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Rick’s Read on Hiring & Leading Tech Talent

Updated: Oct 18, 2021

As an executive technology leader, I'm often asked how to build successful "tech teams." As I have moved into roles of greater responsibility throughout my career, I learned early on that as the leader you are not measured by what you achieve, but more so by what the team achieves. The higher up in an organization, the more that equation shifts to the leader's ability to influence others -- or as I like to say -- lead! While there are many attributes of a good team, I fundamentally believe the foundation begins with good individuals.

Here's what I mean by that statement:

1. When hiring, look for attitude and aptitude over achievement. I have found that successful people have a positive attitude about themselves, their work, and life in general. They seek out issues and solve problems. They look at what's possible, versus what can't be done. Aptitude infers the ability of one's capacity to learn a particular skill. If you are hiring a great technician for a management position (even a tech management position), they had better have the aptitude for both the technical and management aspects of the role; hiring on only one aspect of an aptitude that is not present in a person could signal the condition known as "wrong person for the job." While I do believe that achievements are indicators of past success, it's all too common that hiring managers let past achievements weigh too heavily in their decision-making when hiring or even promoting people into positions that they don't have the proper attitude or aptitude to be successful. Your role as a leader should be to make sure that people are successful in what it is the organization is seeking to achieve as a team ... so, be sure to start by getting the right people into the right roles early on in your tenure.

2. Assuming you've followed the principles of hiring for attitude and aptitude, good teaming is a much more realistic outcome. That said, the leader is challenged to make sure the team has the been given the direction needed to be successful. However, do not be overly prescriptive (be more descriptive) in what it is you are asking the team to achieve ... let them own it. As I recall a quote I once heard by Steve Jobs "... don't hire a bunch of smart people and then tell them how to do their jobs ..." -- or something along those lines. Steve is advocating for what I would say is hire smart (attitude/aptitude) people and get out of their way.

3. Assuming you have given the team the descriptive goals that articulate/accentuate the mission, then it's off to the races -- execution. This is where many leaders fail in their responsibilities -- execution of the plan. Nothing deflates a team more than for a leader to not be engaged in the execution phase of a plan. The leader has to continually participate in the team's daily progress. Part-time cheer leader (accentuating the small success), part time coach (course corrections), and full time servant to the needs of the team. The leader is constantly and consistently taking the pulse of the team. After all it's all about people and people are not robots. People have daily struggles and they need to know the leader cares about those struggles. Leadership is about taking care of the people, so the people can take care of the mission.

4. Lastly -- to be a good leader, you must be a great follower. A good leader knows that he/she does not know it all. There will be times (many) when the person "in charge" is not capable to lead a specific project, issue, or event. A good leader recognizes their strengths and weaknesses. That leader knows when to let those with the right attributes for a given situation lead, and the leader becomes follower. A follower on any team is just as important as the leader to the team's success. A leader does not care who gets the credit for the team's success, as long as the team is successful. That's not to mean the leader should not recognize the contributions of the individual, but there is more to gain as an organization from the team's success than an individual's success.

How you present yourself to others and work on teams is often measured by the attitude you project. And that "projection of attitude" is your "carrying card to your personal brand."

What does your personal brand ... attitude ... say about yourself?

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