Monday April 7, 2014
Given the right opportunity and an inclination to take on responsibility, many excellent technicians move forward in their career by either starting their own company doing what they love, or by being promoted to manage a team doing work similar to what they were doing before. Others are happy to continue doing what they love doing and not having any responsibility.
For those who do want to progress in their careers, they’re likely to find themselves spending less and less time doing what they were originally really good at. Instead they’ll find themselves spending their time planning, being involved in meetings to make important decisions, some general administration and looking after their team to ensure they’re being supported and achieving their full potential. If you’re like me you’ll enjoy this just as much as the work you were doing before – but before you know it weeks and then months can pass with you having focussed solely on your new responsibilities.
Sometimes this can lead to challenges. The more time a leader spends away from ‘the floor’, the less he or she knows about the detail of what happens on a daily basis; what trials the team face, what are they doing well, what should they stop doing and what they can improve on. The more informed a leader is about the current state of the team and their work, the lower the chance of making poor strategic decisions due to missing a key piece of information, perhaps regarding something that has changed since they gained the extra responsibility. Misguided decisions can also have a snowball effect, poor decisions demotivate team members who could have helped to make the right decision, and that can make things much worse!
This might sound quite scary to people that have just moved up into a position of responsibility, but don’t worry, it’s easy to avoid. The first key thing to remember is not to assume that you know best and don’t let time pass without talking to your team about what’s happening in a normal work day – keep in regular contact, at least hold weekly meetings where you can discuss any relevant changes and important decisions that need to be made. Have good people around you who you can trust to do things the right way for the business, not always your way, and who will consult at the right time if you’re busy with other things.
The second is more time consuming. As an example, as Technical Director, I need to ensure that Purple Cubed stay current, that our Talent Toolbox system is constantly being improved in line with the ever-changing web. Change is rapid in the technical sphere, new innovations are frequently released, and if a competitive advantage can be had by being up-to-date, then we strive to exploit it. There’s also the point that the new leader has a set of skills that were really useful to the company before gaining responsibility, and if you can find the opportunity to put these to good use, then everyone can benefit:
- The leader stays relevant to his team by experiencing what they do on a daily basis; although doesn’t come entangled in ‘the detail’
- The leader stays close to market innovators and commands respect when making decisions
- The team experiences work the leader undertakes and may learn from it, and vice versa
- By choosing carefully the right things to get involved in, the manager can ensure key projects get attention and are progressing
The only way this can be done effectively is by being organised – to really get into something that you may spend days or weeks away from, you need a few hours on it. Your new responsibilities are really important and should not be neglected, so schedule meetings and clear your backlog of managerial tasks, then block a couple of days back-to-back where you can really focus on the technical work. If you can, reply to emails first thing in the morning and then after your lunch break – turn them off through the rest of the day so you don’t get distracted by things that can wait a few hours.
It’s all about finding the right balance for your role in your company, to ensure your technical and leadership qualities are well utilised. Prioritising is key, ensuring your team are happy and able to work well is paramount, they’ll achieve more together than you will alone, so focus on that first. Then with that side of things are stable and running well, you’re free to explore and enjoy the other side of your role. Then with you and your team working in harmony, you can look forward to performing well and delivering great work together, then sharing in the success!
Steve is Purple Cubed’s Technical Director and an all-round genius, he can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org