Work to better understand the people you manage and discover which of the common challenges may present obstacles for them. Learn how to increase your effectiveness at managing technical professionals by working to discover their unique perspectives and challenges, including their mindsets and circumstances, which will help you determine how to best coach them and prioritize the development tools needed.
- Before you can successfully manage technical professionals, you need to have a clear understanding of their mindsets, what makes them tick, what's important to them and what's not. With that said, here's the disclaimer. The purpose behind this discussion is not to stereotype a group of people, but to help identify some common characteristics you may find as you deal with technical experts. Recognizing these general tendencies will help you manage them more effectively. Here are four traits that are frequently found among technical professionals.
First, they often speak their own language. Because of their extensive training, they may use industry jargon and acronyms, making them tough to understand for you as well as perhaps people on your team. You may have been in meetings where someone mentioned problems with internet access, which prompted the IT person to ask a question like do you have a static IP address, or did you use DHCP to get a dynamic address from the DNS server? Everyone's eyes sort of glazed over.
In most cases, they aren't doing that on purpose. They just know the subject so well that they sometimes forget they are speaking a language that sounds foreign to others. Their minds have integrated the concepts and shortcuts and they don't naturally think of terms in their most basic forms. Along with that advanced fluency comes a possible downside. Technical people can get really frustrated when non-technical people don't get it.
When they feel like the answer is obvious or they have explained something with perfect clarity, they may get a little testy when coworkers are still confused. Second, they function best with a logical approach. Technical professionals don't really do drama. They think methodically. They have long to do lists and looming deadlines so transactions take precedence over relationships. This explains why they don't typically see the value in team-building exercises, attending the company picnic, or even small talk about your weekend in the hallway.
In their minds, it's not logical to waste time on chitchat and bonding. They really prefer to cut to the chase and get the job done. That's the way they think. Third, they may suffer from technical tunnel vision. Because of their depth of knowledge in a certain area, they may not be aware of, or perhaps not even interested in, the bigger picture. That's exactly why technical experts and business professionals may find themselves doing battle over something like product development.
Technical people tend to be passionate about developing a product with the latest bells and whistles, building in more functionality, creating a breakthrough that could get a lot of industry buzz. Meanwhile, the business managers vote for something more basic that keeps the price point down and purchases up. It's important to recognize that technical people may become so enamored with their side of the equation that they don't always consider the business implications.
Finally, they may get stuck in problem-solving mode. Technical professionals have been highly trained to design flawless products, get the bugs out of software, minimize network downtime. They know that 99% correct isn't enough. They will be judged on that 1%, whatever goes wrong. It's in their nature to find problems like a heat-seeking missile and correct them. That's a good thing for quality assurance, but keep in mind that this outstanding skill transfers over to their interactions with other team members.
They're actively looking for problems and they are quick to point them out. If someone mentions a fresh innovative idea, they'll probably be the first to jump in and tell you why it won't work. It's how their brains operate, but just know that this may ruffle some feathers, especially among the more creative, free-flowing employees who want to brainstorm new ideas without getting bogged down by all the reasons they may fail. As I mentioned earlier, these characteristics may not apply to every technical person in every organization, but they are fairly common among the group.
Being aware of these tendencies can help you better understand your technical staff and hopefully, connect with them on a deeper level.