Be a force multiplier

By Marc Littlemore β€’ β€’ 5 min read

In software development, there's always been the idea of the 10x or rockstar developer. A programmer that's so talented, that they can write software in double quick time, with their eyes closed, and also in their sleep. I've worked with developers like this. With a few exceptions, I'd never want to work with them again.

In my experience, the 10x developer is a maverick who likes to solve issues alone and not share how. Who doesn't document their complex algorithms. Who breaks code and often doesn't take responsibility for fixing up other related interfaces. Who likes the challenge of initially solving the hard problems, but doesn't want to write production ready code. Who wants to take the glory and isn't concerned with the rest of the team.

I don't want to work with 10x developers.

I much prefer force multipliers.

Much like the Jedi Knights, you can use the force for good and improve life for you and your team. You can become a force multiplier in multiple areas:

  • Technical: Use your software engineering skills beyond your own role. Look at mentoring and coaching your team and share your knowledge with them. Or maybe look outside your own team and become an advisor for other teams and projects.
  • Cultural: Focus on lifting your team up and set out to improve the team culture. Make your team the best place to be such that others want to join you too.
  • Process: Use your skills to focus on improving the team or department's processes. Can you improve the continuous integration or deployment servers? Or improve inter-team communication?

All of these are force multipliers. Working in these areas will help to set an example of the change you want to see. You can work alone or also work with others to achieve the changes. Using force multipliers will help to lift the whole team up.

If you're like me, you might be a manager of a software engineering team and have a technical background. You can use your this knowledge with any less experienced members of your team with technical mentoring. I run regular "team learning" sessions with my team where we look at programming concepts and patterns, and software development ideas like test-driven development (TDD).

Carving out the time each week to help your team means you'll have less time for any hands-on coding yourself, but you're helping to increase the knowledge of others. Spend some time pair programming with your team and be available as a technical advisor when people need it. Get involved in code reviews and share different solutions if you think they might help.

Being a technical force multiplier doesn't just have to be within your team. If you have the time, you can offer technical help to other teams. Share your experience of what has worked for your team and what hasn't. Share your network and introduce your engineers to engineers on other teams. Helping others that are missing domain knowledge that your team has will help both of your teams to thrive.

By being a technical force multiplier, you are encouraging others to become technical mentors too.

Culture can be difficult to define. It's a combination of the values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours shared by the team as a whole. It's how people work well together and how they treat each other.

How can you improve the team culture? Think about what a culture of diversity, positivity, and inclusivity would do to team morale. Encourage constant feedback from yourself as the team manager, and peer feedback from others. Be honest, open, and transparent in all that you do.

In my own team I've tried to build a culture where every voice is heard. I've encouraged people to share their concerns and for everyone to be honest about what they know and don't. Asking questions is encouraged. We all know that there's no such thing as a stupid questions. It's just something somebody hasn't yet learnt.

Don't forget to encourage taking time out from the day-to-day of technical work and build a culture of sharing parts of your lives that you're comfortable with others knowing. Informal chats and "water cooler" breaks are important, especially as more of us are now remote. Digital tea breaks where people can chat about life can help the team to bond. Don't wait for company mandated activities. Build them yourself with your team.

By being a cultural force multipler, you make your team, and hopefully the company, a fantastic place to work.

What slows your team down? Are code reviews taking too long? Does deploying to production take an eternity? Is your documentation left undocumented or hard to find? Look at how you can work with the team to enable making these things easier.

These problems are often best looked at from the bottom up rather than being mandated from the management team but you can help to kickstart the initiative. Look to make your day-to-day processes slightly easier each day. Once you get the ball rolling, you can chip away at the bigger problems.

By being a process force multiplier you can make the team more efficient.

As your journey develops into more senior roles, your job might become less technical and more managerial. Use your force multipliers and expand your impact both within your team and in the wider department or company. It'll help you to grow and help all of your team on the way.

May the force multiplier be with you...always.

Marc Littlemore avatar

I'm Marc Littlemore.

I’m a Software Engineering Manager who works with high performing development teams and loves to help to grow other software leaders and engineers.

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Avatar image of Adrian Carolli Adrian Carolli

Great article πŸ‘Œ I couldn't agree more with what you said. I've been focused on being a force multiplier because I've reached my limits on what I can do alone.

Avatar image of Marc Littlemore πŸ€– Marc Littlemore πŸ€–

Thanks for reading Adrian. It's definitely a great skill to push beyond your own role and help others to thrive like this. BTW: Sent you an email last night so we can catch up.

Avatar image of VirtuallyReality VirtuallyReality

I'm fighting the urge to share a gif of Han's "that's not how the force works" line, because... I agree with you! Great stuff!

Avatar image of Marc Littlemore πŸ€– Marc Littlemore πŸ€–

I have to admit that I enjoyed Star Wars but I’m not a mega-fan. Shhhh!

Avatar image of VirtuallyReality VirtuallyReality

In that case, have a different Han gif ;)


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