“I love me some me!”
Yes, there’s more than just an ounce of truth in that statement said by the great NFL receiver Terrell Owens. Terrell loved some Terrell. In fact, if you knew one thing about the man, it’s that he loved himself. Most of us can hide it a little bit better than Terrell, but we’ve all been guilty of this sentiment at one time or another. We suffer from pride and do our best to counteract it with humility. I’ll admit it—as a software developer, after I write a solid, beautiful piece of code, my pride gets a first-class ride on the ego train!
Why start an article about delegation with an eccentric statement about ego? The truth is we’re all good at what we do. We spend time honing our craft, studying our industry, and trying to better ourselves. Eventually, through experience, we’re able to understand and execute on things that less senior developers just can’t. Our peers and managers recognize this, so we begin the journey to the role of leader. And that leadership role doesn’t just entail learning all of the new frameworks and extensions. It also means learning a new set of skills. One of those skills is delegation.
The Quandary of Leadership
When I was first recognized as a leader on my team, the recognition was extremely rewarding. I had worked hard as a developer on this team and naturally stepped into some very minor leadership roles along the way. I was honored to be selected as the team lead, and soon the team was coming to me for direction while the boss was looking to me for updates on how the team was performing.
Rather quickly, I found myself thrust into a lonely middle ground. Management expected me to keep my team on task, and I was also trying to meet my standard deliverables. It was obvious that keeping the team running and efficient required some new skills, and these skills weren’t the kind of things I could obtain by entering commands on my keyboard and getting results.
These were skills that required—gulp—talking to people and finding out what makes them tick. Oh, and guess what? These skills had no tangible output. There was no rewarding pull request with a peer review after finding out that Jack needs a little more help with CSS and could use some training there. There was no successful build notification after discovering that Diane had some issues going on at home and it was starting to impact her work output. While I spent time building relationships with my team members, guess what I was NOT doing? Producing!
All my career to this point was spent producing. Talking and relationships were a side gig that never got much attention, but they unknowingly got me much further along in my career than I like to admit. I always liked to think that I would be promoted on technical merit, but it seems that managers are always looking for the next manager, and the technical merit is just expected.
This transition from producer to leader presented me with a new skill set to learn and start putting into practice.