Building high-performing tech teams: 5 proven strategies for managers

November 9, 2023
Reading time: 4 min

Many tech leads see performance as an individual responsibility. Their employees either deliver on time or go home. I have to say that I subconsciously held this point of view myself early in my career.

But then I realized it was my responsibility…

Here are the methodologies that we implemented in Smartexe, which helped us maintain high performance during a period of rapid growth. We grew from about a dozen developers to dozens of development teams, all while maintaining the agility and attitude of a small boutique.

1. Understand what slows your employees down

We all have our weak spots, some can be emotional, some related to teamwork, and some professional. Understanding and anticipating these shortcomings are the responsibility of a team leader.

I constantly work with my team leads to make sure they understand what can cause performance problems for each of their team members. They are expected to develop strategies for anticipating and overcoming these personal challenges.

2. Investing more in strengths and less in weaknesses

Many managers tend to invest in helping employees over their weaknesses. Sometimes this can work, but from my experience, it’s a bit like swimming against a current.

Most times, when an experienced developer is struggling with a certain task, it’s best to just give this task to another one.

Helping people develop their strengths can be much more valuable for a company. When each task is done by a person who has both the talent and the skill to execute it, you ensure both agility and effectiveness.

Keep in mind that these tasks shouldn’t necessarily be the personal choices of the developers, but choices you do for them. Of course, you shouldn’t push people to do the tasks they hate either.

Finding the balance between strengths and likes is the key to personal development.

3. Invest in collaborative learning

We all understand the importance of continuous learning and development, but encouraging individual learning isn’t enough. The fact that a single individual has developed a certain skill provides no guarantee that the skill will actually be used in the organization.

To ensure this, people need to collaborate on the use of new skills and tools in their teamwork. This can be done through internal workshops and hackathons, ideally involving different interdisciplinary teams.

When an individual in Smartexe learns a new skill, tool, or approach (this can be anything from taking an online course to participating in a conference), they are encouraged to provide a workshop to all people who can be involved in the implementation or use of this innovation.

For example, last week, one of our developers gave an SVG morph animation workshop. He invited both the web development team and the JavaScript guys, who have to be involved in such projects.

4. Enhance problem-solving skills

Teams with strong problem-solving skills are more likely to be innovative and successful. Their projects don’t get stuck less and if they do, they know how to overcome obstacles.

Making sure each individual is capable of dealing with problems or knows who to talk with when such problems arise is key for good and fruitful collaboration.

I believe that investment in developing problem-solving skills is one of the best investments a team lead can make. In Smartexe we invite experienced couches and psychologists for group training sessions and for individual sessions with struggling employees.

5. Remove all obstacles to healthy communication

Open communication is essential for any team to succeed. Free flow of ideas and openness to criticism is crucial to avoiding development pitfalls. It’s also great for employee satisfaction.

All developers should be able to provide constructive criticism to discuss sensitive topics without the risk of negative consequences.

For such communication to be successful, you have to address both sides of such communication.

On one aspect, you should make sure team leaders are open to criticism from their team members. I try to manage with a personal example, by encouraging team leaders to criticize my decisions and by taking this opinion seriously.

On the other side, you should invest in the communication skills of your developers. If they cannot communicate and criticize constructively, this is not going to work.

I highly recommend investing in communication and presentation skills workshops. A few weeks ago, we even had a Storytelling expert for a quick workshop. This might not feel like a skill for developers, but it was surprisingly practical and super relevant.

Whatever tools you use, high performance is all about culture. Because culture is, by definition, the way people do things in your company.

If you are in the market for some high-performing developers, consider hiring some of our offshore teams.

At Smartexe, we manage dozens of developer teams from Ukraine and other places in Eastern Europe. These are organic teams with healthy internal dynamics, ready to tackle your challenges and start delivering results from day one.

Looking forward to hearing from you.