20 August 2019
Though the technical skills you’ve honed over the years will provide your CV with a strong expertise-based foundation, the successful tech leader of today should also build up their skill set with numerous other traits and abilities that aren’t simply limited to the world of tech.
As companies and organisations evolve, they’ll look to leaders who can marshal both technical abilities and soft skill prowess into an impressive repertoire. The dextrous capabilities of the modern tech leader are what sets them apart from their competition, so it’s essential to have many skills in your arsenal.
With the help of industry expert Richard Tubb, we’ll look into the essential skills that tech leaders should be developing right now.
While tech skills are highly valued, approach the role first and foremost as a business leader. You’ll know jargon and technological abilities like the back of your hand, but a well-rounded understanding of finance, commerce, operations, HR, marketing and other business aspects is a superb addition to your skill set.
As for jargon and technical terms, think in the language of business rather than technology. Consider technical things in terms of the business as a whole: explain them in plain English, justifying them with familiar, understandable reasoning; phrases like “cheaper to build” and “easier to maintain” go a longer way with the average person than overly complex wording.
“Tech leaders - especially the owners of IT businesses - should be developing their strategic alliance connections,” says Richard. We’re certainly in agreement; the solo approach might make it difficult to fulfil their potential without the right support. Avoid stretching yourself too thin in your attempt to please your clients, take Richard’s advice below:
“No IT company can offer all the services and solutions that their clients need, and so I recommend IT leaders build alliances with other IT companies who you can collaborate with to offer these solutions."
“A great way to develop these strategic alliances is by attending peer and user group events with your fellow IT business owners,” notes Richard. Indeed, these kinds of events provide both essential industry information that you can benefit from, and an opportunity to forge relationships with like-minded businesses that can serve to strengthen the services that you can provide.
“Organisations such as the CompTIA organise quarterly UK Channel Community meetings that are vendor-neutral and encourage collaboration and sharing in best practices.” If you’re hoping to connect with other businesses, Richard advises attending these rather than contacting your peers ‘blind’ through a phone call or email: “It's easy to meet your peers and develop relationships with them after you've met face-to-face at these types of events.”
Rather than spending your day cooped up in offices and meeting rooms, stay connected to the places where your teams are actually working. If you stick to familiar areas away from employees, your only source of information is from meetings, reports and email.
When you involve yourself in your team’s work, you’re able to carry out a key leadership role – finding the biggest the issues within your team that they can’t solve themselves, prioritising their resolutions.
Duties, projects and roles only have value when they’re delivered; it’s far better to finish something rather starting for the sake of it. Taking too long to deliver something might lead to stakeholders losing interest and your team losing a degree of momentum.
Delivering at speed, however, gives you and your team credibility and gives you a solid foundation with which to secure continued corporate investment and resources. When you work on something, focus on delivering in iterations; a series of small improvements based on user feedback instead of large, long-term change programmes is far more preferable.
Richard continues: “Most of us struggle to delegate, because we don't have the time to share our knowledge with others, and often, we assume that nobody else can do the job as well as us!” Indeed, people often get cagey on the issue of delegation, preferring to take on more than is necessary just to ensure it’s done the “right way”. For a leader, however, this tends to be more than a little counter-productive.
If you are struggling to delegate then, heed Richard’s advice: “In my work with the owners of IT businesses, I always advise them to do one thing to effectively delegate. The next time you're doing a task that you know someone else should be doing, slow down and document the steps you take. In doing so, you'll build a standard operating procedure (SOP) that will make it a lot easier to delegate that task to somebody next time”.
As a leader, it’s important to be seen as a figurehead but as Richard says: “Don't be blinded by ego.” Seek out members of the team who have the skills or experience that certain tasks require. “Not only can others do these tasks as well as you, I'd encourage leaders to surround themselves with people who are better than you at what they do!”
Someone with a natural likeability alongside their tech skills will be highly valuable to a business. While it’s good to be tough in some aspects of the job, the tech world is full of talented individuals. If they’re put off by overbearing personalities, they can easily find the same role with someone who is too demanding.
Managing a team shouldn’t be done by fear. A people person will create a welcoming, understanding atmosphere in which constructive criticism is appreciated. In addition, a strong tech leader will be able to establish trust with company founders too; the need and ability to form connections with open, transparent communication is essential and serves to place the company on a stronger, more certain route to success.
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