, where the boss is constantly hovering over an employee’s shoulder, second guessing their every move. Take a step back. Trust your team to follow your directives, and give each person ownership over their role. You might be surprised at what they achieve.
- Blatant favoritism. You aren’t going to instantly mesh with everyone you meet. That’s a given. But as a leader, you cannot play favorites on your team. You need to treat everyone with the same level of dignity and respect. Otherwise, you’re going to create a ton of resentment.
When a development team falls behind its targeted objectives, the fault most often lies with leadership. It is your responsibility to direct their efforts. To help them strive, grow, and excel.