The desire for self-improvement is the first step towards a successful career. Wanting to constantly upgrade our knowledge and skills is an excellent quality that can take us very far. Adapting to changes and dealing with all kinds of situations, whether personal or professional, make us capable and flexible individuals.
For technology leaders, this is critical. Knowing how to overcome problems while remaining calm and optimistic, even though the odds often won’t be on your side. Embracing failure as a challenge and experience is key to your successful career. And no matter how difficult the road to success, keep going. In one direction and one direction only – forward.
However, it is important to note that the line between “business leader” and “technology leader” has always been clear. Technology needs to be aligned with business results and vice versa. The most successful technology leaders of the future will be those who are able to bridge this and help their organizations and technology teams come together for the sake of overall successful outcomes.
Today we have chosen to present you some short but important tips on how to improve yourself and become a better tech leader, according to 101 Ways.
5 Tips How to Become a Better Tech Leader
Focus on leadership, not just technology
Technology leaders often fall into the trap of believing that they need to be the best technologist in the room. This shouldn’t actually be surprising given the number of tech leaders with a technologist background. But not only is it not possible to remain in the details of every technology or software development trend, given the wider responsibilities you have as a CTO, CIO, etc., it’s just not your job. As a leader, you aren’t there to write code, you’re there to look at the bigger picture and make sure that your teams are focused on the right problems and have the resources they need to get the job done.
“Leadership”, as elusive as it might sound, is a specialization. It’s critical that you take it seriously as a discipline and work to hone those skills independently of staying on top of the latest technology. Only then will you be able to get the most out of your teams and allow your organization to harness technology to its fullest potential.
What you need to do
Fundamentally, this comes down to letting go of the belief that you need to be absolutely tech-savvy at all times. You don’t need to have all of the answers or understand all of the details. You need trusted advisors who do understand those details. Your job is to put that advice into context and make decisions about what’s important and what’s not. Then, focus on communicating those priorities across your organization and securing the support and resources that your teams need.
Be purposeful about culture
A sense of community can have a tremendous impact on productivity, efficiency and employee engagement. At the end of the day, culture is about connections and what those connections facilitate. While technology can be binary in nature, culture requires attention to nuance and the purposeful act of outreach and intentional listening. The need for purposeful culture becomes increasingly evident in the context of productivity and remote working, and managing teams that aren’t always (or ever) present in the same room.
What you need to do
One of the best ways to build culture as a leader is to model it consciously. Step into the expectations that you’ve set out for the team and embody them. While leaving your door open and making it clear that anyone who wants to stop by for a chat can, sometimes it takes stepping out yourself and cultivating those positive bridges.
Send the message first to check in. Ask about that issue your team member was worried about last week. Leading acts like these will always matter more than knowing the latest developer language. Little things add up and create the personal connections that you need, and that you want to see across your teams.
Develop respect through differences
Stepping back from the technology coalface, as we discussed in our first tip, can leave tech leaders feeling exposed. One of the many reasons for a continued obsession with the details of the latest technology trends is a fear that the only way to earn the respect of technologists is to be the proverbial “best technologist in the room”. There might be some superficial truth to this, but you still need to find a better answer for how to earn the respect of your teams. You’ll never know as much about the details of any given subject as someone who spends their day, every day in that world.
What you need to do
You might not be able to do the job of your lead developer. But they can’t do your job either — and they probably don’t even want to. You need to win respect by being an effective leader and securing your teams the support and resources they need.
It’s also critical that you develop a sense of comfort in not knowing all of the answers. If you project confidence when asking questions you can actually use those moments as opportunities to allow someone on your team to shine by offering a solution. The doubt you feel is, more often than not, simply in your head.
Again, this comes back to creating a community-orientated culture, and the fact that your job isn’t about knowing everything — it’s about using the information your teams provide to make the right decisions. Fundamentally, you just need to show your curiosity and demonstrate your ability to create outcomes that matter to others. This is how you win respect as a leader.
Always keep business goals in mind
Organizations with CIOs who are more involved in shaping business strategy have been shown to outperform the average.3 As we’ve already discussed, bridging the gap between business strategy and technology strategy is a core function that technology leaders need to fill.
It’s your job to make sure that business decisions are being made with an eye on technological solutions, and those technology investments are made in line with business goals. Of course, you can’t do this without the support of wider business leadership and your wider technology team. However, that doesn’t mean success isn’t, ultimately, your responsibility. Demonstrating outcomes using technology will have a large impact on making that alignment possible.
What you need to do
Fundamentally, making this work comes down to understanding what your business goals are, and then making alignment with those goals a priority within your teams. On both sides, this comes down to communication.
First, you need to directly seek input from leaders across the business. You need to know what problems they are trying to solve, and what solutions they’ve already tried. Realistically, this needs to be happening on a team/function level, and at the board level. That means having a seat on the board, and making time in your day to discuss issues with individuals at different levels of leadership.
Then, you need to be in regular communication with your teams about what you’ve learned. Remember, you aren’t going to know all the answers. You might not have heard about the new API being able to solve the challenges faced by your finance team — but your API specialist probably has. By keeping a constant dialogue running you can find answers and then focus the right people on developing those solutions. This dialogue is also going to help you create the kind of culture.
Excel at debunking tech-jargon
As we keep coming back to, tech leaders need to be the bridge between technology and the business. That means getting good at explaining technology to non-technologist. More than anything, that means deleting jargon from your vocabulary, and perfecting the ability to communicate complicated technical ideas in ways that make sense on a practical level.
What you need to do
The big thing to understand is that business leaders are most often interested in outcomes. Particularly in board-level conversions, you need to lead with what your new-fangled tech concept is actually going to do — how it impacts both organizational process and the bottom line.
If you do have to explain how something works, use simple, everyday language, avoid acronyms and lean on visual representations where possible. You should also remember that approximations are good enough. For example, simply stating that APIs are software intermediaries that allow two applications to talk to each other is good enough.
Obviously, it’s more complicated than that — there are different kinds, different ways they get integrated, different security considerations — but none of that detail really matters when it comes to board-level approval.