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I'm in my first year as a team lead, and the team I'm managing is mostly new employees who have all been hired in the past 6 months so they haven't gotten to a stage where they're comfortable with all the projects the team owns and need my help in getting them up to speed (I've been in the company for 3 years)

Most of my time though is being spent in meetings because we would have 3-4 projects running at the same time along with ad-hoc tasks : enter image description here

My team consists of 6 developers, a project manager, a designer, a scrum master that we share with another team and a business analyst, and me

How this has affected me is I rarely have anytime to do hands-on work and frankly I’m just burnt out from always rushing to get the work done over taking sometime to think about the projects we’re doing. Not writing any code made me distant from the developers and not into the details. Having to manage work for 6 developers is also very time consuming, and I feel more like a manager instead of a tech lead. I don’t have time to pair up with the devs which makes it hard for me to see what can be improved.

Recently, there was a pretty bad bug that made its way to production in one of the projects my team is developing that was caused by a human error and got missed in the PR

How can I convince management that I am overwhelmed by both the number of projects the team is required to deliver (hence the many many meetings) and the size of the team (I'd prefer 4 developers instead of 6)?

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    What happened after the bug made its way into production? Were you held responsible for it? You go from "this is my schedule" straight to "it is too much", but you don't really explain why you consider it too much. That makes answering the question hard (if not impossible)
    – Erik
    Aug 15 at 7:57
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    Thanks that’ll help me fill in the gaps, here’s why it is too much:
    – Nickolozo
    Aug 15 at 10:06
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    1. I don’t have time to get hands on, which makes me distant from the team and the products we’re working on. 2. I don’t have time to pair up with the developers, making it hard for me to see what can be improved. Points 1&2 would’ve prevented said bug from happening. 3. I don’t have enough time to think about what we’re doing rather I’m rushing to get on top of our todo list, which invites quick work but bad quality and missing details. 4. I’m burning out
    – Nickolozo
    Aug 15 at 10:13
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    Those are good updates and worth editing into the question. Comments often get purged after a while, so to preserve all that info it has to be in the question itself :)
    – Erik
    Aug 15 at 10:56
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    @Jeroen in my company the official title is a team lead but I'm also responsible for the tech that the team is working on in terms of architecture, code & technical mentorship
    – Nickolozo
    Aug 16 at 0:04
18

You not only feel like a manager, you are a manager now that you are team lead.

Don't give your manager problems to solve. You shouldn't convince your manager that you are overloaded, but that there is something within your team that you want to change to improve the team's effectiveness. You need to identify the root of the problems that you are encountering. Too many meetings is not the problem, it's a consequence. No time to sit with the devs is not the problem, it's a consequence.

Think about what the problem here in. Is it really the case that you should be sitting with all six devs, or is the team not in balance. Perhaps there should be 2 senior devs who can sit with the four others, while you work with the seniors mainly? Not to create more layers, but to delegate some work away from you.

Once you've identified the root causes of your issues, you need to decide how it should change in order for you to not feel overloaded. 'less meetings' is not the solution, but 'better prioritization' or 'hire senior devs' could be. Then make a plan for your manager on how to change this. This can be anything, from hiring new developers to assigning you a coach (experienced manager) that will help you handle this. Include any training you would want/need and include expense estimates, and explain which issues (and thus money) will be prevented by not having expensive bugs in production.

Present the plan and make it so that your manager sees this as a way to make your team more productive, while at the same time keeping you away from burn-out.

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  • Love your answer Jeroen, I’ve mentioned in the question what I think would decrease these consequences which is decreasing the Projects (a hard sell as it sounds like “you’re giving me too much work to do I want to do less”) and having a 4 member team instead of 6. So I know what I want to change, but I’m not sure how to
    – Nickolozo
    Aug 19 at 3:41
  • @Nickolozo 1/2 In the question you state that you want to convince management that you're overloaded by the number of projects and the amount of developers, not necessarily that you want to reduce that. If simply reducing this is where you want to go, you will give a problem to your manager. Which is fine, your manager is there to help you. But managers appreciate solutions.
    – Jeroen
    Aug 19 at 7:21
  • 2/2 Your suggestion is to have less projects and people, which means they should be assigned to another team, which is a problem for your manager and could cause delays for clients. It shows leadership/proactiveness to come up with a solution that doesn't create new problems for your manager.
    – Jeroen
    Aug 19 at 7:21
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    "less meetings" absolutely could be part of a solution - especially if you're having meetings that could be emails or IM conversations, or attending meetings you don't actually need to be involved in Aug 19 at 8:33
  • @Jeroen so what you mean is instead of saying "decrease the number of projects" I'd say "de-prioritize project x to the next quarter so we'd only have 2 projects to work on this quarter"? (for context the projects are all for the same company so there's no outside client imposing a deadline but the deadlines come from the company itself)
    – Nickolozo
    Aug 19 at 10:19
3

First, do you have to go to all the meetings? Could you cut them short because you are overwhelmed by the sheer number of tasks?

Your number of direct reports is a little over the optimum, but not utterly unreasonable. and negotiating that down may be hard.

If cutting your workload down doesn't work, do you have a task manager, like Zenkit, Jira, or Trello? It helps to get that and put all your tasks on and all your obligation. You could even just write down all your tasks and their workload in a word document.

For each task note how much time they took, note whether they are in progress or completed, so you can get an idea of how much you can do with your limited hours of the day.

Then it's very easy to go to your superiors and tell them that it's physically impossible for you to have one to one meetings with all the people and manage all the projects and get everything done, and that some things will need to be sacrificed as stuff won't get done, or they need to reduce meetings, or they need to allocate more people or hire people to get it done.

That said, there's a good chance that you do have a toxic culture which will refuse to recognize your workload. If you show them how many tasks you have and their response is "Make it work." or "Sleep less." then it may be time to dust off your resume and look into a move. You've already had one bad mistake because they have a lot of responsibilities going on. There may be a bigger bug, and you may be blamed for it.

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You should be "busy" all the time you're at work; that's why you're paid to be there, so I don't see "busy" on a calendar as a problem.

But double- and triple-bookings are a problem and you need to start declining those because there's no point to committing to more than one task at a time. But that's the only way I can fit in all the tasks I need to do! you might be saying; but be realistic: clicking "Accept" on a meeting invite makes you think you are accomplishing something but you can't physically or mentally be present in both places.

It looks like your company is doing meetings wrong, just like every other company on earth. Meetings are for doing things that require more than one person to be present. E-mail and IM is for everything else.

The next time you are invited to one of these 1- or 2-hour time wasters, ask yourself if they can do it without you. If they can, decline the meeting with a note that you would love to contribute to the agenda beforehand or that you would be interested in receiving a copy of the meeting notes/minutes for follow up discussion.

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    The problem I see with the OP's calendar screenshot is that I'm pretty sure all of those "busy" blocks should actually say "in a meeting". And the OP is also supposed to perform other tasks (such as mentoring developers) for which they haven't allocated any time on their calendar. They probably should, but that's going to mean cancelling some (and by that, I mean a lot of) meetings. Aug 21 at 16:54
  • @Ilmari, I agree, I’m confident those are meetings that the OP has anonymized for purposes of this question.
    – spuck
    Aug 22 at 17:26
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Talk to the Scrum Master and Project Manager about reallocating tasks.

So, you're on what is presumably an Agile software development methodology, and your team has a Team Lead, a Scrum Master, and a Project Manager, and you're somehow still overloaded with management tasks. I'd look up the documentation for whatever methodology your organisation is using (it's clearly not pure Scrum, despite having a Scrum Master, because you've got a Team Lead and a Project Manager and you don't have a Product Owner, but it might be some sort of Scrum/DSDM hybrid or something), and work out what the actual responsibilities for each of those roles are. Once you've done that, you can compare them to what you're actually doing, and identify what tasks you're currently doing that should be getting given to the other two managerial positions on your team.

Having done that, you can then hold a meeting with the other two people on your team in managerial roles about the reallocation of responsibilities to be more in line with the methodologies guidelines.

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Rather than tell him your overloaded, show him what you can do in the amount of time you work and ask him to select which tasks he would like you to prioritize in getting done as based on what you show him that will identify your overloaded and he will see that rather than you telling him based on how you present it to him.

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How to convince a manager that you are overloaded? There are good suggestions in the other answers. However, they assume that your manager both has the interest in changing things and has the resources to make those changes. There are a lot of managers who will let people suffer in such situations hoping that you will figure out a solution on your own or that you will grow to handle it. When the manager does not have both interest in making changes and the resources, then the only power you have to make changes is in your willingness to leave.

Make it short and sweet. Ask to meet with the manager and say something to the effect of "Listen, this work load I have is too much. I would like to stay here. But if I don't get some relief soon, I'm out of here."

And start packing.

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