How to Integrate Tech Skills With People Skills
“The real danger is not that computers will start thinking like men, but that men will start thinking like computers.”
Sydney J. Harris
Mastery of leadership in the digital age requires the integration of skills. Whether your dominant skill is technology talent or your dominant skill of dealing with people, the future requires all of us to integrate our skills to achieve leadership mastery in the digital age.
If you are a tech-savvy leader, you may be intelligent, capable, analytical, process-oriented, fast, and focused. These skills are highly valued in the workplace and now is the time to integrate technology skills with people management skills to increase overall leadership effectiveness and to advance your team and organization. The skills needed to be a skilled leader in this digital age include being tech savvy AND being evolutionary.
In the past, people skills development was often sidelined as being too ‘sensitive’ or unimportant and in the last decade there has been a higher value placed on technological skills. Since the global economic challenges of 2008, progressive organizations have taken note of the gaps and have invested in the training and development of their leaders to now incorporate highly developed leadership skills relating to the ‘people’ side of business.
A talented and trained workforce is an asset that companies now understand the value of and therefore now know they must have great leaders who inspire and develop the talent within or their talent will leave and go elsewhere.
A few years ago I had a consulting contract with a high-tech company that was facing the challenge of retaining their Generation Y employees. Upon investigation, it was found that Baby Boomer leaders did not adapt to Gen Y attitudes and work style. At the company, Baby Boomer leaders had an attitude of superiority and demanded all employees to conform to the old ‘my way’ style. or highway’. As you can imagine, this didn’t go well with Gen Y employees and a large number of highly skilled employees leaving in droves.
As technology leaders get younger, the challenge has shifted to having the leadership knowledge and understanding of human behavior to keep teams happy, functioning, and creating superior results.
Baby Boomer leaders have an attitude of superiority and require all employees to conform. As you can imagine, this didn’t go well with Gen Y employees and most of them left in droves.
There is a need in today’s modern workplace and the workplace of tomorrow to have leaders who are adaptable, agile and able to mobilize people to do their jobs at their highest level, manage remote teams and work teams that are flexible and technology literate, leaders who more than a good leader; leaders who have leadership mastery.
With so much focus placed on the technological aspect of the job, many leaders have lost sight of good change leadership tactics or have never been exposed to.
In this chapter we want to look at the difference between a tech-savvy leader and a people-savvy leader.
Let’s take a look at the chart below to see an example of some of the key differences:
Focus on computer
Focus on data
Focus on output
Can’t wait for people’s problems
Communicate in the language of technology
Lack of sensitivity to other people’s emotions
Focus on results
Open and curious
Focus on people
Focusing on the benefits of data for people
Dealing with people’s problems with understanding
Very aware of the emotional state of others
As you read the list for each description of the tech-savvy leader and the people-savvy leader, you may find yourself judging some of the items on the list. Or you may think that you have a high level of each of the listed skills.
For example I have a client who is a CEO who is very people focused, but he is not tech savvy so he understands people but doesn’t understand technology. As his consultant, I worked with him to develop both areas so he could be more effective as a leader. When I refer to tech-savvy I mean technology-aware, and functional – not tech-savvy!
Leaders seeking to achieve a more tech-savvy mastery choose to spend the time needed to develop their people skills in addition to the time spent continuing to develop their technology knowledge and awareness.
I recently gave a presentation for a large multinational technology group in Orlando Florida and while I was presenting I gave out my cell phone number so my audience could message me while I was talking and asking me questions.
This works really well because the questions are anonymous (unless they want to identify themselves) and I can answer them while reading the content of my presentation. One of the questions I get when talking about the need for tech professionals to improve their people skills on the leadership side is, “how do I get my team members to stop all their politics and focus on work?”
I messaged the leader back to ask if it was okay to publicly announce the question and discuss it as a benefit to the group. He said yes and so I asked the question back, “do you have regular team update meetings either in person or via Skype?” the leader replied, ‘no’ and then I asked, “are you publicly sharing what’s going on with your team so they have the most up-to-date first hand information?” and he replied, “no”.
People don’t leave their jobs – they leave their leaders – a harsh reality and one you may experience yourself as an employee and as a leader.
The reason I want this to be discussed with the whole group is because in this scenario the leader only focuses on his technology skills and doesn’t use anyone else’s skills at all and there are many other audiences who are similar to him. The person asking the question had the courage to identify himself to the group and we worked through how he could get his team to stop politics and focus on work, the ideas presented to him were:
#1- Hold team meetings (virtually or in person) regularly (weekly if possible) to discuss what the goals for the coming week are, who’s doing what and the latest news from your boss and the company.
#2 – Identify one or two people who are political ‘influencers’ and invite them for coffee or lunch to talk about the company or schedule a one-on-one Skype if they are remote workers, their satisfaction with the job and what they need to do help them focus on getting the job done. Having the support of an influencer is a major advantage.
When the audience was given these ideas, he said aloud, “Geez, managing this person is a lot of work!” and therein lies the real challenge for most leaders!
Many leaders get caught up in deadlines, technology updates, business results, and they forget that to achieve all of these things successfully, you have to rely on your people. People are not machines, they are human, emotional and need to be treated as valuable members of your team.
People don’t leave their jobs – they leave their leaders – a harsh reality and one you may experience both as an employee yourself and as a leader.
As a leader, you must ask yourself if you are willing to help people succeed, grow people, and ultimately focus your time and energy on becoming a great leader. As the workplace continues to accelerate and change, it is now more important to focus on the technology and people side of the business and this means knowing who you are as a leader and adapting to the realities of managing people.