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How To Get More From Your Development Team


by Jessica Thiefels, owner of Honest Body Fitness

Your development team is critical to the success of a business, especially if you’re selling a digital product. It needs regular maintenance, new feature builds, security upgrades and much more. If you don’t feel like you’re getting enough from this team, whether they’re working slower than is needed or seem disengaged with their projects, it’s time to make a change.

In many cases, this issue is a matter of leadership, rather than the employees’ skills or abilities. “Team leads often transition from a role as a developer, QA tester, or other hands-on technical role to the position of team leader, but the transition isn’t always an easy one,” suggests development experts at Stackify.

If you’re ready to be a better leader, and get more from your development team, keep these three simple ideas in mind.

Empower Your Team.

The word “empower” is a little buzzy in the business world right now, but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored. Empowering your development team is critical to getting more from them, in part because it’s important for developing great relationships between team leaders and your employees: “In the Project Oxygen study, the team found that high-scoring managers empower their teams and avoid micromanaging,” according to Google’s re:Work.

So how do you become a high-scoring manager that empowers your team? Google encourages their managers to use the following empowerment tactics:

  • Ask for input; involve the team in decision making.
  • Solicit ideas and feedback about yourself. How can you be more effective for them?
  • Reinforce their work with positive feedback.
  • Develop leaders by delegating and then that person ownership on the project.
  • Stretch their capabilities, as a team and individuals.
  • Mentor whenever possible.
  • Encourage open communication.
  • Show the team that you trust them.

Provide Better Learning Opportunities.

Learning is critical for your development team. Technology is evolving faster than we can keep up, and this team needs to be learning as fast as that evolution is happening. While in-house training and learning is important for keeping up with your business needs, it’s also important to developers:

“Developers equate skill improvement with career advancement,” suggest authors of a 2018 developer survey. This makes in-house learning opportunities critical to those of your employees who want to grow in their position within the company and beyond. However, your usual lecture-based or self-paced learning modules may not be enough to keep developers engaged, which is key to learning success and retention.

The survey authors continue, “From this perspective, managers should understand that employees are unlikely to simply go through the motions during learning opportunities. Rather, developers are active and willing participants who extract knowledge and value from training.”

The recommendation? A 4.5-day Instructor-Led Training (ILT) was preferred by those developers surveyed. Why so long? This time frame allows for:

  • Lab opportunities for hands-on experiences.
  • In-depth content and deep dive learning.
  • Addressing varying skill levels among class participants for more effective learning.

Improve Project Management.

Great project management is a must for your development team, who’s likely working on a wide range of important projects at any given time. Luckily, you don’t need to invest in a bunch of expensive tools to do that. Rather, you just need to brush up on the basics to make sure everyone is in the loop, projects have realistic deadlines, and your team is accountable for their work.

Sharon Florentine, Senior Writer for CIO, suggests the following ways to improve your project management:

  • Communication: Are you sharing progress updates with higher-ups? Sending regular emails and having check-in meetings with your team?
  • Time management and productivity: What distractions are holding your team back? Are you tracking your team’s time?
  • Community: Are you creating an environment where everyone heard? Do employees trust you, and you them?
  • Workflow: What obstacles are in your team’s way? How can you step in to make them more effective?
  • Leadership and collaboration: Is everyone on your team playing to their strengths? Who can help whom?

The last way to improve project management is of course to find the right tools. Focus on implementing one tool that will help your team be most effective, suggests Florentine: “From project tracking software to file-sharing services to team collaboration tools, find the solution that works best for your teams and put it to work for you.”

Get More From Your Developers.

This important team has a lot to give, you just have to remember that you’re their guide. Brush up on your project management skills, take learning to the next level, and empower them to do their best work and share insights and ideas whenever possible. When leadership is where it needs to be, your development team is more likely to be as well.


Jessica Thiefels, owner of Honest Body Fitness, has been writing and editing for more than 10 years and spent the last six years in marketing. She recently stepped down from a senior marketing position to focus on growing her own startup and consulting for small businesses. She’s worked for businesses both big and small, including a 12-person education startup and well-known organizations like Business.com and Active.comFollow her on Twitter @jthiefels and connect LinkedIn.