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In our last issue, we discuss how technical people can leverage on their analytical abilities to become great sales people.


In this current issue though, we will be looking at what are some of the constraints that technical people face when they need to lead people or manage relationships, as well as what are some of the strategies they can take to transform into highly effective leaders.


Hence, this month's topics:

  1. Transforming Technical Professionals into Highly Effective Leaders; and

  2. New Study Finds 42% of Low Performers MORE Engaged than High and Middle Performers

This issue's main article is on "Transforming Technical Professionals into Highly Effective Leaders", and we will share with you some tips and insights on what are the main challenges of technical people when leading people and managing relationships, and how to make the transformation into highly effective leaders in simple and practical ways.


In brief:

  • How managing people is distinctly different from dealing with machines, which is something that many technical people don't realise;

  • How good managers and leaders have to manage relationships across departments. and not just their own;

  • How technical people can leverage on their thinking and action roles to become highly effective leaders.  Read on... ...

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If you're exploring ways on how you can polish your facilitation skills, check out this Facilitating Learning from Experience workshop by Roger Greenaway (the trainer who trained IWNC, a pioneer in Experiential Learning) from 14-17 May 2013 in Shanghai, China.  Contact to get special early-bird offers.

Transforming Technical Professionals into Highly Effective Leaders


by c.j. Ng



Martin is feeling very frustrated.  He was once the company's best engineer, and was promoted to become the Head of Engineering.  However since then, Martin seems to be having a tough time producing results for his team.  Worse still, he sometimes gets blamed for failures in areas that he wasn't even in charge of.


Some of the challenges that Martin faces include:

With each passing day, Martin feels more disengaged from his job.  He love engineering, and had excelled in it.  However, his current work him to lead people and manage relationships more so than leveraging his technical expertise.


In fact, due to the challenges face in leading people and managing relationships, Martin spends a lot less time on what he does best (engineering), and a lot more on what he's not good at (managing people).


Now what could Martin do to transform himself into a highly effective leader, and rediscover his enthusiasm in his work?


People are Different from Machines

One of the key things that many engineers don't (consciously) realise is that: dealing with people is actually quite different from dealing with machines.
When you deal with a machine or an equipment, if you have the same inputs and the same processes, you will get the same output every single time.  If you don't, then there's something wrong with the machine.
However, when you deal with people, having the same input and processes is unlikely to give you the same response every time.  This unpredictability is the nature of human beings (in ways more unpredictable than animals), and is somewhat contrary to the expectations of many technical people.
According to the Belbin Team Role Theory, how a person behaves in a team could be influenced by factors such as:
  • Personality;
  • Role Learning;
  • External Influences;
  • Experience;
  • Values and Motivation;
  • Mental abilities, etc.
And as a result, some of us will be more inclined to generate free-flow ideas, evaluate options or specialise in a specific area.  Others may be more inclined to seek new inspiration, coordinate with people or maintaining team morale.  Still, there will be the action-oriented ones who will be allocating work for others, implementing ideas, or ensuring quality work is being achieved.
Whatever is the case, if you get the right person to do the wrong job, you are unlikely to get the results you want.
People are also different from machines in the sense that people need to be inspired.  Unlike machines, you may need to convince your people that whatever you ask them to do is Heartfelt, Animated, Required, and at times, Difficult.

Being Responsible for Others' Success


Many technical managers who are deeply specialised in their respective areas that we work with tend to also start from the view that they are responsible for the results of their own teams, and not be distracted by the actions of other teams.


However, in doing so, many technical teams can be perceived as being unsupportive or even myopic to the extent of not focusing on the organisation's overall goals.


However, these technical managers don't see things in such ways.  In their view, as long as their do their jobs, and as long as their colleagues in the other teams do their own jobs too, then the organisation's goals will be achieved.


Again, if only people are just as self-directed as machines can be.  In most organisations, teams undertaking different projects yet all facing tight deadlines are also asked to share scarce resources to get their work done.  These so-called sharing of resources can escalate into a competition or a fight for those scarce resources, and may lead to further infighting, if managers are not careful


Hence, when working with other departments, technical managers will have to:

  1. Establish a common objective or goal between the seemingly conflicting departments;

  2. Share the facts;

  3. Look for the benefits of cooperation;

  4. Address mutual concerns;

  5. Seek innovative, win-win solutions;

  6. Understand each other’s feelings;

  7. Mapping the next steps of cross-department collaboration

To technical people whom might have spent way too much time with machines, dealing with ambiguous ways of collaboration, as well as being attentive to each other's feelings, may sound very alien to them.  Yet, these are specifically what needs to be done if an organisation wants to achieve greater results through its people.  These are areas where highly effective leaders can handle well.


Transforming the Technical Manager into a Highly Effective Leader


While managing people may not be a technical manager's inherent strength, any qualified and capable technical person is likely to be strong in their logical thinking.


Hence, the steps to transform technical managers into highly effective leaders are:

  1. Recognise that people have a different "Operating System" than machines;

  2. Learn the various variables in this "Operating System for Human Beings", as it is likely that there are much more variables in managing people, than in handling a machine or equipment;

  3. Harness their keen sense of observation, and experimentation;

  4. Digest the empirical results of the different approaches in leading people, and find the most optimal path of each technical manager;

  5. Keep on improving the process

In a way, if technical managers can perceive people as very sophisticated machines without a clear set of user manual, and could interact with one another, that could actually help them understand how to lead people and manage relationships in a clearer perspective.


Similarly, if the non-technical staff and managers can also remind our technical counterparts what are some of the operating procedures of leading people and managing relationships, it will certainly help the technical managers make their transformation into highly effective leaders a lot smoother.


Need help in transforming your technical sales professionals into top-notched sales gurus? Simply e-mail info@directions-consulting.comm or call +86-136 7190 2505 or Skype: cydj001 and arrange to buy me a mocha. All information shall be kept in confidence.

Power Breakfast Hour: 21 May 2013

Transforming Technical People into Highly Effective Leaders

  • What are some major challenges that technical people will face, when making the transition from engineers to leaders or managers;

  • How technical managers can define and understand their team members' and co-workers behavioural patterns, and inspire them to greater results;

  • How technical managers can leverage on their keen sense of observation and experimentation to transform themselves into highly effective leaders

VENUE: Crowne Plaza Shanghai • 400 Panyu Road (near Fahuazhen Road) • 上海银星皇冠酒店 • 番禺路 400 号 (靠法华镇路)

DATE: Tuesday, 21 May 2013

TIME: 08:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.




To make this a more conducive discussion, we are expecting a small group of about 15 people only. The room can only take in 18, so please register early to avoid disappointments. Please e-mail your registrations to


Pls. check out our web sites and for more inspiration.

Tips for Managers:

New Study Finds 42% of Low Performers MORE Engaged than High and Middle Performers

Mark Murphy

Founder and CEO, Leadership IQ


Over the years our ongoing engagement studies have kept leaders well informed about the negative impact low performers have on their high and middle performing peers. For example, in one study of over 70,000 employees, we learned that working with low performers made 87% of study participants want to change jobs while 93% reported it decreased their productivity. For any organization that values its people, news like this is pretty bad. But as our newest and just released study reveals, it gets even worse.


As reported in reported in multiple media sources including the Wall Street Journal, when we compared the detailed performance evaluation and engagement survey data from over 200 companies, we found that in 42% of companies, low performers report being more engaged – more motivated, and more likely to enjoy working at their job than their middle and high performing peers. And what’s perhaps even more agonizing to learn is that most low performers don’t even know they’re slacking. That’s right, not only are your low performers doing a bad job for the organization and chasing away your high and middle performers, many of them are oblivious to any wrongdoing. And that only makes your good people feel even more disengaged. In tough times when organizations most need their best talent, leaders need to do a better job at holding low performers accountable.

Increasing accountability in low performers


Increasing accountability starts by learning to recognize and respond to the four stages most people go through before they get to accountability. Because once you can positively identify whether it’s denial, excuses, blame and/or anxiety that is preventing someone from reaching accountability, you can take focused action to move your folks past these roadblocks. So when you hear “I didn’t know there was a problem,” or “It’s Bob’s fault, not mine,” or “I can’t handle the stress; I’m totally freaking out” you can lead these employees straight into “Sure. No problem. I got it covered.” And in many cases, the only action required to move people into accountability is a quick conversation like the fact-based ‘Candor Conversation’ that moves people past denial, or the ‘Planning Conversation’ that alleviates anxiety by breaking tough issues into bite-sized pieces that are easier to tackle.

Of course, when performance levels fail to meet your clear expectations it’s also critical to enforce accountability with real-life consequences. Not only does this tell slackers that the free ride is over, it lets your best performers, who have been waiting for you to do something to differentiate them from the slackers, know that you’re taking action to remove one of their biggest pain points. And that’s going to do a lot to increase engagement in your high and middle performers.

Leadership IQ has all the scripts, and we’ll be sharing them in our upcoming webinar How to Be Inspiring & Motivating in Tough Times. We’ll also be talking about setting the kind of targets that inspire employees to go above and beyond to deliver great performance and some really tough issues like how your own attitude and behavior directly affect your employees’ level of motivation.


To find out how you develop good emotional IQ and 39 other eLearning topics by Leadership IQ, you can e-mail or call +86-136 7190 2505 or Skype: cydj001


About Directions Management Consulting


Directions Management Consulting is the partner of LeadershipIQ in China and Asia. LeadershipIQ helps more than 125,000 leaders every year through the facts drawn from one of the largest ongoing leadership studies ever conducted is used to help companies apply resources where the best possible results be achieved.


In addition, Directions Management Consulting is a leading provider of sales performance, innovation and experiential learning solutions in China and many parts of Asia. is the sales performance arm of Directions Management Consulting specialising in conducting training, research and consulting services for sales managers and their team.


Raybattle is the strategic partner of Directions Management Consulting specialising in experiential learning events and management retreats.


Currently, Directions Management Consulting has served clients such as InterContinental Hotels Group, Unilever, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Roche, Philips Lighting, Carrier, Ingersoll Rand, Freudenberg etc.


Through collaboration with consultancies such as Forum Corporation, MTI, de Bono China, ProWay etc., the consultants in Directions Management Consulting have served clients such as PwC, Air Products, Evonik, Wacker, Epson amongst others.


Directions Management Consulting will increase its efforts to conduct leadership studies in China and other parts of Asia, so that more companies apply resources where the best possible results be achieved in this part of the world.


Enquiries and suggestions, pls. e-mail or visit

Mailing Address: Shui Cheng Nan Road 51 Lane No. 9 Suite 202 Shanghai 201103 China