Making the shift from technical superstar to new leader

Many of my clients are famous in their organisation for their technical ability. If you want something done well with the least amount of headaches you go to them. With this success comes recognition and for many the inevitable promotion to a leadership position.

Before promotion, these technical super stars would tell me that they were already operating at a higher level, and of course that’s what you’re supposed to do to demonstrate you’re ready for promotion. But after the elation has worn off, many are left feeling like the rug has been pulled from beneath them.

The game has changed and they are left wondering:

How do you lead a team? 
This week’s ideas are to help provoke thought and action around how to make the shift from technical expert to leader.

Something to think about

I’m just going to leave this here…

Graphic showing a boss vs a leader

Something to watch

This one’s a bit shouty but it’s one I come back to time and time again. Captain David Marquet talks about how he went from a command and control style of leadership to one where he gave control and as a consequence created new leaders.
My takeaway from watching this time was let people know what you’re trying to achieve and then get out of the way and let them find their own way there.
It’s a 10 minute watch and also awesome to see the comments from people who worked with him and can attest to his greatness.

Something I’m thinking

There is a common challenge my technical superstar clients seem to face when they take the leap into leadership. The fear of not knowing absolutely every detail of the project they are working on.

As the technical expert you know absolutely everything about every project you are leading and when the boss knows the client is going to ask detailed questions they make sure you’re in the room with them.

But as a leader you don’t have the time to know that level of detail about everything, which means you have to trust that your team does.

Trust is the key concept here. Just as your bosses had to learn to trust that you knew all the details, you too now have to trust that your team does.

And how do you build trust?

By getting to know people. Not just what’s going on at work but the whole person. In catch ups with your team talk about more than just the work at hand. Take people out for a coffee or a drink from time to time. Find out who they are outside work.

When you take the time to do this not only does it free you up from the detail, it also builds a team of people that will go the extra mile for you.

And what do you do if the boss needs someone to answer the tricky questions that you no longer have all the answers for? Yup, you guessed it, you take a member of your team that does, it’s time to pass the mantle.

Something to ask

As a leader, you are missing an opportunity if you don’t draw on the collective knowledge of your team. In your next one-to-ones ask:
If you were the leader of this team what would your number one priority be?