Being a Good Team Member: Supporting a Project Lead

There are a lot of books and blogs that teach how to more effectively manage project teams, and there should be. It’s not an easy task to manage a team of even two members. However, there aren’t as many that teach how to be effective and supportive when you are not the project lead.

To have a successful project, you need a great leader, but you also need great team members. Here are a few things I think every team member can do to be more effective on a project team.

To be a great team member, you must understand your role on the team, and that of your teammates.

If you are a junior developer, your role is likely focused on writing code, observing meetings, and learning as much as possible. Senior developers still focus on writing code, but they are also responsible for contributing to meetings, communicating with the customer, and managing any junior developers.

At Atomic, many of our senior developers also double as project leads. They have to balance the line between developing software and communicating with customers. Depending on the project, customer communication may take up the majority of their time. This leaves more of the development weight on the other team members. As a good team member, it’s important to recognize and react to these types of situations. Try to take ownership of an upcoming feature or set of stories. Hopefully this will relieve some of your project lead’s stress and allow you to dip your toes into a more critical role.

Be Proactive

Project leads are busy people. Between all of the meetings and customer communication, they are also responsible for managing the project backlog, presenting weekly or bi-weekly iteration demos, and managing the project budget. The last thing a project lead wants to do is micromanage their teammates.

It’s important to get your project lead’s input on priorities, but you should be prepared to make suggestions. Instead of asking which task to complete next, create a list of the stories that you think might be a logical next step or of high priority. Present that list to the project lead. While you are at it, try to queue up a few related stories at a time. This will help both you and your project lead make the most efficient use of your time.

Learn from Your Project Lead

At Atomic the general employee roadmap is junior developer, to senior developer, to project lead. Although you may just be a junior developer today, one day you will need to wear your project lead hat. When that day comes, the transition and the responsibilities will come much easier if you feel like you have been there before.

To make that transition easier, watch and observe your project lead. Listen to the way they communicate with customers. Read customer emails to understand the tone and language they use. Look at and understand any project management tools and reports. Most importantly, ask questions. Although you cannot be prepared for every situation that may arise when you become a project lead, you will have a better chance at succeeding if you can draw on the experiences of project leads you have observed in the past.

In order to succeed, a project needs a great project lead backed by a great team. A great team requires members to be cognizant of their roles and it requires members to be proactive. As a result, a great team creates an environment for learning and growth.

  • Awesome post, Ryan. These are great tips.

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