5 Whys is a blog about technical leadership in the software world.

Spend at least 50% of your time with your team

To be an effective team lead, you need to actually spend time with your team. Otherwise, you won't be able to do daily stand-ups, do code reviews, or sit down and pair with a team member every once in a while.

And no, "I have too many meetings" is not a good excuse.

"But I do have too many meetings to attend each day!"

Then it's time to stand up for your team's rights  - their basic right is to have a team lead present to help solve problems and bottlenecks that the team can't figure out alone, and to have a lead that helps them learn how to overcome problems.

  • Go to your outlook schedule and book 50 % of each work day during the week under "team time". Make this a recurring meeting that no one can override.
  • Look at the list of current meetings you attend and start trimming them down to meetings you really do need to attend, and ones where the team or you are not getting any value out of. It's sometimes valuable to start asking the Five Whys for each meeting, and see whether you can find a way to solve the problem that the meeting is trying to solve. For example:
    • Meeting: "Daily meeting of department heads"
    • Length: 1-2 hours
    • Time I actively participate in the meeting: 5-10 minutes
    • Time I actively listen in the meeting: 30-40 minutes
    • Why do I have to be in this meeting? I'm not sure
    • What do people usually ask me in this meeting? general questions about my projects progress.
    • Why? Because they don't have any other way to know
    • Why? because there is no clear and visible progress on my projects
    • Why? Because I haven't made this a reality yet


Do you know what you should do now to avoid this meeting?

Be assertive

at the very least you could take these actions about various meetings where you only need part of the time to be inside or none at all:


  • Tell (don't ask!) who ever is running the meeting that you will no longer be available to be in it


If they ask "But then how will I..." then you know what it is you need to deliver in terms of knowledge so as to make the meeting unneeded.

If they ask "But then how will YOU..." then you will realize that you may not need that information, or are getting it in a different way, or that you may indeed need to be in this meeting, but for a shorter  period of time.


  • Tell (don't ask!) who ever is running the meeting that you will only be available for 30 minutes during the meeting (otherwise development will suffer).


After 30 minutes - leave the meeting. Stand up for your decisions. See what happens.


Generating Internal vs. commercial value

Is face to face pairing better?