How To Delegate Tasks and Become a Better Leader to Your Team

How To Delegate Tasks and Become a Better Leader to Your Team

How To Delegate Tasks and Become a Better Leader to Your Team

Being a senior developer who also has an executive function as a leader of a team of developers is quite a challenge.

Here’s a little backstory:

Close to a year ago, I was hired by a software development company. One of my first tasks was to manage a team of programmers who were supposed to develop software for an architecture and design company.

At that time, I was not sure if my new boss was just testing my abilities or setting me up to fail. Either way, there was no way of getting out of it.

Things got even more complicated when, in addition to my lack of leadership experience, I learned that the people I was supposed to manage had never worked in a team. They’d worked in different departments, had their own tasks, and had stuck to those tasks every day they came to the office.

Nevertheless, there was a lot to do, and I had no intention of doing the whole job myself. So, after a series of meetings, I got to know my team—more or less—and started to delegate tasks to people with corresponding skills.

After we struggled (it seemed to me) through and completed the project, I asked team members to fill out a small questionnaire to rate their satisfaction. The results were surprising to me, as they changed my perception of the role of delegation in leadership:

The average time a team member spent on doing a task had been reduced by 30% and the average satisfaction rate had increased by 40%.

The results made it clear: Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And the skill of delegating tasks is an important prerequisite to becoming a leader.

The Connection Between Delegation and Job Satisfaction

Delegation is a prerequisite of successful leadership, no matter what team you’re managing.
Researchers from Denmark did a study on delegation and job satisfaction and found that:

  • Job satisfaction grows with geometric progression, when a leader regularly delegates tasks
  • It takes team members less time to perform their work, primarily due to a perceived autonomy, with no impact on the quality

The study explored the feedback from people who worked in different areas that include software development, such as healthcare, governmental work, and private enterprises.

How do You Delegate to a Team of Programmers?

Although delegation, in general, is very important for successful leadership, the way it is applied depends on the area in which you work.

As for programming app and software development, here’s what I learned when delegating tasks to my team.

1. Do Preliminary Planning

Before delegating, make sure that you understand the technical specifications of the whole task first.

Start breaking the task into bigger chunks, and then break those into smaller chunks. For instance, if your team will be working on new software, there are usually several important segments to this task:

  • Creating a database
  • Managing the business side of software development
  • Working on user interface (UI)
  • Testing the software

These segments can further be broken into several chunks as well:

    Database: choosing database software (Microsoft SQL, Oracle, RavenDB, etc.), figuring out security standards, encryption, vulnerability evaluation, etc.

  • Business: law compliance, compliance with contractual obligations, etc.
  • UI: working on input controls, navigation components, informational components, etc.
  • Testing: implementing Software Testing Life Cycle, A/B testing, environment setup, result analysis, etc.

When it comes to programming, the devil is in the details. So, the more detailed your plan is, the better you’ll understand to whom you can assign each chunk of work.

2. Nurture Clarity and Avoid Micromanaging

Once you’ve planned the work to be done, it’s time to assign tasks. When assigning tasks, make sure your mission and message sound as clear as possible.

With a team of programmers, clarity is important. As I mentioned, in programming, the devil is in the details. I had a case when one of my team members copied and pasted the code from somewhere else, and it disrupted the whole system we’d been working on. In their defense, the code was similar to the one we were writing, but there was one small part of it that didn’t match our work, and that one difference made an overall impact.

When I gave a more detailed description of what I expected from my team, they did their job more accurately. For instance, if someone from the team is writing a code in JavaScript, we go over the tags, commands, attributes, and which external CSS files to include, in detail.

The case with the broken code, however, almost made me start micromanaging my team, which is something you should absolutely avoid by all means. Micromanagement has a negative effect on employee engagement. Imagine how demotivating it can be when your boss criticizes every bit of work you’ve done.

Delegation is about trust. Even if you doubt your team’s skills, don’t doubt their ability to learn.

3. Say No to Task Switching

When writing code, reassigning tasks is an absolute no.

Programming teams often have pressing deadlines, and sometimes, team leaders may decide to reassign tasks if they deem it necessary to speed up the process. In reality, what they are doing is adding to someone’s already big pile of work, and the process doesn’t really go any faster. Worst-case scenario is that common programming mistakes like broken cryptographic algorithms and missing initialization will pop up and you’ll spend more time dealing with them.

In this case, you’ll have to apply your mentorship abilities rather than your time management skills. I always try to remind myself to be more democratic by remembering a tweet by Patrick Rogers, an SQL team manager from the international real estate company Flatfy:

All your team members have a different range of skills and experience. It’s your task, as their team leader, to use those skills and mentor them through this current experience.

Bonus: How To Be a Better Leader to a Team of Junior Developers

I’ve heard many senior developers complain about having to manage a team of junior developers.

I’ve also had the pleasure of working with a team that had no previous experience in coding or software development, besides learning the basics at college or during programming lessons.

So, how do you delegate tasks to a team of junior developers?

Start by explaining coding standards and architecture to avoid redoing the work several times. Junior developers often come to work right after they finish their education, so they might not be aware of the specific programming style that your company follows. Explaining coding standards and architecture would rid you from spending time on fixing coding mistakes that could be avoided.

Instead of delegating small and simple tasks, delegate bigger tasks to assign more serious responsibilities to your young team, like proofreading the code written by senior developers. Sure, it no longer will be junior work, but from my experience, junior developers spend more time on small tasks than they do working on bigger tasks. Plus, it is a great learning experience.

After coaching several teams of junior developers, I realized that they often come to a big company not to practice the skills that they already have, but to get new ones.

When delegating, keep in mind that junior developers need more learning experience. They learned how to do easy tasks while studying; now it’s time to help them advance their knowledge. Otherwise, they will have no motivation to contribute.

Working with junior developers is not a burden, but a rewarding experience. The value of bringing juniors to a company is an opportunity for seasoned developers to become mentors, help junior developers start off, and pass on their knowledge.

Delegation Is Key to Leadership

It’s a common misconception that it’s enough for programmers to know how to code, and that’s all they ever need to do. In reality, we are often asked about other skills that seemingly have nothing to do with coding, such as management and leadership skills.

In my experience as a senior developer and a team manager, learning how to delegate is key to becoming a good leader. Besides making teamwork more structured, you build trust and respect, which are so important to the quality of work and job satisfaction.

To sum up, remember these key points of successful delegation:

  • Create a plan and break work into chunks before assigning tasks to your team
  • Be clear and avoid micromanaging
  • Don’t switch tasks
  • And, of course, nurture your team’s knowledge and abilities, and always give them the opportunity to learn

With these tips, you’ll be able to better understand your team’s needs, organize their work more effectively, and become a better leader in general.


3 Signs You Are Raising a quitter paul argueta motivaitonal speaker parenting tips parenting advice leadership skills

3 Signs That Your Helping Raise a Quitter

3 Signs You Are Raising a quitter paul argueta motivaitonal speaker parenting tips parenting advice leadership skills

Quitting is a bad habit and one that is taught and learned. As parents we have way more control over this than we think, or even want to take responsibility for. Our children emulate what they see. If you bounce from job to job, or hobby to hobby, your child is more likely to do the same. Conversely, if you have been committed to your marriage, your career, your faith, or to a fitness regimen, your children are likely to do the same. Duplication is by no means guaranteed, and as a father of 5 who has stumbled, fumbled, and bumbled my way through parenthood, I’ve discovered 3 key indicators of when I am enabling, perhaps even cultivating, a culture of quitting.

1. You Use Your Excuses As Their Exit

Being a good parent is hard. Very hard. Harder than most people think. Combine this with your faith, a meaningful relationship with your spouse, a career, a fitness regimen, and you’ve got a resume that would make any circus juggler envious.

It’s our job as parents to nurture the interests and creativity of our children. So what do we do? We have them learn an instrument. We put them in sports. We send them to coding or acting class. We keep them busy-especially during the summer months. Here’s the catch, keeping them busy makes your busier.

As parents we have way more control over this than we think, or even want to take responsibility for. 

After a particularly stressful day, the last thing you want to hear is, “Mommy/Daddy I have practice at 6:30 pm.” Don’t even get me started if you are the coach. All you want to do is sit on the couch. I’ve been there. When I get home after a long day, I don’t want to jump back in my car to drop off my kid.

Your child sees this and feeds off this energy. The last thing a kid wants to hear or see is their mom or dad groan about taking them to band practice after anxiously waiting for you to come home for the last hour. It sets a precedence and one that children can use as leverage to quit in the future. Remember, everything is fun in the beginning-until you want to be exceptional at it. Then the reality of what it takes to be good settles in. When this reality settles in is when most people, not only children, abandon their goals or dreams.

“But Paul, I have to force my kid to go and it’s a battle every time.”

I’ve been there. It is easy to just give up and let your child stay home or worse yet, quit because you don’t want to deal with the regular confrontation of forcing them to participate in their activities or because you are exhausted. You cannot permit your lethargy as a way out for your child or they will use your moment of weakness as an escape. Once your child learns how to use this as leverage they will exploit it. Trust me. They will. I know some of you will argue, “Not my child.” and I’ll just smile and agree with you.

Don’t let your excuses be the reason your children quit.

You cannot permit your lethargy as a way out for your child or they will use your moment of weakness as an escape.

2. You Finish/Fix Things For Them

It never fails. There is a class assignment or a science fair and one child turns in a project or a diorama that was clearly completed by a parent. I’m not trying to make a blanket statement. I realize that there are many talented children who are beyond their years, but let’s be real, when Tommy turns in a model of Fenway Park that looks like Frank Lloyd Wright could have done it, it’s going to raise an eyebrow. I’m all for participating in the assignment with your kid and using it as an opportunity to connect, just not doing it for them. Winning an award for work they did not personally complete is just as bad, or worse than participation trophies. Buy them the supplies and all the tools they need to complete the assignment, just don’t do it for them or you’ll find yourself doing this more times than you think.

It is important that we let our children finish what they start. This applies to everything, even household chores. There are more times than I can count where I ask one of my kids to do something, knowing that I can get it done faster and better than they can, and yet I sit on the sidelines watching and waiting for them to complete the tasks. It wasn’t always this way. I used to: 1) assign a chore to my children, 2) wait for them to complete it, 3) get tired of waiting, and 4) do it myself. This was a horrible pattern and it taught them that if they didn’t do something, it would eventually get done by someone else. Bad. Bad. Bad.

There is an amazing sense of satisfaction and self worth that is accompanied with finishing things on our own and as parents, it can be challenging to watch our children struggle, but it is necessary.

3. You Make Quitting an Option

I cringe when I hear someone say, “Try it, and if you don’t like it-quit.” When you start something with that kind of mentality you have one foot in, and one foot out the door. I’m not saying that there isn’t a time and place for exploring options, because there is. I am saying however, that if all you are doing is exploring options, and never committing to them, you are setting yourself up for guaranteed failure.

Shame on you if you are teaching your children the same method of operation. Live your life as you wish, but don’t rob your child of the pride and self satisfaction that comes from committing to something and following it through.

I cringe when I hear someone say, “Try it, and if you don’t like it-quit.”

My wife and I have taken our children to their activities on days when they were kicking, screaming and even crying. We’ve taken them on days where we were tired, hungry, stressed out, and broke. We are non-negotiable. My kids know this. In our family it isn’t about being the best in as much as it is about finishing what you start. Being the best is a by-product of staying committed and putting in the work when others are “trying it out.”

If you make quitting an option, most children will opt in and develop a habit of not finishing what they start. If you make finishing the only option they know, they are less likely to head for the hills upon the first roadblock they hit.

I hope you enjoyed this piece may it bring more commitment and success to you and your children.

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– Paul