From Technical Expert to Leader…

One thing is certain about today’s leaders: technical competence alone is not enough to make them successful. We support organisations to transition their people from ‘Technical expert’ to ‘Leader’. Most businesses we work with, in particular, service led enterprises who are undergoing exponential growth are facing a reality which forces them to question whether promoting from within is the right course of action and if so who is the right person for the role. There are many pros and cons to promoting from within and all of that will be for another blog but here I would like to outline a few fundamental things to consider based on our work supporting the teams within these organisations to help these employees make that transition successfully.

All too often we promote internally but we promote based on the performance of that team member in a role which doesn’t reflect the job description of the role we are moving them into! Sound familiar? Then we expect them to perform as they did in their previous role. Moving from the job of technical expert to organisational leader represents a unique challenge that, in practice, is more complex and has far greater impact than adding more technical knowledge. Reaching organisational leadership requires transforming technical competence into business success, and this means acquiring and developing skills and competencies distinct from technical expertise alone. 

Technical expertise represents “what” the job entails. The shift to relationship management represents knowing “who” the players are for which the “what” is critical and important. The art of developing and managing relationships is not based on one’s depth of knowledge but rather based on one’s ability to deliver something that is of value to another person in the organisation. Furthermore, it’s about keeping that person/team engaged, being selfless, learning how to play the game for the good of the business and your people – the emphasis is therefore not on Self but on Others. 

Here are a few things to consider when supporting your team member through this change:

1. Invest in a Coach to support the individual transition to the job of leader. The benefits of having an external Coach, impartial to the organisation who can work at a deeper level to help transform the mindset of the individual for the good of the business are fundamental for the well-being of the person and in turn will reap rewards for the wider organisation. It’s refreshing to be working with businesses who are ahead of the curve and understand this and it can work wonders for resilience and confidence.

2. In your mentoring of the individual, ensure they recognise the importance of building credibility and trust as a starting point. This is a change in mindset from tangible expert results to actually understanding the importance of relationship management and how this and others can drive your own performance going forward. 

3. See the bigger picture! It may seem obvious as an established Leader but those just stepping into the role may come with a tunnel vision of short term thinking on tangible results. There’s so much more to business performance than that. Coach them to see this. Coach them to understand that if a delivery is missed for X,Y or Z reason, well actually the bigger picture may be that the recovery of that situation and the credible relationship you have created with the customer will redeem you and that’s OK because mistakes happen.  

4. Delegation. It seems obvious but it can be detrimental to the well-being of the once technical expert who was so used to managing their own workload and not that of others – I have seen so much of this – it’s a genuine issue which is key to the success of a leader. Help them not to burn-out. Make them aware of the triggers.

5. Strategic thinking does not come naturally to everyone. As business professionals we are consumed with “what” and “how.” The shift into strategic thinking requires us to ponder a deeper question, and that is “why”.

By helping your employees to make these critical shifts, you not only set yourselves up for better business performance (improved productivity amongst other ROIs) but you ultimately transform the mindset of those individuals which gears them up for sustained success which will stick throughout their leadership career. 

If you would like to hear about how we can help transform the mindset of your organisation and help you to support your team members with this transition, please contact me at suzy.beech@mindsetassociates.com.

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