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Yelling at team members

This is perhaps one of the worst things a team leader could ever do with a team. Multiply that by 10 if that yelling is done in public.

It does not matter *how much* frustration you feel. It does not matter *how* much that team member might actually deserve it.

Do not yell at your team members.

By yelling, what happens is:

  • You remove any good will by that team member to ever want to work with you again
  • You personally hurt their feelings (a little or a lot, depending on their character, but you do)
  • If you're not hurting them, they view you as weak and unable to control the way you behave in public or in person
  • You are NOT solving the problem. you are just venting.
  • They are not really listening to you. they are looking at you, shouting.

"What can i do if I just can't control it?"

That is the weakest most pathetic argument I've heard people say. You *have* to control it, and it's not a matter of yes or no. The only time you get to be a yelling-at-your-team-members team leader who doesn't get kicked out after a few months is if you're the owner, or you're part of the owner's family.

Get a hobby that involves punching something. Or get a different type of job.

Take the following steps every time you find yourself yelling at someone:

  • STOP yelling immediately, and excuse yourself  - "I'll be back in a few minutes"
  • When you come back after taking a breather, APOLOGIZE to the person you just yelled at, in private.
  • Don't talk to them about the subject you just yelled at them for. Wait ONE FULL DAY.
  • The next day, make a short list of the points you wanted to make, in a calm mood. Use the word "I" to describe what you feel - "I feel like you just don't care what I ask you to do"
  • That's a start.
  • When you're not in a more calm type of conversation, you're on a better way than you were.

London Team Leader Course this July

I'll be in London next month, teaching my new two day "Lead Better" course - essential skills for team leaders. I hope you'll join me!

Why should you care about this course?

 Have you ever come across these situations?

  • You try to convince your team that a specific practice is a good idea, but no one really adopts it, and you don’t know what to do about it.
  • You are afraid of losing friendships just because you’ve become manager to the same people you’ve worked with as a team member up until now.
  • Your team doesn’t have time to do anything but putting out fires and you feel helpless about it.
  • You have a problematic team member and you feel like you’ve tried everything to solve this behavior and failed.
  • You are being expected to perform impossible feats with impossible deadlines, and can’t do anything to stop it.
  • You think that your team will never be able to be one of those “extreme programming” teams you keep writing about.
  • You wonder “if only I had better people in my team I’d…”

You are not alone in these thoughts. We’ve all been there. A lucky few of us had good mentors to teach us what to do in these situations, but most of us just try our best and hope for miracles. Keep our heads down and pray nothing bad happens until the next person comes along.

In this course you’ll learn the basic trade secrets for managers and coaches - how to lead teams to greatness, with a twist - this course is especially designed for software team leaders - and deals with specific people issues in this highly technical world.   Hopefully, by the end of this course you’ll feel not only empowered to change things for the better, but you’ll also be equipped with a set of tools and techniques to help you think through and overcome tough people issues and challenges during your time as a team leader.

This course is based on my experiences and this blog

Prerequisites :

One year’s experience developing software using any language 

Course Outline

Day 1 – Elastic Leadership Principles

Skills being developed:


Day 2 – Influence and Team Growing

Skills being developed:





What to do if some people in the team just don't want to take a task?

Recently I found this question on LinkedIn:

We just started using Scrum in our organization and today is the last day of our first sprint. In the beginning, after the second part of the sprint planning the tasks were identified and everyone had to tell what task will be working on.


But two members of the team just sat down on their desk and do nothing.

I've been waiting for an hour and after that I just assigned some tasks to them.

I'm afraid that this will happen again in the next sprint and the result will be that the team will just wait for me to tell every person what task to do.


It really depends on the what stage your team is in.

In the chaotic stage, you don't have time to wait around for people to realize that some team members are not taking responsibility. Talk to each of them personally and see if there is a good reason for them not to take that task . Either bend the process so that all team members are now able to take tasks, or get those out of order back into the team guidelines, until the chaotic stage is over. In chaos you can't afford to have people not on the same track as the others.

In the learning stage, ask the people what they are going to do about not being part of the task taking process. ask them to fix it themselves, and make sure they commit to what they are promising. follow up weekly or even daily. "grow" them to this habit, or "grow" yourself to realize maybe that habit isn't right for your current team. Sounds weird, but sometimes you need to remember to fit the process to the team, not the other way around.

In the self organizing stage, create constraints or situations for the team that will force them to face the choice of taking tasks on their own or not. For example, you can give requirements that no team member has specific specialization on, or the opposite. see what happens. you an also introduce people from other teams into the team, who might have a problem with this behavior and will speak up to the offending team mates on their own. The point is, at the self leading stage, you don't tell people how to do something. you just give them the boundaries in which to achieve it.


A good leader won't need to ask

A good team leader would not need to ask you about the good things you've done in the past year. They should be attentive enough to your personal progress, and helping you shape your learning, that they might actually know about more things you did great this year than you.

If you are that team leader, and you need to ask, it may be good to take 30 minutes of personal time, and review within yourself, what you think that person has done good this year. If you can't, try the following approach:

Ask colleagues of that person about one good thing they have seen him do this year (or month). compile a list of five such things.

Now, compile a list of actions that you will take,   in the coming month, and year, to make sure this never happens again.


Video: Elastic Leadership in software - InfoQ interview

during the recent QCON London 2011 Conference, Michael Hunger of Infoq interviewed me about what I later started describing as “Elastic Leadership” – The team leader changes her leadership style (dictator all the way through to coach) based on the current team stage.

You can see the full video interview here.

I look a bit tired, but I hope my message was clear.