Highly performing software teams are the heartbeat of a startup. With a successful team and successful product, your chances to be successful as a startup would increase. But what are the responsibilities of a leader according to their team?
Once our team was newly formed, we have done one good thing and run a role workshop. A role workshop was basically a 2 hour meeting to answer the questions below:
1. What are the roles in our team? Such as engineer, lead, scrum master etc.
2. What are the roles responsible for?
This session generated a lot of insights about team members expectations from each other. For example, a lot of team members were expecting new ideas about the product to come from lead not from product specialist. Also team was expecting the lead to code a bit and challenge the status quo. I can group them in 4 different categories:
Team was expecting me, the lead, to motivate them and solve conflicts within the team. They want leadership to reward accomplishments, helping them grow and also lay the foundation for knowledge sharing so that they can learn the activities of other colleagues. The last one was a surprise for me.
Team was clearly looking up to the leader to establish the best development methodologies, such as test automation, CI / CD, better agile processes such as clear estimations and stable priorities. Team was expecting lead to contribute to software architecture and frame the boundaries. Lead should make sure that processes are in place and they can be improved if needed.
Team was formed of engineers and they were working with product people closely. They were expecting lead to arrange the alignment between product specialists and them. Team expected lead to make sure stakeholders, customers are present in the team ceremonies, such as demo meetings.
Team was holding the lead responsible for creating and maintaining a technical roadmap. Lead should make sure that team is delivering and if not - help them to deliver by removing impediments. This could be hiring more developers to help the team as well.
An open conversation is the foundation of trust. I believe everyone would accept the importance of trust in leadership. When we had the role workshop, all the people with different roles within the team laid out their expectations from each other. So everyone agreed what others should do to become successful. This created a foundation for accountability which fostered trust. Also, applying leadership role definition into our team context, we created our own version of leadership definition what everyone agreed on. More importantly, disagreements became clear and role owner could argue that this is not something she does from the beginning.
We highly recommend to run a role workshop once your startup started to grow and you are not sure who should do what. Agreeing on expectations upfront would simplify everyone’s life.