Expert Advice: How to Be a More Effective CTO

As a CTO, you are responsible for many of the critical elements of project success. Good CTO's produce quality projects. Great CTO's create an environment that promotes collaboration, creativity and utilizes team members individual strengths to make the entire team more successful. 

We sat down with experienced team leaders and asked them what tips they had for CTO's. Follow their advice to improve your performance as a technical leader, and give your tech team the boost it needs to become great.

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When not coding, what can a CTO spend time on to benefit the engineering team?

"Figuring out how to make the team better, whether by hiring new people that level up the team, growing your people. Also, thinking about how the team collaborates and making adjustments to meet whatever your current challenges may be."

"Thinking about supporting roles and how to have a well-balanced team skill sets is hugely valuable. If you have 10 engineers, but no testers, or no designers, then as a team you are probably not doing your best work. You figure out ways to compensate, but if your engineer is spending half a day per week doing testing (which they will not be as good as somebody who lives and breathes testing), or a backend engineer is trying to figure out CSS positioning, you are losing out."

"Another part of your job as a technical leader is to advocate for nonfunctional requirements. They can get easily lost, but they are key to us doing our job well. Business typically doesn't ask you to do more testing, but they do have some level of quality in mind. Business doesn't specifically tell you they want monitoring, but they want to prevent failures and recover quickly when something does fail. Making sure nonfunctional features are being implemented and thinking about infrastructure and tooling to help operate the application. How do you diagnose problems in production quickly?"
一 Jean Barmash, VP Engineering, Merchantry

What advice do you have for CTO's looking to improve their tech/biz team alignment?

"My #1 recommendation is: Include business teams in the Agile process. Have the business attend stand-ups, sprint reviews, and maybe even sprint retrospectives. I had a great experience with a business team where we ran an all-day Lean Coffee meeting (www.leancoffee.org), prior to lunch. We got feedback that this was one of the most productive all-day meetings the business has ever attended, and the business team also got some insight into how we run Agile projects."

"My #2 recommendation is shoulder surfing. I've seen the most amazing ideas come out of tech team members watching end users using the tools they developed."
一 Jon Williams, Fractional CTO

Key Takeaways

  • Always consider small adjustments you can make to improve your team's productivity.
  • Make an effort to ensure your team is made up of individuals whose skill sets complement one another.
  • Include the business team in the Agile processes, like sprint reviews and retrospectives, to better align the teams and get them on the same page.

Want to learn more strategies to help you be a better team leader? For Agile teams, proper use of retrospectives are key to a consistently improving team. Our free guide covers everything you need to know to facilitate your retrospectives like a pro.