I'm moving into my second year as team lead for a small team. We work in a small Branch of a big company. We are all physically close and often cross paths and see what each other are doing, including crossing paths with my superior--who often acts casually as the team lead as well. (Yes, come to think of it this is a quite a pain and constant weight over the situation)

My team has mastered their main duties and have politely relayed to me that they are ready for an increased task load. They are interested in more variety of work, and in working with customers more. I agree with my team, and I intend to use my position to make this a reality for them. However, my superior is not the easiest person to convince for creative change. This person is not readily open or approachable on doing new things. They have a brusque style where they tend to incline towards quick responses in the negative. This makes it difficult to even get a conversation going as they fall into the conclusion so quickly.

How can I get through to a person like this?


Cream rises to the top. Do the best work you can. When there is no work for your team, judge for yourself what would improve the product and get your team to work on making a demo of what might enhance the product. This could be:

  • Demo a new feature
  • Show an analysis of what would enhance the product and how your team could create the feature
  • Team up with the Product Management to understand what are the features needed in the marketplace and get your team to put together demo's / presentations on those features

When work dries up, it can be:

  1. Nobody knows you have idle time
  2. Your team is being "rested" for a big project around the corner
  3. Your team is getting close to being laid off
  4. Management is too dysfunctional to plan far enough ahead to give you new work

All the organizations I've worked for like people to come up with new ways to do things that make the product better. These are more appreciated when they are easy to develop and deploy. That can mean some legwork to actually get new ideas to be accepted.

Don't worry about your supervisor. They'll be happy when you've come up with something useful, especially if you (graciously) let them take the credit.

  • Cream most definitely does not rise to the top at my company; there is this persistent resistance to new ideas, and experimentation. Your suggestions are good, but the difficulty is getting through to this person due to their quick shutting down of discussion.
    – Ootagu
    Dec 13 '17 at 7:07
  • "Cream most definitely does not rise to the top at my company" OK, your only issue is, "Do you just leave, and get a new job," or, "Do you enjoy the time looking for a new job, while still with that company." There's a lot to be said for the latter; however given that in software presently you can find a new role in 3 to 4 minutes, the former approach can be more productive as you're more free to start somewhere instantly.
    – Fattie
    Dec 13 '17 at 12:44
  • I don't recommend "getting through to them". I recommend doing it anyway and showing the results to your "supervisor" and other people in the company. Most people shoot things down because they think you're idea has no potential. When you demonstrate it has value (not potential) then most agree. Dec 14 '17 at 15:57

The art of timing can work wonderfully here. I will focus on a quick pragmatic approach. Are there any periods in the flow of the week where your superior is not present? Usually there will be such times on a regular basis, and also holidays your superior will be taking. Such periods where your superior is not present are key windows for bringing in change without any resistance. This way you can bring your team needed relief from the monotony of their work immediately, and they will respect you for your efforts and the speed of change you can bring.

In the long run this act as the beginnings of a shift in the task load which will spill over into other periods even when your superior is present. It will be like a practice period for your team to learn and take ownership of new skills, thus letting your superior see the positive side of such changes.

  • 1
    Careful... waiting until they are "not present" seems like you're going behind their back. I advocate moving "faster than the speed of ignorance". Do the work anyway, but don't necessarily hide it. Most people are clever enough to figure out that you were waiting for them to leave. Just down play the amount of effort and work it on the side without affecting anything else you are required to deliver. Dec 14 '17 at 15:58

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