intive Europe: How to become a Team Lead

Many senior employees with established positions have often thought about becoming Team Leads. It can be a natural step for those who are mentors for developers or other technical roles, or those who have leadership experience, as well as those who have been internal trainers.

However, it can be hard to see a clear path to becoming a team leader. Or in other cases, those who would like to be team leaders don't have the time to pursue this ambition due to other responsibilities.

At intive Europe, we know how important it is to facilitate such opportunities. That's why we’ve developed a program to help people become Team Leads. The program was launched and refined in Germany, and last year it was also implemented in intive Poland. The second edition of this initiative is already at the finishing line. More than 80 colleagues have gone through the training and are now helping to lead their teams. The next edition of the program will include even more intive locations. We want the opportunity to be available for every intiver to become a Team Leader and to be trained.

So how do you become a Team Lead at intive? This article will answer that question step by step.

But first, what exactly is a 'Team Lead'?

The Team Lead (TL) role is more about mentoring and development support for team members than governance. After training, every TL works with a team of four to six engineers. With a monthly commitment of up to 10 hours, TLs are still important team members for projects but with additional duties.

Here are the steps to get there:

1. Meet with your Delivery Center Manager, Line Manager or Project Manager to enter the selection phase.

Every intiver interested in the program is more than welcome to discuss it with their Manager. This may help to decide whether it’s a good moment to try and apply for a role. Senior Developers often have the choice of stepping into the TL role among other opportunities.

At intive, we encourage people to pursue growth opportunities within their interests, whether it's to become a conference speaker, an internal trainer, a writer, a technical recruiter, a buddy for new intivers, or a mentor for interns. Every person can choose the area that suits them best to grow their soft skills.

The Team Lead role is another opportunity to grow. The Manager can help define which opportunity would be the best fit for the employee by describing the role, its challenges, and a way to get there.

2. Take the TL assessment

Each candidate to the Team Lead training takes part in an assessment, which is handled by the Delivery Center Manager or Project Manager. The HR Business Partner supports this process in terms of tools and content. It is an assessment of the candidate's competencies and areas for improvement.

We are fully aware that not every candidate might have experience of leading teams.The assessment helps us discern leadership attributes and behaviors amongst intivers with leadership capabilities but haven't yet had the opportunity to lead.

If your assessment process is successful, your manager will inform you of the next steps to begin training.

3. Sign up for TL training sessions

The goal of Team Lead training is to help candidates adopt a new attitude toward success, beyond treating it just as a marker of meeting one's personal goals. In other words, to see success as helping others achieve their goals as well.

The training plan includes meetings where we will discuss challenges like how to manage employees with different levels of experience as well as finding the time to manage others.

We’ve prepared special Learning Maps for leadership development, which include resources about personal differences, emotional maturity, first-time manager's issues, motivation, feedback, and assertiveness.

4. Meet your team and get onboard as a TL

While doing their training, TL candidates are eligible to be assigned to teams to help lead them. The process of assigning a team is a very important step for both TL and the team. The Delivery Center Manager or Project Manager has specific Team Assignment Criteria that support their decision:

  • The first criterion is seniority: We want to make sure that juniors and mid-level employees are assigned to teams to grow with.

  • Technology is another important factor. It’s best for the new TL to work with technology used by the team members. That way, the TL can be a technical mentor. However, it’s also possible for a TL to guide junior-level team members with different technologies at the beginning of their journey.

  • We want all team members and the TL to be close geographically so they can meet in person from time to time.

  • Teams do not need to be on the same projects although if there is a long-term project they have in common, the assignment is possible.

Having addressed these four criteria, the Delivery Center Manager discusses the proposed team with the new TL before the formal assignment, and then with the team members. We give both sides space to influence the final assignment.

5. Establish a relationship with the team through NewMAP workshops

The final step is to get to know the team. The TL has a kick-off meeting with the DCM, the HR Business Partner, and the team responsible for briefing the new TL on its duties.

The TL also schedules one-on-one meetings with every team member, with the purpose of getting to know each other, talking about projects, discussing their development, and deciding how often they'll need to meet. The TL then schedules regular coffee calls or meetings with team members to stay in touch.

No earlier than one month after the kickoff meeting, the HR Business Partner conducts a NewMAP workshop. NewMAP is a formal starting point of working together that we offer to every new manager at intive and to Team Leads as well.

In order to establish strong TL working relationships, the goal is to achieve the following:

  • Create a space to openly share concerns and fears. The team can anonymously express any concern at the very beginning to avoid misunderstandings in the future.

  • Harmonize information according to the new TL’s role and responsibilities. By the time we deliver the NewMAP workshops, team members will have already gathered useful information to share with the TL being onboarded.

  • Create a common understanding of how the team wants to work together, with expectation management on both sides. Maintain transparent communication and clear rules of cooperation.

  • Finally, ensure that progress is tracked. The team and the TL establish a relationship and a foundation of trust that will have a positive effect on the future of their cooperation.

In their own words…

We asked Senior Software Engineer and Team Lead Maciej Beimcik what he learned through his TL experience:

“My learning path consisted of two phases, both interesting and equally important. The first was a series of training sessions that allowed me to gain the knowledge required for the role such as performance management, providing feedback, motivation and communication.

The second was practice: My manager helped me with how to conduct a one-on-one meeting and the HR Dept. set up a “new map” meeting with my team. I learned that people have different problems and different motivations. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, each team member requires a personalized approach.”

In closing: The value of Team Leads

We see great value in a program that helps identify and support leaders, and we encourage all interested intivers to follow the steps to become a Team Lead. In doing so, you can take advantage of an opportunity not only to develop skills and leadership experience but also to empower senior employees by becoming a mentor.

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