Did you fall into management? Were you rewarded for your technical skills with the extra bonus of now having direct reports? This cycle happens time and time again where folks excel at their trade. Generally, very few people are asked if they want the additional responsibility of a leadership role or guiding a team. Even fewer are given any training on how to be a good manager. Instead, they are given timesheet approval responsibilities, a list of when performance reviews are due and told to make the team work. There’s no Cliff Notes or Management 101 class for how it’s done and most learn via on-the-job experience. A trial by fire, if you will.
As small organizations grow, the scenario above becomes more normal than unique. This is dangerous for several reasons. First and foremost, it takes a brilliant, high-achiever away from the thing they do best and forces them to spend time on tasks they may not enjoy. Don’t get me wrong; this isn’t always the case. There are some people that want the additional management responsibilities and enjoy managing a team. If that’s the case, good grief, encourage it! Yet in many cases, it’s a technical engineer or high-tech professional who enjoys their trade and wants to spend more time doing it, not less.
This is also a dangerous move as these types of managers may not have the instincts to follow employment laws, cultivate a team or build morale. Those traits can be gained through experience, but only if the participant wants to. Many times, the management piece filed under “other duties as assigned” and those who are not prone to leadership are less likely to spend time improving their skills in this area. This leads to issues within the team and potentially putting the company in legal risk (unintentionally). Thus creating more problems where a simple conversation, gauging the interest of your team and gleaning appropriate leaders from the ranks may have avoided many issues.
If you are a technical company, I recommend you seek out those who are keen to manage and have the skills or drive to learn. Encourage this and build from there. For those who don’t, allow them to continue to climb in their careers, but do so with the top cover support from managers who understand their talents. Micro-managing a highly technical person is a recipe for disaster. Instead, hire leaders who respect and understand the technical expertise. In return, they will win the respect of the techies.
Happy Techies, Happy Leaders, Happy Company… for the most part.
When it comes time for you to seek new leadership for your teams- invest in reviewing skill sets, employee goals and find the best fit on paper and in person for the needs of your company. Want to learn more? I’d be happy to throw some pointers your way! [email protected]