Can Non-Technical Managers Lead Technical Teams?

Can Non-Technical Managers Lead Technical Teams?

By Jose Ruiz

Jose Ruiz serves as Alder Koten’s Chief Executive Officer providing vision, strategic direction and the roadmap for the firm’s future. He is also involved in executive search work focused on board members, CEOs and senior-level executives; and consulting engagements related to leadership and organizational effectiveness helping clients create thriving cultures.

Can Non-Technical Managers Lead Technical Teams?

Technologies play a major role in the business world. More technological changes have been and will continue to be implemented in large, medium, and small companies. Confirming this, the U.S. Department of Labor predicts that the number of technical positions will rise by 22 percent by 2020.

Naturally, many more teams will comprise of technical members, such as engineers, scientists, and other techies in the future. The leadership in a company, thus, requires updated mindsets and approaches in managing technical team members, especially when the managers aren’t technical, as potential misunderstandings are great.

At least, there are seven things that a non-technical manager can do to lead technical team members.

First, acknowledge, accept, and appreciate differences.

A business runs better when the people involved come from various backgrounds. Both technical and non-technical team members are crucial in operating a company. Thus, it’s important to always remember that neither is more superior than the other. Celebrate differences wholeheartedly.

Second, acknowledge that team members are more knowledgable than you in their area(s) of expertise.

As a leader, a manager is more than someone who ensures things go as planned. He or she is a role model with strong intellectual and emotional intelligence. This being said, team members expect him or her to have a big heart and mind to acknowledge and appreciate that many of them are more knowledgeable in certain areas of expertise. A true leader is humble and grateful for team members’ success.

Third, be open to learning new things and new approaches.

Stay open to new things and new ways of looking at things. Everyone is a lifelong learner, especially a leader. Technical ideas shouldn’t intimidate you. Instead, new things should excite and encourage you to go beyond what you’re accustomed to.

Fourth, bridge the technical and the business sides with open communication and transparency.

Open communication between the technical side and the business side of the company. Both are the two sides of a coin, thus both should be updated of each other’s activities and recent achievements. This way, it would increase the morale of team members and the whole company.

Fifth, understand different work style and be supportive.

Techies are detail oriented, while many managers only see the big picture. Be empathetic and understanding to their need for extra time to make things work. See it this way: one loose screw would ruin the whole project, and one wrong code would make the company’s website or Intranet prone to attacks. You would want them to work as thorough as possible, after understanding why they need extra time.

Sixth, have a someone interpreting technical terms into definitions that laypeople can understand.

When you can’t understand those technical terms at all, it’s time to have someone who can interpret technical jargons into laypeople’s definitions. Remain open to the fact that despite your many years of experiences as a leader, there are times that you need someone to assist you. Once the communication improves, you can expect to see an increase in morale and better execution of projects.

Seventh, remain humble and be supportive.

Lead with humility and support to all team members equally. Many techies are introverted due to the nature of their job, which should be seen as a strength instead of a weakness. With introversion, they can focus better when dealing with details and they have the capacity to discern things with a cool, calm, and collected demeanor. Be supportive whenever they need time to think through a problem, for instance, by giving them space and a safe environment without any judgment or unnecessary pushiness.

At last, being a leader is a blessing, an honor, and a privilege. When you have the opportunity to lead a team of technical members, accept it as a learning experience. Over time, you’d be even more grateful knowing that all the experiences are more worthy than gold.

About Alder Koten

Alder Koten helps shape organizations through a combination of research, executive search, cultural & leadership assessment, and other talent advisory services. The firm was founded in 2011 and currently includes 6 partners and over 28 consultants in 4 cities. The firm’s headquarters are located in Houston and it has offices in Guadalajara, Monterrey, and Mexico City with partner firms in New York, Boston, Chicago, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Hong Kong, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and United Kingdom. We know where to find the executives you need and how to attract top talent to your organization. Our approach to executive search is based on a thorough understanding of the strategic, cultural, financial and operational issues our clients face. Our executive search engagements are targeted and focused on the specific requirements of the position including industry and functional experience, skills, competencies, cultural fit, and leadership style. Our process is rigorous. We take a disciplined and structured approach to identifying potential candidates that meet the position requirements including subject-matter, functional and regional expertise. We use our high-level professional networks, industry knowledge, and internal research resources to achieve results in every executive search engagement.This is a text block. Click the edit button to change this text.

Jose Ruiz is also involved in executive search work focused on board members, CEOs and senior-level executives; and consulting engagements related to leadership and organizational effectiveness helping clients create thriving cultures. Jose can be reached at jose.ruiz@alderkoten.com and (713) 893-1630 Ext. 810