I'm a mid level developer and I recently (successfully) completed my first project where I was acting as the lead developer.

It was a fairly small situation: I was assigned to build something out and another developer was assigned to help me out. He actually isn't more junior than I am, but was put on the project in a supporting/"junior" type of role because he's not so that familiar with the language we were using.

I'm also in middle of a different project where I recently coordinated a lot of technical discussions between other senior developers. (We needed to make a pretty big technical decision on how to proceed. The decision involved a tool that I'm not familiar with, but I was the main one familiar with the project to-date. So I led a bunch of technical discussions with our developer SMEs for that tool. Basically, I wasn't the lead dev, but I was acting in a sudo-lead role for the sake of arriving at a decision).

Both of those scenarios went fairly well, but I'd like to hear the other developers' objective feedback for how things went (especially for the first scenario, where I was actually assigned to be the dev lead for the project).

My company has a feedback tool I plan to use for this. I've read some leadership blogs, so I have a general sense of what is good or bad from a leadership standpoint (ie. micromanaging, over-communicating vs under-communicating, etc), but I'm not sure what questions exactly to ask when it comes to a Dev Lead role where I was totally in-the-weeds alongside the developer who I was managing. I basically want to know what I did well and what I should do differently in the future.

Although I got positive feedback from the project manager (in both cases), I'm really interested in hearing both the good & the bad from the developers themselves, since this experience was very new to me & their perspective can probably be slightly different than the Project manager's view into how I did.

However, knowing the developers, I think it would be too open-ended to just ask "what did I do well and what should I do differently in the future".

What are the most important areas I should focus on when trying to develop my ability to be a lead developer? And once I know those areas, what are some specific questions that can help pull out honest answers from my coworkers?

  • Don't worry about downvotes. For my taste, the bold section doesn't match the title. And even so, it is very broad "how to be a good leader" question. Maybe you can provide one specific example, and ask whether you acted the best way to achieve X? – aaaaa says reinstate Monica May 20 '19 at 3:30

Also a lead here. I disagree that a tech lead or dev lead doesn't directly manage people and therefore cannot solicit feedback from their team. You have "Lead" in your title either permanently or temporarily, which means you are in a leadership position. A good feedback mechanism is absolutely imperative to lead people properly. I would suggest a less formal mechanism than a company's survey feedback tool (unless it's specifically for informal peer feedback).

For the general team dynamics, I recommend you do a technical retrospective or "retro" on the projects with the developers. The idea is to get the team to reflect on what went well and what could have gone better, but you can also follow guidelines for more formal retros. Remember the objective is not point fingers at one person, but figure out how the project could have gone better (or it was already the best you could do) and apply that to current or future projects.

For gathering more individual feedback on your performance from the developers, I would suggest a one-on-one discussion on what they thought you did on the project. Bring good questions to seed the discussion. This largely depends on your relationship with the individual and if they feel comfortable telling you the truth.

  • Switching to make this the accepted answer, as it really answers the question better. thanks @jcmack! – giraffe36 May 23 '19 at 0:46

Fellow lead developer here. This is quite subjective answer and might not be suitable in all companies.

The way I see it, is that lead dev is not a management position. It's technical position where you are in the end responsible for the technical result of the project.

Become better lead dev primarily by learning new technology, get a better grasp of architecture and design decisions, make decisions which improve code quality and maintainability, etc.

And of course it requires some soft skills. How you communicate, how you get feedback and good ideas from the team (regarding technical decisions), how to avoid bad decisions and upsetting/demotivating people, etc.

Because you are not a managing anybody directly, you can't really ask these things from the team. The only appropriate indicator is how successful the project was from technical point of view. To me it would feel quite awkward if tech lead asked how well they did. The answer should be obvious based on how the project went.

What comes to the soft skills, again I don't see how you could ask this directly from the team members, as you are not actually managing anybody. You could come out as pretentious and trying to raise yourself above the team. The safest and least disruptive way is to just ask your managers feedback on your soft skills and any tips how to improve.

If you used any kind of retrospectives, or the like, during the project, you could use these as a data to analyze your own performance. Go through them and find the good/bad decisions. How did you end up making them, who did you listen to/ignored, did you miss any details before calling the shots, etc.

Using this method could give you valuable insight about your own decision making process and highlight potential flaws.

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