Technical Leadership

The art of getting everyone moving together

by Mark Long |


The goal of this is to give you the tools to transition from technical contributor to engineering manager.

Why Does It Matter?

  • People are not “resources”
  • Your people are everything to your business
  • One bad day and they may talk to a recruiter
  • One talk with a recruiter and you might lose a talented engineer
  • If you do this right, your team will reward you
  • If you do this wrong, the market will punish you

Key Points

  • Do The Right Things
  • Align the team
  • Cultivate Cohesion
  • Tend Your Garden

Do The Right Things

  • “Managers do things right. Leaders do the right things.”
  • Would you respect someone whose words don’t match their actions?
  • Leading by example doesn’t depend on some natural ability
  • Leading by example is easy
  • Credibility is everything

Do The Right Things

  • Develop your own self awareness
  • Develop a mindset of humility
  • Be aware of biases
  • Relentlessly seek out feedback
  • Solicit other perspectives
  • Ask great questions, probe people on their positions
  • Be humble when you’re right and admit when you’re wrong
  • Take real time to reflect

Core Values

  • What do you value? What’s important?
  • Punctuality? Honesty? Team work?
  • What do you value in others?
  • You cannot fake this. If you do, you lose all credibility.
  • Spell out your values and share them
  • Write a manager README

Communicate Clearly

  • Do not ever avoid hard conversations
  • They won’t get easier
  • Own your feedback, don’t blame “them”
  • Use strong words avoid using weasel words
  • Don’t exagerate, no one always does something
  • Don’t ask, instruct people

Do The Right Things

  • Model the right behaviors
  • Be very clear about your values
  • Develop your self-awareness
  • Relentlessly seek out self-improvement

Team Alignment

  • Create and communicate a vision and mission
  • Establish goals for the team
  • Help team develop individual goals
  • Provide positive and constructive feedback constantly
  • Clarify roles and responsibilities
  • Seek self improvement
  • Adopt a growth mindset

Team Vision

  • Vision gives context and allows the team to make decisions on their own
  • What is your team is designed to do?
  • What is the ideal future?
  • How do you envision the team will get there?
  • Identify how you can communicate the vision and gain commitment
  • Does everyone understand it? Agree with it?
  • Is it compelling?


  • Money isn’t a motivator for most people
  • Passion motivates people intrinsically
  • Find out what people liked working on the most
  • What energizes your team members?
  • What crushes their souls?
  • If you don’t know this, you’re in trouble
  • Align the work with their passions when possible
  • Even if it’s not their core skill set
  • Personal growth motivates people

Goal Setting

  • Establish clear expectations
  • Collaboratively establish goals
  • Clarify the values that lead to success
  • Discuss the behaviors that align with those values
  • Determine “who” the person wants to be
  • Check-in regularly, provide feedback
  • Praise the good behaviors you want repeated.
  • Assess the outcome
  • Did the outcome achieve the desired results

Adapt Leadership Style

  • Adjust your appraoch to the individual
  • Directing, coaching, empowering styles
  • Junior engineers need more contact
  • More experienced engineers need collaboration
  • Senior engineers need some space

Foundation of Coaching

  • Day-to-day praise and constructive feedback
    • See something, say something.
  • Regular one-on-one meetings
    • These should be on the calendar, not status updates
  • Quick quarterly goal reviews
    • Go over their goals and see where they’re at
  • Annual performance review
    • Sum up the year and reflect on it. No surprises

Coaching Conversation

  • GROW Model
  • Goal state
  • Reality currently
  • Options
  • Way forward
  • Also Situation, Impact, Input, Follow up

Align Your Team

  • Establish and communicate the vision
  • Establish goals for the team
  • Align individual goals with team, department, and company goals
  • Adapt your leadership to the people and task
  • Constantly provide feedback and coach
  • Clarify roles and responsibilities

Cultivate Cohesion

  • Create a climate of open communication, trust, and respect
  • Understand and value behavioral styles
  • Create and model team norms

Causes of Conflict

  • Conflicting resources
  • Conflicting styles
  • Conflicting perceptions
  • Conflicting goals
  • Conflicting pressures
  • Conflicting roles
  • Different personal values
  • Unpredictable policies

Unmet Needs

  • Maslow’s hierarchy
  • You have a big role in meeting needs
  • Pay special attention to safety, social belonging, and esteem
  • Psycological safety is important
  • Status and belonging matters

Behavior Influencers

  • SCARF Model
  • Status - Our relative importance to others
  • Certainty - Our ability to predict the future
  • Autonomy - Our sense of control over events
  • Relatedness - How safe we feel with others
  • Fairness - How fair we perceive the exchanges between people to be

Create Team Norms

  • Define a “How We Work” document
  • The team should define this
  • Everyone must have feedback and input here
  • Make them visible
  • Hold people accountable to these norms
  • Lead by example
  • When changes happen, get buy in from the team

Cultivate Cohesion

  • You’ve created a climate of open communication, trust, and respect
  • You understand and value behavioral styles
  • You create and model team norms
  • You’re looking for unmet needs and things that might derail the team.

Time Management

  • Your calendar reflects your priorities
  • You will need to proactively schedule things
  • You need a single to do list for everything
  • If you’re in meetings all day you won’t get important things done

Effective Delegation

  • Communicate your intent
  • Utilize the appropriate style
  • Communicate the authority
  • Confirm understanding and establish check-in

Building Blocks of Recognition

  • Day-to-day Moments
  • Above and Beyond
  • Team Recognition
  • Service Award Recognition

Tend Your Garden

  • Recognizing and rewarding people
  • Create a motivating environments
  • Seek team member contributions
  • Delegating effectively
  • Orienting new team members
  • Encouraging learning and development

The End