There is an unfortunate problem with finding or making a good tech leader in today’s workforce. Engineers and technicians are generally not known for their people management skills, but managers are not known for their technical expertise. It can be a difficult adjustment for someone who was working on the technical aspect of a project to be responsible for getting his team to work together to make a project successful.
It’s not impossible, of course, but the internal behavioral shift that a person who is used to dealing with technical issues can be challenging to accomplish. It’s even more challenging when you don’t have the backing and support of both your management staff and your technical team. Creating new tech leaders begins at the top with a thorough understanding of what you need the tech leader to accomplish with their team. Once the goal is in place, it works just like any other project.
Working with what you have
A good manager or leader works to insure that his team can complete their projects on time, under budget and meeting – or surpassing – technical milestones. The key word here is team. While a technician is usually responsible for a narrow aspect of a project, the tech leader is responsible for all of the aspects that his team is working on.
To do his job correctly, he has to focus past the details and look at the bigger picture. If the tech leader is a technician or engineer that can pose a problem because the majority of their work is detail focused. Without the proper support and training, a tech leader can quickly get overwhelmed and lose track of the project goal while trying to meet technical goals.
The reverse problem is also difficult to surmount. Putting a non-technical leader in charge of a project means that the team will be goal oriented, but the leader won’t have the background to know when expectations are unreasonable, budgets are skewed and the technical aspects of a project are flawed.
Defining the qualities of tech leadership
In most cases, it is easier to give the technician or engineer the tools and support he needs to run a team. With the modern rush to new technology, training technicians to be leaders ensures they will be available for the next project or when the next new technology is rolled out. Giving your technicians and engineers the understanding of what management does and a better idea of how the big picture works is also an invaluable asset for modern companies.
- Time management
Engineers have a tendency to work on a problem until it is solved. Although this tends to make technicians dedicated and eager to work, it can also cause problems with managing assets. A perfect solution that arrives too late is no solution at all.
No matter what aspect of a technical issue an engineer is working on, completing the entire project should be the tech leader’s goal. Each aspect has its own priority, but the project itself will only be completed when all of the aspects are finished.
- People skills
This is the toughest part of tech leadership. Engineers and technicians are well-trained and intelligent people who, by virtue of their training, believe that if you have a sound concept making something work requires all parts to do what they are supposed to. Although that works well in a machine, it doesn’t correlate to working with people. People are motivated by different things and trying to make a ‘one size fits all’ solution to team building simply doesn’t work.
The good news, though, is that because tech leaders are usually the head of a team of people much like themselves in work ethic, job training and motivation, they can be taught to see the importance of running a team. With the proper impetus, support and rewards technicians can make fine tech leaders.
The creation of the best tech leaders requires the work, understanding and dedication of the management team that is directing the project. Sometimes it can be just as difficult to train the management team to step out of the way and let their technical experts do the job the way they think is best.
Author bio: John Stone is business consultant at Nirmal Web Design. Through years of experience, he became a devout believer in the notion that form should always follow function and that developing the ability to think outside of the box is a prerequisite of being a successful entrepreneur. You can find him on Twitter.