Whether your technical expertise is in engineering (like mine), law, finance, technology or science, we technical folks don’t have good reputations as managers. When a technically accomplished person is promoted into management, suddenly the old skills that made us successful are not as relevant.
I’ve seen technically talented managers become perplexed by people issues, stymied by office politics and mystified by seemingly illogical decisions made by “management”. You don’t have to be perplexed, stymied or mystified. Here are the top ten skills that I learned the hard way when I became a manager. Now, you can eliminate the frustration by learning from my mistakes so that your management competence matches your technical competence.
- Know your staff. Take the time to get to know each of your staff individually.
- What’s their background?
- What are they passionate about in their work and life?
- What are the skills that they love to use?
- What type of work makes them feel fulfilled?
- What is something that you have in common?
- What do they need from you to be successful?
2. Know your skills and preferences. If you haven’t already, now is the time to become self-aware. You need to see yourself clearly and honestly.
- What are your strengths – those behaviors that you do so easily that you didn’t realize it was special?
- How do those characteristics support you at work? When do you overdo them at work?
- What are your communication style preferences? How do you respond to those who communicate similarly to you? How do you respond to those who communicate differently from you?
- What are the stories in your life that color your perceptions?
- What are the filters through which you see the world?
- How do you prefer to work? When will you have that in your management role and when will you not?
- What people and situations trigger you and why?
- Are you coachable?
3. Know your boss. You need to know the motivations, stresses, and strains that your boss is under.
- What makes your boss tick? What does she care about?
- What’s his career and personal background?
- What’s his pet project?
- What frustrates her?
- What is his biggest time waster?
- What keeps her up at night? How can you help alleviate some of that stress?
4. Know the influencers. Regardless of position, there are people inside and outside the organization who count.
- Who are the power players who wield influence? Whose opinion carries weight in the office and with your boss?
- What can you learn about their background, interests, headaches, and passions?
- Who are the deep thinkers who everyone respects? What do they think? What are they worried about?
- Where is an area of commonality that allows you to connect with them?
- How can they become your ally?
5. Know the factors other than the data that are influencing organizational trajectory. Organizations are impacted by factors that can’t be measured.
- Are there political factors that will impact your organization? If so, what are they?
- What are the societal trends that you should attend to? Global trends?
- Are there relationships outside the organization that impact its success?
- What can you do regularly to remain attentive to these forces?
6. Know the person who can get things done in the office. There is someone in the office who is a skilled networker and sleuth. She knows everyone! This person has informal power and knows where the bodies are buried. Everyone probably owes him a favor. She will know about birthdays, anniversaries, family illnesses, staff worries, hopes and fears. Because of these connections, he will have an uncanny way of getting things done.
- Who is it? Find out and make friends.
7. Know a broad range of information sources. We all have a natural inclination to seek information from sources that are comfortable and familiar.
- Where are you getting your information? Is it from people you know and trust? The people who are like you?
- Are you reaching outside your comfortable circle to those with different backgrounds and demographics?
- Are you seeking input from the people who make you uncomfortable or who are likely to disagree?
- Do you need to expand to a bigger reach?
8. Know how to challenge your initial impressions. It is easy to make and hold initial impressions but there is usually more to the story than that. Our mental shortcuts – the impressions we form – can be heavily influenced by biases of all sorts.
- What immediate impressions have you formed about the people on your staff and the people you will work with? Now, challenge those impressions.
- Ask yourself why you immediately like some people but not others. Why are you impressed or not? You will likely discover that you naturally connect with people who are like you in some way such as a common background, work style, or value systems
- Are you listening more to them and discounting input from those with whom you don’t naturally connect?
- Are you allowing this human tendency to skew your perceptions and decisions?
- How can you challenge yourself to look beyond initial impressions of people?
9. Know your vision for the organization. As a leader and manager, you need a vision that charts a clear course for your organization. This creates confidence and certainty for the staff.
- Do you have enough information to have a vision?
- What are the trends?
- What data can you collect?
- What is your initial impression of the data? Now, what are the different interpretations of the same data?
- What other intangible factors need to be considered?
- Combine the data with the intangibles. What’s the trajectory for the organization and the factors you need to watch?
10. Know your leadership philosophy. Like having a vision for the organization, your leadership philosophy guides decisions about the investment of time, money and creation of the office culture. You need clarity about your leadership beliefs.
- What do you believe about leadership and do you behave in accordance with your belief?
- Do you believe in transparency?
- Are you willing to allow others to see that you don’t know everything?
- Do you trust your staff? Do they trust you?
- How much control are you willing to relinquish?
- How much do you believe in coaching and staff development? Do you believe in staff development enough to invest time and money?
- How do you invest in your leadership growth?
Shelley Row, P.E., CSP works with executives, managers and organizations to develop insightful leaders who must see beyond the data. Shelley helps you grow the bottom line and reduce workplace drama by bringing you practical techniques in decision-making, motivation and teamwork that are grounded in neuroscience and her executive and engineering experience. Named by Inc. as a top 100 leadership speaker, she is also a consultant and author. Learn more at www.shelleyrow.com.