24 Nov

Leadership development for technical professionals

For people who work in a technical profession it’s vital to continually learn and grow our skills to keep up with the pace of change.  However, one area that’s too often neglected by technical staff is that of leadership.  For the past few months I have been participating in a new Technical Leadership Accelerator program which focuses specifically on leadership skills for technical professionals.  The course just finished a couple of weeks ago and I wanted to write a bit of a review.

Background

At the beginning of June 2017 I was looking for ways to learn more about leadership, but in the context of technical leadership, or leadership for those with a technical background.

When I looked around my workplace there were a lot of good technical people but many of them struggled to explain their ideas to senior managers.

This was a frustrating situation, and on a couple of occasions I would talk to the various parties one-on-one and it was a very different conversation.  So, what was different about my approach that was helping to get the message across that others were struggling with?

Serendipity

I started looking around for leadership podcasts targeting a technical audience to see if there were any answers here.  Almost immediately I came across the Alpha Geek Podcast and thought it was interesting that the host and guests had an Aussie accent.

I then stumbled across Alpha Transform and Andrew Ramsden.  After following him on LinkedIn Andrew actually reached out to me and we got chatting about leadership.  Andrew introduced me to the Technical Leadership Accelerator program which was starting in the following week.  The course sounded like exactly what I was looking for so I decided to sign up.  Luckily I was able to get a day off work at short notice.  (I have a GREAT manager, Sharon Robson)

Course Structure

The Technical Leadership Accelerator program runs across a 20 week period with four face-to-face days, comprehensive online training, coaching, and other activities to keep you motivated.  The course comprises of a wide range of topics drawn from a number of disciplines and world-renowned experts in the area of leadership.

The online training is great quality and engaging with a good balance of content and engaging graphics.  The face to face days were a good opportunity to meet with other like-minded people and to help embed some of the lessons from the video training.  They were also a good opportunity to put some of the theory into practice.

Useful over Correct

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One of the most valuable things I’ve taken away from the course is Andrew’s “Useful over Correct” concept.  The premise of this is that it’s not helpful to always try to be right, and that it can be more constructive to long-term goals and relationships to take a more pragmatic approach.  In the IT industry, this is a great tip!  I’ve definitely had times where I’ve argued a point to be right when it really didn’t matter and didn’t get us any closer to a useful outcome.

Not Just Hard Skills

Some of the other topics we covered started with things like Emotional Intelligence, Sources of Personal Strength and we worked through to Difficult Conversations.

When I started the course, I had been going through a period of not being very active, and not really eating great quality food.  I blame Netflix!  For anyone who knows me I’m a pretty active person and like to have a full calendar of activities.  It had been playing on my mind for a couple of months but I hadn’t done anything about it.

One of the topics we covered was our sources of strength and how we maintained personal energy and resilience.  This model is very similar to Tony Robbins “Wheel of Life” which I had heard of before.  I gave it some serious thought and found a couple of areas I wanted to work on: Food and Exercise.

Using the inspiration of some of the gamified online materials provided by Alpha Transform I just started making small changes to my daily routine, went to bed earlier which meant I woke up earlier – then I started going walking in the morning, but also felt like it after work again.  The mental and emotional balance that this brought to my weeks was amazing!

Purpose and Passion

One of the reasons I was looking for a leadership course like the Alpha Transform Accelerator was to help me better engage with senior leadership on technical topics.  I had this deep feeling that I should be leveraging my technical background along with my ability to build relationships and communicate with stakeholders.

The second face-to-face session was run by Andrew Low and the theme of the day was “Intention”.  The online training covered topics about understanding the intentions of other people as well as our own purpose, intentions and values.

We worked through a number of activities to work on our personal purpose.  I came up with some key themes: Learning and Mastering; Creating the Impossible; Sharing, Inspiring and Growing; Bringing excitement about things to other people.  This was quite interesting and I thought upon it for a few days until suddenly, with some help from a friend, I came up with a new personal mission.  This turned into the idea of board and executive technical coaching and advisory.

Summary

It’s impossible to do this course justice in a blog post.  I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is interested in becoming a well-rounded leader.  Some of the topics are not what you’d expect in a traditional management course – this is not a management course.  It’s a leadership course.  The workplace of the future doesn’t need more managers, but more leaders!

The other strength of the course is that it’s been put together by people who have experience in digital leadership.  As such, it’s well targeted to the needs of leaders working in a technical environment.  I’ll definitely be recommending to my colleagues that they look into the course as I found it extremely helpful.