The entire team against the new tech lead

Martin Cocaro

Sr Engineering Manager at MuleSoft



"We hired a new Tech Lead who went through the interview process quite well. He was a tech savvy person, cared a lot about technical challenges and aspired to great solutions. A few team members were part of the interview process and we all agreed he was a good fit. He joined the team and immediately tried to change things to the way he wanted them. Given that this was a big corporation, changes happened slowly but he kept pushing the team to change and do things that the team had tried in the past and failed at. Eventually, tension grew among the team against him. Every discussion felt like a one-sided conversation, and every team member would then raise concerns about this person not wanting to listen."

Actions taken

"As he was a new hire, we worked with him to get him to understand the importance of understanding his team's dynamics and history before attempting to change them. We worked with him over a few months, but even though he said he accepted what we were saying, it was clear that he did not want to change his position on the changes. Every conversation I had with him made me feel like he would change. Unfortunately, when he did change it was too late. No matter what he did, the team did not want to accept him as a leader. He did not have enough technical proficiency for them and he hadn't developed enough other skills to be respected. We worked for a few months on this issue, but eventually, I had to let him continue his path outside of the company."

Lessons learned

"When recruiting for a tech lead or manager role, include the team in the interview process. If they don't accept them, you will be forced to out the new hire for obvious reasons. It's also important as a manager or Tech Lead of a team to consider the history of your team, their dynamics, and their backgrounds, and to learn about these before deciding to make dramatic changes. A group interview meeting between the team and the leader, as opposed to individual meetings will demonstrate how the lead will behave as part of that team. In our case, we had a few senior people from the team assisting in the interviews but never taking an active role. The key lesson to learn here is that the team needs to actively interview the leader, they need to ask the questions they care about and let the lead, lead that meeting. That interview can serve as an example of how the team will react to when the lead is onboarded. It's especially important when hiring a tech lead to ensure he has the coaching skills, patience and cares about people as he cares about code - this will always be surfaced when a group of team members is interviewing the leader."

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Martin Cocaro

Sr Engineering Manager at MuleSoft

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision MakingCulture DevelopmentEngineering ManagementPerformance ReviewsFeedback TechniquesTechnical ExpertiseTechnical Skills

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