Tuesday, September 10, 2013

What Works in Tech #Leadership - Keep It Simple

   As I'm heading toward the end of my current job, and getting ready for the challenges of my next opportunity, I've been thinking and reflecting on a few things.  One of these is leadership.
   I've had the opportunity to lead some great programs and teams in my career so far.  I went directly from being a technical individual contributor to management without any formal managerial training.  Earlier in my career I had titles and responsibilities including: software developer/programmer, engineering support, systems administration, architect, systems support, web developer, email administrator, security administrator/architect.  All of these positions can offer leadership opportunities, but this is very different than formal management.

   When I was in purely technical positions I had no interest in management, and couldn't even imagine going in that direction.  But then an opportunity came my way and I started down the "dark path" of management!  And I figured it out as I went along, with some results better than others.

   I'm a big fan of top 10 lists.  But sometimes it makes sense to really simplify things.  Here are my top 3 tips for technical management/leadership:

1. Give a $@*& about people
   It all starts with your people.  You need to create a team and you need to care about your team!  Now, many technical folks may find the "touchy-feely" stuff a bit foreign.  I'm not saying you have to know everything about everyone... in fact, boundaries are important.  But you need to know how people are doing.  You need to know about their project load and how they are handling it.  You need to know if they enjoy their work.  You need to know what they want to do when they grow up.  A good way to start is to ask.

2. Right Person for the Right Job
   Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses.  The first thing you have to do is know your own!  Then find people who are good at what you're not and partner.  You also need to know the strengths and weaknesses of your team members.  Not everyone performs at the same level.  Set people up for success.  Yes, you also need to provide appropriate challenges so people will grow.  This is far more of an art than a science.

3. Plow the Road
   I think one of a manager's more important roles is to remove barriers.  This means managing up, sideways and down to assure people can do things you've asked.

   This is an interesting topic so I think I will expand on these top-3 items in future posts.

   This is not necessarily easy, but you should keep it as simple and basic as you can.  Some resources I really like include:
The 5 Levels of Leadership by John C Maxwell (audible) (amazon)
Start With Why by Simon Sinek (audible) (amazon) - I blogged about this book here.
Management Culture by Denise Moreland (amazon) (I'm still waiting for that audiobook Denise!)
Manager Tools podcast and website

   What are some of your favorite leadership or management resources?

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