5 Ways to Motivate a Team of Developers
It takes a very specific management style to lead a team of developers. Their day-to-day tasks involving solving very complex problems with a lot of unknown factors, and to do that well, they need certain things from their environment and their manager. Here are five ways to better understand and motivate your programming team.
1. Let Them Scope Their Own Work
It's frustrating for developers when anyone managing them assumes a task is simple, quick or just a small change. It's most likely that none of those things are true. The only person who can answer that question with certainty is the developer doing the work. Instead of drawing conclusions about how long it will take programmers to complete a task, ask them to scope the work themselves. You can adopt a scoping methodology like Fibonacci scoring or T-shirt sizing to help as you try this tactic together.
2. Give Them Uninterrupted Time to Work
Developers are charged with solving complex problems that take long periods of focus. Continual notifications from Slack or email can distract from their work and prevent them from making progress on a project. It's also very difficult for developers to jump from one project to another; when they're deep in code solving one problem, context-switching to focus on something else can cost them an hour in their day that they spent reacclimatizing to a code base. To get the most from your programmers, give them long, uninterrupted periods of time to focus.
3. Understand Their Language
This doesn't necessarily mean their programming language (though that can be helpful too), but more so the jargon with which they naturally speak. In order for you to work best with a programmer, you have to have a shared language.
This means you should know and understand the tools they use (GitHub, Jira, CodePen, etc.) and what common development terms mean (function, DNS, component, etc.). If you find yourself lost in conversation, take some time to educate yourself to show them you're committed to understanding their craft. If you're still struggling to understand, ask for help.
4. Show Appreciation
How hard a developer works isn't always equal to their perceived output. For example, a developer might spend several hours or even days trying to figure out why user data isn't flowing from a database to a product interface. This could be perceived as a small task, but in actuality, completing that task may not be small or simple. You can keep your team motivated and prevent them from becoming defeated by showing recognition and appreciation throughout the process. Celebrate wins, big and small, to show that you're all on the same team.
5. Create Space to Play
Developers spend a lot of time in deep focus working through complex problems. That means when they take a break, they're ready to have some fun. This doesn't necessarily mean you need to have a ping pong table in your office (though many do). However best suits your team, create space and time for your programmers to let off some steam, laugh and have fun.
No matter the project type -- from custom applications development to technical due diligence -- it's critical that you work well with your development team. Consider trying one of these five motivation techniques to get the most from your programmers.