While there is a lot of good information here in the “blog archive” for LearningSim, you can get my current leadership, coaching, and mental fitness newsletter here: https://stevesemler.ck.page/profile
Here is an example of the current newsletter to whet your appetite!
Turning Techies into Leaders
Everybody has a leadership horror story, but it’s not the horror stories that make most people quit.
It’s the day-to-day stuff. The “my boss doesn’t listen” or “my boss always thinks she knows what’s best” or “my boss doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing” cases. Bosses countering the decisions of their employees. When a leader acts with this pattern, it comes across as disrespect, arrogance, and lack of caring. This “boss versus employee” environment breeds cynicism and distrust.
Think about the last few times you have wanted to quit a job.
Chances are, your manager had something to do with that feeling.
We all want to work for a good boss.
And we all want to BE a good boss when we’re put into leadership roles.
But technical professionals face a bit of an extra challenge as leaders.
“This guy was a top engineer. Super smart! Great results! And then they promoted him to management and ruined him.”
Ever hear that? Or know someone it happened to?
Because technical experts are smart, dedicated people, their managers often promote them and think, “They’ll pick up the management skills quickly and easily, just like they do in their area of expertise.” But that’s a mistake. It is a different domain of knowledge requiring a different skill set. As a result, most technically-oriented leaders don’t receive enough training, coaching, and support.
Newly promoted technical leaders can feel overwhelmed as it sinks in how much responsibility they have for the work of others that they cannot directly control.
Technology is usually controllable, predictable, logical. That’s what most techies like about their work. Everything just makes sense! And when it doesn’t, they can reason it out.
As individual contributors, or even technical leads, they were used to being responsible for their own results. But as leaders, they have to get results through the work of other people. People with different skills, motivations and emotions. This feels very different.
This is a transition that is rarely communicated to technical leads who become managers.
No one explains the shift in priorities and perspectives and time and skills required to succeed as leaders of people.
Thought leadership (and even project management) can seem easy by comparison.
Helping technical professionals make that transition is a big part of what I have done for more than 30 years.
Techies are smart, motivated people. They understand quickly when I take them through the transition. They pick up skills. They use new tools. They adapt to different priorities quickly.
Often, though, the shift in mindset and habits can take more effort and time than they or their senior managers expect.
You see this in C-level executives all the time when they are overly focused on solving a business problem to the extent of neglecting the people it affects.
Great technical professionals can be great leaders, if they get the right support. But they can’t succeed by doing things the way they used to as individual contributors. They need to let go of some things and add on some new mindsets, skills, and habits.
When leaders make this shift and fully support their employees–creating the conditions for their success–they can make their teams incredibly successful!
This is where the power of leadership comes from: Unleashing and supporting the diverse talents and contributions of a group of people, channeled in the direction of a purpose, mission, or goal.
When our leaders do this, we feel heard, backed up, supported, and engaged. We are willing to give that extra discretionary effort to help other employees, teams, and customers. We perform well. Results follow. Everyone succeeds more often.
We feel we have “a good boss.”
It comes from having the mindsets, skills, and habits to do that leadership job. That can all be learned.
But we can’t take it for granted.
Be the leader for others that you want for yourself!
If you or someone you know is in a leadership position as a technical expert, let me know. I would like to hear their story and do what I can to support their success (or growth) as a leader. Let’s schedule some time to talk.