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How to be fair when determining the team lead

Company Culture
Conflict solving
Handling Promotion
Productivity
Fairness
Reorganization

6 December, 2017

When one of his junior engineers performed very well on some projects, Tancho had to rethink the promotion scheme at his company.

Problem

A few years ago, I was working in a company where the position of engineers was correlated to their seniority. I was leading a team related to data processing, composed of engineers who were not 'senior' in that specific sector. An engineer was particularly challenged by the projects we were working on and performed very well as an individual contributor. He also improved the productivity of the team. I wondered how to leverage the fact that he was a high performer while he was only there for two years, without being unfair to some other engineers who had spent more time in the company.

Actions taken

I discussed the issue with other managers, and we defined the concepts of 'position' and 'roles'. While the position of an engineer is correlated to the work experience, the 'role' depends on their performance. In order to decouple them we decided that the position determines the salary, the role determines the responsibilities. For example, someone could have the position of software engineer, and the role of team lead/scrum master/manager of the team. In the case of this engineer, he grew very quickly out of the junior role and became the team lead even though some people around him had more seniority. This evolution was well received because we were very clear about the distinction between position and role and the criteria to step up, and also because everyone acknowledged that this engineer had a very positive impact on the team. He was not only a very strong individual contributor, but was also able to help the others and catalyzed the team's productivity.

Lessons learned

By freeing ourselves from the very classical hierarchical promotion scheme, we managed to assign him the tech lead role, and to establish a fair promotion scheme. This allowed developers to rise up to the challenge, and prove they can do much more and also have the respect and acknowledgment of their team.


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