Building a Cohesive Engineering Leadership Team

**Debugging the Engineering Leadership Team after Stepping into a New Role**

When starting a new executive role, it is crucial to evaluate and debug the current engineering leadership team. This can be challenging, especially if the previous executive has already left and the team has been operating without guidance for some time. In these situations, it is essential to assess the team’s dynamics and address any issues that may hinder its effectiveness.

**Gelling Your Leadership into an Effective Team**

Turning individual leaders into a cohesive and effective team requires effort and deliberate actions. This involves establishing team values, defining team structure, fostering relationships, and creating an environment where collaboration is encouraged.

**What to Expect from Your Direct Reports in That Leadership Team**

As an engineering executive, it is important to have clear expectations for your direct reports within the leadership team. This includes setting performance standards, providing guidance, and ensuring that everyone aligns with the team’s goals and objectives.

**Diagnosing Conflict within Your Team**

Conflict is inevitable within any team, including an engineering leadership team. It is crucial to diagnose and address conflicts in a timely and effective manner. This involves identifying broken pairwise relationships, resolving communication issues, and ensuring that all team members can work together collaboratively.

By the end of this article, you will have a framework for forming and operating an effective engineering leadership team. This framework will help you navigate the challenges of building a cohesive team, address conflicts, and establish clear expectations for your direct reports.

**Debugging and Establishing the Team**

When stepping into a new executive role, it is important to evaluate the current engineering leadership team and address any immediate issues. This includes identifying individuals who may need to transition out of the team due to behavioral issues or the loss of their team’s confidence. Additionally, any broken pairwise relationships within the team or with key stakeholders need to be resolved promptly.

It is also essential to assess whether the current organizational structure includes the right leaders in the leadership team. This involves ensuring representation for crucial teams like Data, Security, or Infrastructure and elevating teams that require more attention or better management.

By spending time with team members, attending meetings, and observing team dynamics, you can form initial opinions on these matters. However, it is important to challenge these opinions and seek evidence before taking action. Once confident in your assessment, make the necessary changes to the team composition. This may involve removing individuals who are not aligned with the team’s goals or adding new members to strengthen the team’s capabilities.

**Including Engineers in Engineering Leadership**

Consider including senior engineers as part of your engineering leadership team whenever possible. This allows for a blend of technical and managerial perspectives, which can enhance decision-making and drive better outcomes. If adding more direct reports is not feasible, establish a close relationship with a group of senior engineers to ensure their perspectives are considered.

**Operating Your Leadership Team**

Operating an engineering leadership team requires ongoing effort and attention. It revolves around four themes: defining team values, establishing team structure, fostering relationships, and promoting individual interactions.

**Define Team Values**

Team values guide decision-making and shape behavioral tradeoffs within the team. These values should align with the organization’s values and address how the team navigates conflict and prioritizes work. While some teams document these values, others integrate them into their daily practices. The key is to establish and enforce these values consistently, ensuring that they guide the team’s actions.

**Establish Team Structure**

Team structure encompasses the mechanisms and rituals that the team relies on to function effectively. This includes regular meetings for sharing context and resolving conflicts, as well as channels for information flow from the executive team to the engineering leadership team. By defining a clear structure, communication and collaboration within the team can be streamlined.

**Find Space for Individual Interactions**

Creating opportunities for individual interactions is crucial for building personal relationships within the team. When senior leadership teams become too transactional, they can lack a sense of personal connection. Encourage team members to engage with one another on a personal level, fostering trust and strengthening collaboration.

Operating an engineering leadership team requires ongoing effort. By defining team values, establishing a clear structure, promoting individual interactions, and fostering relationships, you can create an environment where the team can thrive.

In conclusion, forming and operating an effective engineering leadership team is essential for driving success within an organization. By addressing the challenges of debugging the team after stepping into a new role, gelling the team into a cohesive unit, setting clear expectations for direct reports, and diagnosing conflicts, you can build a strong and high-performing team. Remember to focus on team values, establish a clear structure, promote individual interactions, and foster relationships within the team. With these strategies in place, you can navigate the complexities of engineering leadership and drive positive results.

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