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Kill The Problem

In my coaching practice with engineers, physicians and other highly technical people, I have learned that being a good software designer, MD or financial analyst requires the competency of identifying problems, figuring out cause and effect, evaluating solutions and then killing, or getting rid of the problem. These people are wired to find what is wrong (not what is right) with your code, your throat or your IRA portfolio.  Then, when they propose a solution and options, after your OK, they proceed to kill the problem so that it goes away.

Now, if that highly technical person is given the opportunity to manage a project, work as a team leader or manager, a new way of problem solving must be learned.  It is called collaboration. That involves slowing down, asking for other team members’ input, weighing options, gaining buy-in, discovering that other stakeholders want to put their 2 cents in, and only days, weeks or months later can they finally “kill the problem.”  It can be really frustrating to have to slow down, listen to others, get their opinions, and gain consensus.

So the career path from individual technician to manager of technical people is not one that everyone can successfully master. Organizations need to carefully select potential managers for those positions through assessments, projects, task forces and small leadership assignments which allow the technical person to discover if they can blend their deep technical knowledge with more people skills, in order to take that next career step.

It is hugely satisfying for me to see and foster this blend of deep technical skills and strong people collaborative skills. A person with this blended skill set will have a lot of latitude in their organization, and consequently they have many more career options than those with only technical – or only people – skills. 

All that said, it is reassuring that when I need a highly technical person to fix my computer, they can kill that virus quickly, without any hesitation.



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