Hackernoon logoTeam Management Mistakes Every CTO Has Made At Least Once (And How To Avoid Them) by@silvanac

Team Management Mistakes Every CTO Has Made At Least Once (And How To Avoid Them)

Silvana Carpineanu is an enthusiastic Marketing Specialist who works for mindomo.com. CTOs that did the job before you have already made a number of mistakes. In this article, we’ll be taking a look at the top team management mistakes every CTO has made - and how to avoid them. Here are some tips to avoid these mistakes: not being there for your IT team, not knowing who’s working for you, and not listening to your team.
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@silvanacSilvana Carpineanu

Silvana Carpineanu is an enthusiastic Marketing Specialist who works for mindomo.com.

CTOs have a lot on their plate, including managing their IT teams. From experience, I know how easy it is to make errors that set your whole department back, causing your team to lose trust in you, and - worse - ensuring projects don’t get completed in time. 

The good news is that CTOs that did the job before you have already made a number of mistakes, which means one thing - you get to learn from them. 

By learning from mistakes made by others, you’ll be in a much better position to hit the ground running as a CTO. In this article, we’ll be taking a look at the top team management mistakes all CTOs have made - and how to avoid them.  

Not Offering Enough Feedback 

Your team craves feedback, so make sure to provide it when possible. In general, proper feedback:

  • makes your team feel valued
  • helps your team to improve 
  • opens up the lines of communication 
  • prevents future mistakes 

When it comes to IT teams, it also helps to improve your development policy and staff training, because it shows you their strengths, weaknesses, and what can be improved upon. 

In fact, research has shown that as many as 96% of employees around the world encourage constructive feedback from their team leaders. If you’re not giving regular feedback, problems will be exacerbated because your team will keep making the same mistakes. 

Here’s how you can offer more feedback:

  • Don’t make it personal - focus on performance 
  • Speak constructively but neutrally, try to offer positives to balance out any negatives 
  • Hold team meetings for feedback purposes 
  • Ask if your team has any questions for you 

Not Being There For Their Team 

We all know leaders who are always on hand for their team, ready to provide assistance and support, and answer questions. On the other hand, there are leaders who are hardly ever there - mostly out of reach, inaccessible and never answering the phone. 

As a CTO leading an IT team, you need to have good technical skills, of course. However, you also need good people skills and supervisory skills. In other words, you need to be there for your IT team so that, whenever they hit a rough spot or need a technical solution, you can help to get them back on track as soon as possible. This restores their confidence in their own skills, as well as their confidence in you. 

As a team leader, you will naturally have your hands full. Here are some ways you can still make yourself more available to your IT team:

  • Work in the same office as your team
  • If you’re working remotely, make sure they have your contact details, be it Skype, email, or instant messenger. Let them know your preferred communication methods 
  • Create a schedule and add blocks specifically for your team 
  • Understand that your team needs you - try working on your emotional intelligence skills to realise this

Not Really Knowing Who Their Team Is 

Sure, a CTO knows who’s on their team because the team works for them, but do they really know them? 

A key mistake made by CTOs is not taking the time to get to know who’s working for them. If you don’t truly understand who’s working for you, you won’t be able to delegate properly (see below), and you’ll never build relationships with your team members. This means any chance of boosting morale and teamwork is lost. 

Getting to know your team can, of course, take up a lot of time. But it’s in your interest to invest yourself in their lives. Here are some tips:

  • Offer to help with their goals outside work
  • Schedule 1:1 meetings
  • Host relaxed team video calls now and then, where the purpose is to get to know everyone 
  • Ask questions that allow you to really get to know them. For example, you could ask questions about their personal life, their hobbies and passions, what their goals are, and so on. Take an interest in them.

Not Listening

Successful teams work together, play together - and plan together.

When a team leader fails to listen to his team, they not only show a lack of respect, they also miss out on potentially great ideas that could have taken a project (and even the whole business) in a new, better direction. CTO Meetesh Karia of The Zebra says, “Listening to your team, your peers, the market and the other leaders in your company is critical.”

When strategizing, it’s important to take on board any ideas generated by your team. Listen to them, share ideas and build a better, stronger IT department together. This can lead to ideas that turbocharge the whole business, and it will also improve morale. 

Here are some ways to improve your listening skills:

  • Give your team access to more communication channels, including project management tools like Trello or Teamwork 
  • Host video conference meetings and ask your team if they have any ideas they’d like to share with you 
  • Take action. Listening is one thing, but it’s pointless if you never take action on the things your team members have suggested 

Not Delegating 

In my experience, delegating is key to the success of any team. When a CTO doesn’t delegate, it usually means that they don’t trust their team enough. As such, they decide to do everything themselves. This results in a messy project that gets delayed, and it also ensures their team loses confidence in themselves. Moreover, it leads to stress and burnout. 

Delegation requires a lot of effort, as well as an intimate knowledge of everyone’s skills. It also requires you to admit that, while you may be the best technical engineer on the team, you can’t do everything yourself. This means you need to have the utmost confidence in your team. Here are some things to consider:

  • Nail the recruitment process. It’s much easier to delegate tasks when you’ve already vetted everyone via a strong recruitment campaign 
  • Ask yourself what you are best at, and then delegate the other roles
  • Include everyone in the process. Sometimes, other team members know each other’s skills better than you do
  • Hand responsibility to your team, but retain accountability 

Failing To Properly Implement Goals 

Goals give any team direction. They help people stay on track, and ultimately drive a project to the finish line on time. 

However, CTOs need to take a lot of variables into account when setting goals. They need to consider how their goals will impact the business on a technological level, as well as on a cultural level. Moreover, their goals need to be aimed at bringing in revenue while constantly innovating. 

Goals that you can set as a CTO include developing a technical vision for the business and improving technology operations. However, you should also set more personal goals, such as delegating better and being a stronger communicator (see above).

Here are some ways to set better goals:

  • Create a concept map. Concept maps are awesome ways of visualising your goals and strategies 
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  • Be specific. Get down to the nitty-gritty so that there are absolutely no misunderstandings 
  • Make your goals measurable. This means including precise dates and amounts so that it’s easier to track your progress
  • Touch base. Talk to your team often about the goals you’ve set for them
  • Set goals together
  • Set clear deadlines

Wrapping Up 

Becoming a CTO is a dream many of us harbour but getting to that stage is just the beginning. To ensure you stay a team leader, it’s really important that you find ways of keeping ahead of the pack. 

Use the tips in this article to swerve the common mistakes every CTO has made at least once. And when you do make errors yourself, use them as opportunities to learn and grow.

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