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How to Be a Successful Team Leader and Motivate Teams

What is it like to be a team leader?

For me, a team leader's work is similar to API: receive and transmit information and mediate communications between team members and managers.

No matter the size of a team or niche to which you belong, there are fundamental principles you should follow to manage people. Team cohesion, consistency of work in-house and on external projects, and the highest quality of deliverables would be the signs you are an authentic leader.

If you wonder what it takes to become a good team leader, read this article and gain practical insights into the aspects of training, managing, controlling, and motivating your team.
By Dzmitry Seachouk, Senior Manual QA Engineer at Solvd
July 2, 2021
What Does It Mean to Be a Good Team Leader?
Do you remember PAW Patrol and ten-year-old Ryder, a tech-savvy boy leading rescue missions?

He looks like an ideal team leader for software development or QA projects. Ryder has all the necessary characteristics for that role, including confidence, determination, courage, charisma, and positive thinking. The team he heads is well-trained and highly motivated to work with pleasure.

Ryder delves into new challenges, decomposes tasks, and delegates them based on the skills of each member. Treating his colleagues as professionals in the field, he relies on their choice of ways and tools to achieve the desired results. Besides, he is an empathetic leader who takes responsibility if the team fails and motivates and encourages colleagues when they succeed.

He uses a well-built system to manage the team, and if you compare his PAW team with a real-life engineering one, you may see that his approach focuses on eliminating overtime and financial losses.

That is the way a great team leader should work. Are you there already?

Read on to learn how to become a successful team leader.
To Be a Better Team Leader, Stop Making These 4 Communication Mistakes
94% of mistakes belong to a system, and managers are responsible, while team members cause only 6% of all troubles.

That is the stats by Dr. W. Edwards Deming, professor and management consultant of the past century who loved systems going like clockwork.

When troubles pop up, who is the source of improvements and solutions? An experienced and qualified team leader would handle the situation, eliminate bottlenecks, and fix the work of an entire team.

Are you ready to be an effective team leader for your team? Be more empathetic, refrain from jumping to conclusions, and don't look for a scapegoat.

Let me show you how to go to the core of any issue and help a team make it through to success.
1. Don't Let Emotions Guide You. Rely On Analysis
Your team has made a bad mistake: they missed a vulnerability blocker at the stage of Feature Acceptance and during a regression, which affects the Release Сandidate or Release to the Manufacturing stages. The deadline fails, and stakeholders are irritated – what would a good team leader do to handle the situation?

Don't force discussing the mistake to find someone to blame. Things may escalate into a quarrel. Analyze root causes and come up with the most efficient way out of the trouble.
2. Don't Stop until You Finish Investigation
Scrutinize every phase of a software testing or development life cycle and talk to each developer so that to go to the real reason for a mistake.

Weak points of any project often involve time management, experience level, team overload, poor prioritization, personal matters, or simple laziness. So don't treat symptoms instead of causes.
3. Don't Treat a Mistake as an Evil Intent
Actually, never blame – try to motivate instead.

The chances are low that your team has ruined a project on purpose. People making mistakes often need help and support to have things right again – give it to your colleagues.

Tell your team they have enough experience to resolve a challenge and avoid repeating a similar failure. That would be the best motivation and loyalty boost. Besides, you reveal strong leadership qualities and let the team see they may rely on you whenever things get out of hand.
4. Avoid Overusing Instructions and Guidance
You may think the more instructions you give, the better results your team will show. That is not quite right.

People don't appreciate constant instructions that make them feel stressed.

Many beginner team leaders opt for instructing colleagues on every step and controlling every aspect. But allowing more flexibility brings better results.

Try to encourage initiative and innovative approaches. People are more willing to work and apply efforts if they implement their own ideas. Believe in your team, and they may surprise you with creativity and unity.

In addition, foster an environment where each team member makes a valuable chunk of a project. Make them feel proud of what they do and praise results. People wouldn't think that "some are more equal than others" if they receive respect and have fair opportunities to promote initiatives without fearing criticism or fines for a mistake.

As a great team leader, you shouldn't condemn, criticize, or give too many instructions. Instead, support and motivate.
Motivation Is the Key to Everything
Your ability to motivate may radically change your team's attitude to work.

I can tell you for sure that reproaches won't work. Your colleagues would likely perceive your words as an offense to their dignity and would have to defend themselves, which would ruin relationships that bond a team. A team may feel less committed to work and disregard you as a result.

There are plenty of introverts in the IT industry. As a team leader, you should take care of them by building trust within a team. Make sure there are quiet and safe areas across an office where they may escape from noise and distractions (unless pizza has arrived, of course).

In addition, the proportion of millennials in society is increasing, and they have specific needs you shouldn't ignore. Focus on making communication at workplaces comfortable for people of different generations.
How Else Could You Increase Motivation in the Workplace?
I will share valuable tips for a good leader who experiences a lack of motivation in a team.

  • Avoid overtime that disrupts motivation, lowers KPIs, and affects team members' personal lives. There is a risk a great engineer may burn out and leave.
  • Try not to overload your team to meet the deadlines. That would inevitably result in decreased efficiency.
  • Inspire your colleagues - they deserve it. Don't take over challenging tasks but provide explanations and necessary help to your employees so they could complete tasks by themselves. Be patient and give them time to find a solution. They are likely to possess all required hard skills – just believe in your team.
  • Learn to delegate well. Your colleagues are professionals, and you should trust in their knowledge and experience.
  • Don't be arrogant when correcting errors, or you may look like a narcissist. By boldly demonstrating to colleagues your professional superiority, you would only hurt them.
  • Be ready to take equal responsibility for failure and success unless you wish to trigger conflicts and push your team to prove the opposite.
Be Creative
If you wish to add more creativity, here are a few ideas:

  • Prepare small gifts and give them out to praise achievements.
  • Introduce a "Sprint Winner" title and a title transfer ceremony like they do in UEFA Champions League. Competitions assist in dealing with stress and routine.
  • Take a dartboard and use it to create a lottery where a winner receives a prize for the most engaging task of the week.
  • Add humor, but never laugh at any personal flaws of a particular team member – that is rude and offensive.
And one more final tip: smile, it suits you!