Peek Into the Software Kitchen With Us: How to Survive as a Team Leader

Recently, we took another peek into our Software kitchen. As we have already received feedback from more than 30 participants, we can share their general impressions with you.

Due to COVID-19 measures and to ensure the safety of all participants, we decided to hold the event online. Despite initial concerns (personal interaction is always better), we are delighted we made this choice, and our participants have expressed the same opinion. We got the most positive feedback via the platform, which we used not only to gather questions but also to interact with our listeners using surveys. And what exactly were the topics?

Our views on the software kitchen are typically divided into two blocks (one more theoretical and the second purely practical), as was true in this case. With the gradual agilization of the entire industry, in the first part, we focused on the role of team leaders and their place in agile teams. Through several examples, we tried to show that although the role of team leader no longer formally exists in many methodologies/frameworks (i.e., Scrum), the job, or leadership ability, within the team is still necessary.

The current situation, where most of us work remotely, is an example. Maybe you ordinarily have a 100% coordinated agile team that meets every morning at 9:15 for a stand-up meeting, and everyone delivers the value the customer expects on every occasion. But now everyone in your team is at home, and if they are all responsible, they will arrange an online meeting at 9:15 and everything will continue as usual, right? Or it doesn’t… In such a case, you need at least one team member to take the lead in this specific situation and set the rules: there will be a meeting every morning at 9:15 on this platform; we work from 9:00 to 17:00; if you are away from your PC, set your status to away. The same applies to scaled agile methodologies, where, for example, each team sends a representative to the scrum-of-scrums. Here too, we can probably agree that it is better if this representative has at least basic leadership skills and can communicate not only with those outside the team but also with those in the team.

The premise, in this respect, is therefore very simple. The formal role of a team leader can easily be done away with, but just as with other project activities and skills, every member of an agile project team should know and have leadership abilities. It is precisely for this kind of situation that we are presenting our “Ten Qualities of a Respected Team Leader”, which can serve as a schematic checklist of the areas to focus on and, on the contrary, those to steer clear of.

The second block of our talk focused on the following key-point—that is, how to ensure that every team member (or at least the majority) has the right qualities and abilities to be able to take the initiative when necessary. We demonstrated practical ways and best practices as to how to identify and ensure motivation, how to educate people in soft skills and, last but not least, we also mentioned a few tips on how to avoid going crazy in the process.

The importance of soft skills often continues to be underestimated, which is at least twice as true in IT. But at the same time, the constant pressure on companies to continuously adapt to the changing environment is placing increasing demands on the soft skills of all employees. Therefore, it is necessary to emphasize that all employees regularly work on their soft skills and to ensure sufficient support from the organization (a so-called safe environment, even if something goes wrong). It is essential that you effectively and systematically make use of the relevant programs your organization offers and that you properly motivate employees in lifelong learning as well as in this area.

Of course, it was not possible to discuss all aspects of this complex topic in two hours, which was the most common complaint of our listeners (“the talk could have been longer”). However, we can honestly say that more than 90% of the participants have evaluated the event positively. The only thing left to add is that you can already start looking forward to another peek into our software kitchen. We firmly believe that next time we will be able to meet in person.


Authors: Michal Petřík and Vít Kluganost