Develop Your Technical Leaders

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Eight Tips to Help Your Audience Get the Most From Your Presentation

Use these tips to create a presentation that works for your audience.

When I interviewed Vincent Milich, director of the IT Effectiveness Practice at Hay Group, earlier this year, he talked about the importance of developing a career track that does not require tech pros to become managers in order to make more money. Nothing creates more bad managers than being forced into management in order to advance, he said.


Writing at InformationWeek, Dr. Larry Tieman, a senior VP at FedEx, seconds that notion. Even among companies that create the position of technical fellow, he warns against politicizing that position for some use other than that for which it was intended, such as creating a higher salary band to make some big hire.


In a separate post, he talks about how to develop your senior technical leaders, those tech experts who will not be going into management. These leaders must have the personality to influence people and be problem-solvers. Beyond that he calls for four core competencies, which he says few technical experts have: skills in communications, delegation, teamwork and mentoring.


He writes of his own struggle to create a presentation on object-oriented programming for a business leader in which he was being forced, in his view, to dumb it down - waaaaay down. But of the success of that five-minute presentation, he writes:

That experience taught me that technical topics must be tailored for the audience, and sometimes precision has to be sacrificed to get the main points across.

In developing technical leaders, he asks candidates to choose a technical problem they have solved that had a material effect on the business or to propose a solution to such a problem for a 10-minute presentation to the CIO and staff. He said it usually takes six months for candidates to go from topic selection to acceptable presentation - and can take more than a year.


Meanwhile, he asks candidates to begin delegating their work to others and training their replacements, which requires mentoring skills. That job is not done until the management team is confident the replacement can do the job. And he sends the candidates into all kinds of other groups that might be stuck on a problem or in full crisis mode to develop skills in working things out.


He writes:

This process of transforming senior technical talent into technical leaders is a lengthy one, but when it's completed I have a person I trust in the most difficult technical situations, whose solutions are well vetted with the technical teams, who understands the importance of developing more technical talent, and is a model for other new talent.

Interestingly enough, new research from the Center for Creative Leadership sheds some light on how to be chosen for such a leadership track in the first place. It looks at political skill, certainly a factor at the executive level, and its ties to promotability. It says of political skill:

Those high in political skill are evaluated by others as trustworthy, credible, likeable, charismatic, inspirational and competent. ... Politically skilled managers can complete tasks, accomplish goals, and facilitate relationships without scheming or appearing underhanded.

And while it makes sense that the boss's view of your skills carries the most weight when it comes to promotions, this research suggests that fostering such an image among peers and direct reports also is important. The study notes that political skill can be cultivated and improved, so look for opportunities to gain feedback and training in this area.