Mike C

A Leadership Blog

Why Leaders Need Technical Skills as Well as People Skills

Introduction

Leaders are individuals that need to have certain skill sets in order to succeed. They have to be able to balance both technical and people skill sets (two very different sides of the brain). Without these skills, it is rather easy for a leader to be overlooked or ineffective at best with their ability to drive change forward.

Leaders have to balance each side to be able to maximize the results that their team is able to achieve. Leadership is about optimizing every bit of the department that they have. To optimize, you have to know how to work with other people and use technology as a way to help them to work forward.

What are people skills?

People skills can rather loosely be defined as how well you are able to relate and interact with other individuals. It includes knowing when to tell certain jokes to acknowledging/addressing certain issues. There are a plethora of other skills that accompany this skill set. These skills determine how well you are able to relate to others and integrate with them on a regular basis. People skills determine how well that you are able to influence others (which is important if you are looking to lead).

There are any number of posts and videos that show and explain why a failure of having people skills will result in the failure of someone to be happy. Many individuals that are socially awkward find themselves incapable of moving up or being able to start their own families. Leaders in of themselves have to have these skills in place in order to succeed on their mission.

What are technical skills?

Technical skills are on the opposite end of the spectrum than people skills. These are the harder, more easily taught skills that can be used to perform any number of day to day tasks. These are skills such as programming, using Microsoft Office, Quickbooks and others. They are the skills that are acquired from years of studying and learning. Many leaders seem to overemphasize these skills on their development since they are much easier to acquire and use SMART goals than anything else.

These skills are important in part due to the fact they are needed. They are warranted in a job. They are what a business needs to carry out their functions accordingly. Leaders MUST have these in order to succeed at carrying out their day to day. Many of these skills are important to effectively work and move forward the business vision.

Why leaders fail at people skills

Some of the biggest reasons why leaders fail at using people skills:

  • They never learned them growing up
    • Parents could have tried to teach them but wound up giving up because the child did not want to learn.
    • Child could have just never had a social life to learn the skills to adapt.
  • Role models exhibited poor social skills or no social skills.
    • Parents or guardians often might have been too busy to invest in developing their child.
    • The same individuals could have also been uninterested or incapable of relating to their kids.
  • They developed or have a mental illness.
    • Depression, Autism and other illnesses can negatively impact and effect how well a person is able to relate to others.
    • Anger management or stress management issues are also a factor.
  • Traumatic experiences that have lead them to not interact with others.
    • Sometimes a leader could have been abused as a child that lead to other factors causing them to be antisocial.
    • A death of a loved one could have contributed to a traumatic experience, especially if they were a close relative or friend.
  • Bad past experiences with being social (such as being bullied)
    • Traumatic experiences like this make it harder for some individuals to want to come out of their shell.

These are just a brief list of some of the reasons why a leader might being failing at being sociable or personable with others. Leaders sometimes get into a habit of not using social skills either since the nature of their jobs often cause them to be busier than normal. As a result, you cannot just look at some of these reasons as the sole reason for why a leader might be failing at using social skills.

Why leaders fail at using technical skills

Much like personal skills, leaders can fail at using technical skills. These can be attributed to some of the following:

  • Uncomfortable use of a new piece of technology
    • Some technology can be rather difficult to get used to.
  • Age or Familial Background
    • Some individuals by sheer fact of their age or their upbringing may make it hard for them to adjust to using technology.
  • No previous experience with technology whether in former roles or personal life
    • This goes with the previous section, but there are some individuals that might not have had a chance to develop the skills in former jobs or roles.
  • Cultural background
    • Some cultures tend to not be as interested in technology or be able to afford a new computer (or other device).

These could be contributing factors with why individuals might struggle with using or developing technological skills. Keep in mind that there are other reasons why a person might be struggling to pick up these skills.

Why should leaders have both?

Many organizational leadership programs are more focused on the people element. Their focus is important since that you cannot be a leader without being able to influence others. People skills will help leaders to integrate within an organization and be able to create cohesion with their teams. Knowing how to manage others is important because that is what most leaders are going into the program are looking to develop.

People skills are ones that we need to have with anyone, not just leaders. Leaders need it more because they have to balance the variety of individuals on their team. They have to integrate individuals on their team. Leaders need people skills to balance the disagreements that arise as a result.

For technical skills, they need to know how to utilize technology in order to drive their organization forward. Technology makes it easier to account for things and also be able to automate various tasks that might be within their particular organization or department (think autoresponders). Tools like this can make a system or a process repeatable (and even more so).

Leaders must be able to utilize this information to their advantage. Leaders are all about being able to help their followers be able to carry out their tasks as best as possible. Knowing these skills can make it easier for a leader to be able to bridge the game between the more in depth and complicated to the people that they have on their staff.

Thoughts on developing technical skills

One of the best ways to develop technical skills is to enroll in after school programs or community enrichment programs offered by a community college. Community colleges offer courses such as Office 365 or Quickbooks. Courses like this are great since they are not entirely a semester long and can be easily manageable with a family and a job.

Another way that you could develop some of these skills is through an external course program like Udemy. This can make it rather easy for anyone that has an extremely busy schedule or on a budget. Udemy is a way that you can use video courses that can be watched at any time and anywhere. Many of them include additional resources like PDFs that you could print off.

Lastly, look at books that you can use. Many individuals like having the reference at hand. They are, for lack of a good way of saying this, unable or unwilling to really be able to learn these skills elsewhere. Books are a good way to help them learn some of these skills. They are great for additional reference in the future.

Thoughts on developing people skills

People skills are a little harder to fully develop and grow in an adult. Much of this should have been learned growing up and should have been taught to children. Leaders that struggle with this though are not beyond hope at all. They can still learn and develop rather great people skills.

The trick here is to acknowledge that you need to build them and that you need to invest. Things like Meetup are great for getting someone who is not normally social out there with other like-minded individuals. Many people could use to have groups like this as a way to help themselves get out. Getting out there will be the best way to start learning what is or is not appropriate (as well as learning how to read non-verbal cues).

If you happen to have an issue like Autism or Aspergers (Aspergers are essentially high functioning Autism), there is hope for you as well. The best thing to do is to find a therapist or a psychologist that has a focus on this niche. They can help you to be able to develop and craft a plan to learn how to interact with others.

There are ways to develop social skills. The biggest thing that you need to do as a leader is to focus on getting yourself out there. Accept invitations to hang out with others. Accept invitations to go to a dinner party. Situations like this can help you to be able to start learning how to interact with others and develop some of these skills as an adult.

Create a development plan

For leaders, you need to develop a plan for yourself. If you don’t, you are likely to NOT succeed. You are likely to NOT make any progress anywhere. That much is sure and that much is important. Take the investment in yourself first and move forward with that plan.

You have to set goals as you go. Goals that are easily measurable and achievable (but still make you work for them). Outline a date that you want to achieve a particular goal. Perhaps you want to learn 500 Spanish words to interact with Spanish speakers in one month. Perhaps you want to be an Excel master in 3 months. Define things like this on the front end and then break them down accordingly.

A plan like this is much more likely to be successful the more that you have thought it out and planned it out. It is much more likely to incorporate some of the issues that you might have and be able to address them accordingly.

Conclusion

If you are looking to become a leader, then there is a need for you to develop yourself first. You need to make sure that your skills and interpersonal skills are sharp in order to be able to lead accordingly. You must be able to interact and manage a variety of individuals that are difficult. If you struggle with this, then it is rather hard for you to succeed.

Lacking these skills will also make it hard for you to be able to succeed in other areas of life as well. Developing these skills are also going to affect your ability to integrate with any organizational structure.

Essential Leadership Tool: Microsoft Visio

The short version of this post

This post is not a tutorial over how to use Microsoft Visio. There will be tutorials for you to use this down the road. But for now, it is to help you to learn more about the tool so you can make an informed decision. Visio is an essential tool that many leaders use to plan ahead.

Why do leaders need tools?

Leaders need to have tools. I mean computer tools. Leaders often fight to not incorporate these into their systems and departments. They fail to see that there are some legitimate uses for having technology that a leader needs to have some technology in their departments.

Computer tools make it easier to carry out any number of tasks such as:

  • It makes it easier to plan research and know some of those constraints.
    • Technology provides glances like Quickbooks providing financial overviews
    • Freemind can provide an easy brainstorming session
  • Tools can make it easier to see issues that might arise with plans.
    • You can hammer out details during the brainstorming phase.
    • You can also have a chance to see if a plan is worth carrying out.
  • Technology makes it easier to facilitate communication between followers and employees.
    • Chat clients can make it easier to be able to send a piece of information quickly and easily to another coworker.

Leaders often fail to see how these can easily help improve many of the issues that their departments face. Leaders fight the tools since they often misunderstand some of the benefits that it might bring to their teams.

What is Microsoft Visio?

Microsoft Visio is one tool that allows individuals to outline some of the following:

  • Programs
  • Offices
  • Processes
  • Novels or books
  • Outline Blog Content
  • Outline Marketing
  • Training programs
  • Organization structure
  • Vision establishing
  • Establish a pattern of research

The things that you see here are just some of the benefits of using a diagramming tool like Visio. It can be rather hard to effectively describe the insane amount of value that you can get from using the program. There are a lot of things that you need to just learn as you go when you have incorporated the program in place.

How should you use it?

As mentioned in the previous section, there are a lot of things that Visio can do to help you as a leader. These are processes and issues that leaders will have to utilize on a regular basis. Let’s work through some of them:

Programs

Invariably, some organizations like to incorporate internal, custom-made programs. You cannot make a program until you have outlined what it is supposed to do and have gotten a consensus with it. Visio can help you to establish the logic for your program. It allows you to sketch out the steps taken to get to the end result. For leaders this is ideal. It allows them to sketch out what they are after and can help set expectations for some of the programmers in the office. Leaders can use this to help give a rap sheet instead of having to write it out. Leaders can use this as a way to help communicate expectations.

Offices

One of the hidden gems of Visio is that you can use it to diagram an office layout. Got a new manager with new items? Visio can help you to be able to arrange their office before they start trying to get it set up. Leaders can also use this to see if things would work better for a certain flow or layout for your organization’s office or headquarters. You can also look at how a floorplan is going to work, especially if you also deal with shipping and receiving long-term.

Books

Leaders sometimes get to writing books. Visio can be a good way to outline the book’s overall structure and the structure of the chapters. This is important especially if you are in a leadership program and want to be able to break something down effectively. Visio has templates that you can use towards being able to also make sure that you cover all of the details that you are looking to discuss.

Training Programs

Of course, leaders must implement training programs for their staff and others. Visio can be a great tool for helping to plan out what training points that you want to cover. There are templates that you could use towards also for staff meetings as well. I place meetings here since meetings can be a way to implement training procedures and discuss these points.

Content Creation or Marketing

Leaders must be aware of marketing and content creation as a way to generate revenue. Visio is a way that can outline that content and marketing plan. You can chart out the posts that you want to publish and the plan to get those posts noticed by search engines and other influencers. This is important if you want your organization to stay in business. Visio keeps you organized as you are trying to establish a content medium.

Outline Processes

Leaders, like managers, must deal with processes. They must approach something with planning and care. If they don’t, the organization will not hang onto a leader that cannot plan. Visio is essential for working out on some of these processes that you want to have implemented in your department or organization. It can map out some of those finer things.

At the end of the day…..

Microsoft Visio is a way for leaders to get and stay organized. It is a way to help leaders to plan out changes or things that they want to implement. Leaders need to be organized if they want to be in a position of power. The more organized that you are, the better people are going to want to follow you. The more organized that you can get yourself, the more likely you are going to be effective in leading teams and moving forward towards organizational goals. Visio is important for ensuring that you are setup for success.

Using Technology and Data to Drive Change

Introduction

The realm of technology is something that many leaders look at with disdain. They see it as a cost and not an opportunity to help. They look at it as something that they have to use to carry out a set of tasks on a regular basis. If they don’t, then the whole organization stumbles to a halt.

What Leadership Is, A Brief Recap from Last Post

Leadership is essentially about helping to be the best that they can be. Leadership is about investing in helping the community move forward via investing in the development of a person within a predetermined framework. It is essential to get people involved with getting to subscribe to change. This is what leadership is in a nutshell. Not understanding this rather rudimentary definition makes it hard to distinguish what a leader is versus what a manager is. Managers tend to use data to drive changes to processes first and then people second. Leaders use the information to be able to improve their staff and make life easier for them.

What Leadership Needs

Leadership needs data and it needs a lot of it. While this is a little counter-intuitive, leaders need to make decisions based off of information They have to be able to make decisions and without having data can make it rather hard for anyone in any sort of leadership role to make sound decisions.

This leads to a situation where leadership needs to figure out exactly what they need. Here where the interesting portion comes into play:

  1. Need a way to implement the system without interfering with certain employee laws
  2. Need a way that they can easily use this information that they collect
  3. Need a way to distinguish what is a process issue versus an employee issue

Utilizing this structure, it can be rather hard to make some implementations on the front end. Let’s look at these individually:

Needing to implement a system without interfering in certain employee laws

In order for the system to implement, it has to be able to conform to the employment laws that exist. You cannot as a leader implement something that is going to interfere with the intricate details of someone’s life. You cannot implement a system that is going to interfere with an employee’s research into a health condition that they might have. Situations like this can make it tricky to effectively implement systems that you might need in order to collect data. In order to collect data that you can use to optimize systems and people within the organization. Best to keep things generic and allow employees to know that there are systems being implemented on the back in order to optimize content. Make sure that you consult with HR and any other important individuals to ensure that what you are doing is legal.

This can make it easier for employees and volunteers to bring a harassment suit against you as the leader and your organization. That can wind up costing the company millions or even billions a year. That can wind up costing the company’s reputation in terms of being trustworthy and reliable. So be careful how you implement and what you collect from your employees.

Need a way that information can be easily used

The purpose of knowing and using technology is being able to utilize the information that is being provided. It is being able to utilize the information in an easy to consume way that helps make their lives easier. Charting and recommendation engines are a great way for leaders to be able to utilize technology and information that it provides into an easier format to drive data-driven change in a company. The information has to be established in a way that can make it easier to consume the necessary components of it while collecting the necessary data. If you cannot use the data, why even collect it? The purpose of data is to utilize the information. It is essential for driving the company forward. Having information like this is important regardless.

Need a way to determine what is a process issue versus and employee issue

The data also needs to be organized effectively. Leaders and managers need to know what a problem boils down to a process or a person. Process problems need to be revisited in order to make them successful. They might need to be simplified or changed in order to make it easier to carry out a particular range of functions. Simplifying processes makes it easier to perform those repeated tasks time and time again and can increase the productivity of the staff. In terms of the people aspect of it, it can lead a leader to be able to address performance problems and helpfully remove any individuals that might be creating further problems.

Implementation

Now for the implementation phase of this post. It takes time to make changes. It takes time to implement the technology to make any drive forward. The best thing is to see the budget and start seeing what employees are going to benefit from the most. If it does not carry any sort of benefit, even if a little, then you have done nothing to improve your lot. What you can do is also research or task people to research some of these things. That would be the easiest first task to do. The second is to look at the best possible solutions or even things that you could implement early on. While doing that, keep your eyes open towards changes or better products that you can use. Having this can make it easier to drive further changes in the future. This could be an aftermarket extension for Excel. This could be a product that is offered by Oracle. It doesn’t matter as long as it can help in a short time. From this transition, work towards custom and internal solutions if you have someone tech-savvy enough.

Some companies might never progress to that final stage. They might not ever be able to fully implement what they need. Sometimes they don’t really need to in order to make a successful implementation of technology. That is perfectly fine if that implementation that they use drives the benefit and provides the needed data. If the change at the end of the day results in the information that they need, it is sound.

Conclusion

Technology is something that most, if not all, leaders should be striving to implement. Without these changes, it can cause many organizations to fail and stumble. Look at what technology could do to benefit your organization today.

What Is Leadership?

Companies are in turmoil. The economy has been through a lot of things over two presidents. There is a lot of uncertainty when it comes to the future with the way things are going. It is imperative that companies integrate change. It is imperative that companies invest in leadership. It is imperative that companies learn to distinguish what makes a leader from a manager.

Leadership seems like a new catch term. A catchy phrase thrown around. Like so many other “self-help business” words. But what is it exactly? What could an organization do to get more leaders? What are things that can be done in order to drive change? There is a lot to cover.

What is leadership?

Leadership is an essential element of many companies and organizations these days. Leadership is something that is becoming more commonplace. Organizations cannot stand having just managers and a traditional structure. They realize that people are an investment as well. They learn that they have to get their workers to be on top of their game to succeed and survive in a very competitive world these days. Without good vision and leadership, many companies start faltering. They start stumbling and caving. It takes times to begin thinking through some of those very components that can make a company successful. It takes a lot of hard decisions to look at what needs to be done to thrive in the upcoming economy.

But what exactly is leadership? What benefits does it bring to the table? How does leadership differ from managing?

According to Forbes, leadership is the ability to influence others towards achieving a common goal (Kruse 2013). Notice that this definition is not managing. Notice that it does not entail manipulation or negative ways to coerce others into doing something. The influence here is all positive. If it is not favorable, then it is likely destructive and will rot an organization from within.

Further on in the same article, leadership versus management is that leaders often transcend the ladder in a corporation to help guide others into a better path. It is all about the people in the process (Kruse 2013). Investing in people is the most important thing. It is helping people to become the best that they can be. Leaders are not tied to a role or any number of things that a traditional manager might have (Kruse 2013). As a result, they can lead without necessarily being a manager.

Influence is predominantly being charismatic or persuasive. Ideally, it would be both. Individuals that can use these traits are candidates that you should be looking for. However, just because they can use these, does not mean that they would be likely candidates to be a leader. Some have dark secrets. Some are incapable of leading or have no desire for that role.

Components of Leadership

With leadership defined, let’s examine some of the critical elements that go into leadership. There are several but the ones that I would like to touch upon include: Honesty/Integrity, Vision, Team Builder, and Communication Skills (Earley, 2015). Does it mean that leaders are perfect all of the time? No. They sometimes fail and lie. They sometimes create disharmony. They sometimes fail to communicate.

Leaders know that they are not perfect. They know that they fail and struggle. What makes a good leader is the willingness to keep investing and keep getting back up. It takes a lot of effort to be able to have that level of persistence. That is what contributes to a good leader, in conjunction with the aforementioned traits.

Leaders consistently try to work towards these components. They work towards their development first, before they work on others. They work on trying to become a better version of themselves. The process is never-ending. The key is that they strive for it. Leaders solicit feedback so that they can continue to grow.  The leader then works on developing his or her community or organization. They takes their time towards growing individuals that are their direct reports. They invest also in ones that are not even direct reports.

Implementing Leadership

When it comes to implementing leadership, there are several things that come into play. There are several things that can be done to make leadership somewhat successful, especially when an organization is rather new to it. It takes time to identify what a leader is or is not. It takes time for even experienced leaders to be able to contribute to a path of change with a failing organization.

Some of these implementations include a reflection and review process, fail forward mentality, and employee empowerment (Lepsinger 2018). There are other things that need to be incorporated but let’s start with these. Empowering employees to make decisions takes the managers out of the equation. Along with the fail forward, you might find that your employees, while they might not be successful at creating a new process, may reveal things that you need to address. These can encourage them to keep trying to make decisions and help drive change (hopefully to find better processes and ways to simplify it). Reflection and review are things that should continuously be done; it can help keep people honest.

It is important to note that there should always be a documentation process for everything. Encourage the empowered employees to invest in documenting anything, and everything that they are doing since this can be factored into reviews. This can provide an additional resource for the organization to acknowledge that there are strides being made to improve the company. That allow is worthwhile.

Conclusion

Keep in mind that leadership is so much more than what was presented in this particular post. It is an ever-growing field that has a lot to uncover. It has a lot to explore and discuss to become a widely established field. There are always a lot more components and ways to implement leadership. However, companies can no longer afford to delay incorporating more leadership within their ranks. Leadership is what is needed, not management.

References

Earley, S. (2015 March 3) 6 Key Components of Effective Leadership. Retrieved from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/6-key-components-effective-leadership-steve-earley

Lepsinger, R (2018 July 13). How to Implement Strategic Leadership With Your Organization. Retrieved from https://www.onpointconsultingllc.com/blog/how-to-implement-strategic-leadership-in-your-organization.

Kruse, K (2013 April 9). What is Leadership? Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/kevinkruse/2013/04/09/what-is-leadership/#1291341c5b90