I’ve batted this idea back and forth many times in my head, what is the best size for a team?  At what size does the team remain too small to not accomplish enough and at what size does a team become too large that more time is spent on administration, overhead and the team eventually starts to slow.  Whether it’s a startup or an established company, team cohesion and leadership is critical to success.

What is the magic number?

For me, it’s 7.

For you, it may be 3, 5, 10, 12, 17, 25.

At 7 (not including yourself), you have the optimal ability to work closely with everyone on your team, giving them the needed feedback and touch-points that help manage the daily grind.  In addition, it’s a great size to ensure that any issues that are being raised up the line are getting dealt with and not left to fester within.

You can see everything happen, as it happens.

Do they all have to sit around me?  No.

Do they all have to be in the same profession (i.e., all developers)?  No.

Do they all have to be at the same skill level?  No.

Do we all need to be in the same country?  No.

Now, I have managed and lead teams of more and less than 6 on many occasions (and do today) and this isn’t to say that it’s impossible and cannot work.  It can, you adjust your style, find your fit and move forward but when asked what is the optimal size, this is my answer.

But I am responsible for more, so now what?

You need to know your comfort zone before you go in to taking on a Team Lead position.  If you don’t know how many people you are comfortable with leading on a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly basis, than you won’t be doing you or your team and favours.

Find your optimal size, what works best for you so you are able to deliver your best.  Over time this might grow and change, but what you need to know is where you stand today.  Because if on Monday you are given a team of 20 to manage and you struggle managing 4, knowing where you are at is an immediate cue for you to figure out what you need to do to get better.

Your vs the Team’s Accomplishments

When people are promoted to a Team Lead they immediately feel this great sense of responsibility bestowed upon them and in some cases start to focus solely on the efforts of the team.  Although needed, you also need to focus on your own accomplishments.  After all, it those accomplishments that got you to where you are and those accomplishments that are going to serve you well with this team.  Yes your team is now an extension of your accomplishments, what you accomplish with them is how you and they grow but you can never forget the satisfaction and pride that comes from accomplishing something on your own.  Always remember that, it goes back to the old adage of taking care of yourself before others.  If you don’t feel like you are accomplishing “something” while your team is accomplishing “everything” you will slowly start to feel the pull towards wanting to work with them again because you don’t feel like you are getting anywhere and getting that check of yes I accomplished something today.

In summary, because like the blog title, I might have rambled on today…

  1. Optimal team size-  identify it before you accept it.
  2. Think of what you are responsible for, what does that mean.
  3. Make sure you value your accomplishments and wins as much as your team’s

Want more? Check out my book Code Your Way Up – available as an eBook or Paperback on Amazon (CAN and US).  I’m also the co-host of the Remotely Prepared podcast.


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