Communicating Effectively As A Tech Lead
August 16, 2022
Here are my tips for Communicating Effectively as a Technical Lead, including tips for how to talk to teams and stakeholders. Available in more detail in my new article on LeadDev.
- Optimize your communication for your audience.
- Adapt to the situation & context.
- This may mean avoiding using team-specific jargon or making assumptions about context.
- Remember, it’s possible that acronyms may not be well-socialized even within a team.
- Try simplifying technical terms and concepts using metaphors or analogies where appropriate.
- Aim to bring all of your audience along even if they aren’t fully familiar with the same terms.
- Aim to not leave anyone behind
Be concise and on point
- Shorter messages are more likely to be absorbed in their entirety.
- Avoid discussing caveats and edge-case exceptions if they are irrelevant to that audience.
- Don't stray from the core point of the message.
- Mentally check if it's the right audience, forum, and time of the day before bringing up something different.
- Avoid filler words: 'basically', 'you know', 'like', 'kind of', 'huh', '...and stuff', '..and things like that'.
Communicating with executives
...to successfully motivate action, understand their process:
- Vision: Do teams know where they’re going and how to get there?
- Alignment: Do I agree with the direction? Is it based on data?
- Ability: Can they execute? Do they see the issues? Is there progress?
- Cost + Empowerment: What do they need to be successful?
- Structure your communication
- Start with the answer first
- Group and summarize your supporting arguments
- Logically structure your writing
- Listen attentively! Understand, reflect, and then respond to what’s being said.
- Observe verbal and non-verbal messages and signals before responding. Listen to what people are really saying and adjust your tone and response accordingly.
- Be attentive and open to feedback in 1:1 discussions and team meetings.
- When conversing with senior colleagues or stakeholders, hear what they are saying, if only to confirm that they’ve absorbed whatever you shared.
- When team members share their ideas, listen and ask questions to encourage them. * Replace a straight 'No' with a 'Yes, but' if possible.
- When it comes to written communication, reading is equivalent to listening. Read very carefully and re-read until you've fully grasped what was communicated.
- Initiate open communication with your team members.
- Have regular 1:1s and drop them an email or a Slack message (being mindful about disrupting their focus/flow).
- Promote healthy intra-team communication. Create an atmosphere of asking and answering questions politely.
- Regularly check that your team members aren’t blocked on delegated tasks and can handle them properly.
- Reach out only when you're sure that your presence won't be a distraction.
- If your team member has a ‘do-not-disturb’ sign, then respect that if possible.
- Be diligent and pay attention to the little things.
- In coaching, mentoring, and advocating scenarios, understand the needs of your mentees or audience, and document those needs as action items.
- When mentoring, try to understand what works for your mentee.
- Ensure everyone you're communicating with is on the same page.
- Don't be in a hurry to leave a meeting or end a 1:1 if you feel that someone is lagging.
- Encourage repetition and question-answer sessions to ensure that everyone has understood.
- Take notes – just for yourself or for others. Notes can help you remember tidbits of information you wish to convey but may forget.
- If your writing aims to help others learn, then document as legibly and concisely as possible.
- Include the date you created the document to help future readers estimate its relevance.