Leading a team, not a family

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Have you ever had the feeling of belonging to a family in your workplace?. What about that sentence “we are not a company, we are a family”?. Maybe, as a leader, you had the feeling that you are failing to your team members because they are not doing what they want all the time. Within your family or your bunch, you do almost what you want to. And here is where the magic question comes. Are you leading a family, a gang of friends, or are you leading a team?

I’d like to share my vision about the important difference between leading as a family or as a team. Engage!

Is there any difference?

A family, your family, represents a set of feelings really difficult to enumerate or describe. Usually, you really want to stand by your family, be there for them, help your family as much as you can, and never disappoint them. Within your family, you have a role, you have a position (whatever it is). The rest of your family knows that you are you and they can recognize you across the whole family. You have your own “skills” which differentiate you between your relatives. I’m pretty sure that most of you could agree with this definition for a family. And this could fit your gang of friends as well.

Now, what about the people you lead in your workplace? are they your family?. Discarding, of course, the family companies itself, maybe as a leader you don’t have a clear answer to that question. Moreover, if you were promoted to Technical/Team/Engineer leader from the same team that you are leading now.

You’ve been there with them when “that heavy encryption issue” happened just Friday evening (789C). You’ve been there with the rest of the team, struggling to find a way to keep “that legacy Java application just alive” until having time to implement something more scalable. Be there for them. You’ve sat down with all of them plenty of times helping them with some code or difficult problem. Never disappoint them. You know their skills, you know in which area they are good individually, and they know your strengths and weakness as well. They can recognize you. C’mon!, you even hugged their kids in their own house!. I ask again, are they your family!?

The whole difference here is about leadership. It’s not the same to be part of a team, with the same roles and responsibilities, that being part of the same team but as a leader. As a leader, you have to help the rest of the team to achieve the goals and the mission of the company.

The main goal of a team is to deliver value

If you think about any team related to sports, football, for example, you can instantly understand that such a team has been created to “win” over whatever competition it’s playing. Of course, each team has its own definition of “win”, based on the mission and vision. A sports team is composed of players (team members). Each of them has different skills that can be recognized within the team. They can recognize you. The team members play together in the good moments when the team wins, and in the bad moments when they lose a match. Never disappoint them. And all team members help each other because they understand that if they stay all together at maximum performance, is when they will a chance to win the next match. Be there for them.

Following the analogy with a football team. Not everybody is good at everything and not all the team players are in at top performance all the time. It is the responsibility of the coach, the leader, to select the ones that are in a top performance, or with the best skills, to win the next match. Not all team players will play all the matches. Sometimes they just need to rest, even though they say they don’t want to rest, or come back to the same fit as the other team players.

Leading a developers team to deliver value

Coming back to the technology field and software developers team. The Technical/Engineering/Team Leader should know which member of the team is the best to perform a certain task or responsibility. Also, there could be other team members that are willing to do the same kind of task. Besides each member of the team has to get prepared itself (individual training), as a leader, you should encourage that behavior as well. Moreover, you should put in place the mechanisms for helping those team members who want to become as good as the current top performer/s. That will make your next choice even harder because you will have more candidates, in really good shape, for a certain task or responsibility. That’s exactly what will make the team “winning more matches”… deliver value.


All team members within a company want the same, being part of something and deliver value. Leading a team and not a family will make things easier for everybody and it’s your responsibility, as a team leader, to communicate this loud and clear within the team, so everybody has the same expectations.

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