Round 3 . . .

Technical Expertise versus Personal Knowledge, Round 3


Thanks, Google!

You recently made my point for me by failing to recognize that good management and leadership requires more than technical expertise.  Google has a history of promoting and developing its leadership based on their technical abilities, ignoring the “soft skills” that help one actually manage other living, breathing human beings.

They have now changed their approach and are tackling employee retention issues by asking employees what they think are critical management skills.  No surprise that technical skill came in dead last, at least to those of us who study leadership and management. 

What employees want is managers who are “good communicators, . . . make time for one-on-one meetings, . . . masters of precision questioning, and . . . take an interest in their careers and lives”.

Very “squishy” stuff . . . and deeply desired by those who would be led.

You can read more details here:  Google Management.

Bottom Line:

  • Technical skills are not unimportant, but they are not the primary skill set for a manager or leader.  Business skills (what others call “soft” skills) are primary and critical.
  • Developing business skills, such as coaching, communication, and, active listening, in your managers and leaders often requires a dedicated effort.
  • Even “cutting edge” organizations may get this one wrong:).


3 thoughts on “Round 3 . . .

  1. Pingback: How To Properly Prepare First-Time Managers | Joyante's Blog

  2. How do you implement the squishy stuff in technical organizations? My experience is a lot of push back due to challenging schedules, not wanting to “go there”, and the “I have all the answers” mindset.


    • Hi, Pegotty – thanks for your question, tough as it is:)

      I have experienced the same push back as you describe and some of this, such as scheduling issues, is not unique to promoting business skills – some folks don’t seem to be able to make time for ANY training or development.

      I think the approach that works best includes the following:

      1) Present the skill training you are promoting with dignity. That’s why I use the term “business skills” instead of “soft skills”. Sometimes the words do matter.

      2) Show them the money. As much as possible, demonstrate the expected ROI on what you have to sell. For example, if you are promoting emotional intelligence skills, first find out what the lack of same appears to be costing the organization. If you are a customer service organization, this is relatively easy, but if your target employees are cube rats, not so easy. To whatever extent you can, show what not doing the training will cost and also what doing the training with appropriate follow-up and follow-through will gain.

      3) Be very, very patient and watch for opportunities to gently point out the lack of business skills in specific circumstances. This can be dicey when the lack is prominently displayed by a senior leader. Using the skills you are promoting is essential – make yourself and your allies poster models for effective business skills deployment.

      If you have your plan firmly in place, can show a win for the organization by doing it, are modeling the behavior daily, and still getting nowhere – may be time to dust off the resume. My experience is that one can spend years beating one’s head against a very reistant culture:)

      Hope this helps – it’s quick and dirty, but I do think these three things make a difference.



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