When the expert becomes a leader
Very often in the life of an expert there is a moment when he wants (or it must) to become a leader. These are two different roles that are very difficult to reconcile with each other. In this post I will present some useful techniques that can help experts become a good leader.
When asked which role is more important, you must answer yourself. Everything depends on the context. As a rule, the role of the leader will be more important because it depends not only on your work but also on the work of other people. People you are responsible for.
Between an expert and a leader
The expert in his daily work focuses on solving problems and expanding his knowledge. The leader in turn must focus on the team and its success. Let's try to compare both roles
|performing tasks||efficient team work|
|exploration of knowledge||team success|
|technical skills||soft skills|
|expert experience||creating atmosphere|
|problem analysis||team observation|
|implementation of solutions||solving problems in the team|
How to combine these roles? Is it possible at all? 🤔
Change of authority
Before we get to the solution, one more important matter. Becoming a leader is a process. A process during which the most important change must happen. Changing the authority of knowledge to the authority of attitude. Attitude or way of building a relationship with the team and its operation.
The authority of knowledge is something that you have built up for years with your experts.
How, then, build the authority of attitude?
- be honest and always provide truth and confirmed information
- be consistent, lack of consistency destroys trust the most quickly
- be assertive, not aggressive, you'll need to present your thoughts and ideas with a high degree of confidence
- be personal and appreciate others
- listen to others, a good attitude is also the art of skilful listening
In that case, do you still want to be a leader?
Technical and leadership tasks
The main reason for problems is that leadership work requires a completely different work mode than technical tasks. It is difficult to switch smoothly between these types.
The key to success is skillful separation of tasks: to technical and non-technical one with the ability to quickly switch between them.
Below are some of the most interesting techniques that will help you become a better leader. They will allow leader to effectively separate his work from the expert's work.
The leader's work is often interrupted. To perform the current "snapshot" of your work, the mind mapping is perfect. In this way, you can quickly note the current state of thought and come back to it later. It will also be useful as a form of notes for the meetings (which as a leader you will have more).
Below is an example mind map of the thoughts about this blog post:
Its advantage is that it has no structure, which allows you to quickly form any layout. If you use Google Drive, I personally recommend this website: drive.mindmup.com.
Performing a non-technical task can make you have a sense of lost time. The Kanban board is ideal for tracking the progress of tasks and their organization:
You can use it in the traditional form (sticky notes, as above) as well as in electronic form (gitlab, jira, etc., as below).
Very rarely practiced technique in my experience. It's a pity, because scrum teams are the ones that benefit the most from it. Retrospective from the leader's perspective, however, will look a bit different.
At the beginning I recommend writing down things that have been achieved every day. Answer your questions about what you have managed to achieve, what problem to solve or what ended in failure.
1. What happened today, what stuck in my head? 2. What did I learn, what would I do differently? 3. What did I do today to achieve my goals? 4. What question would you like to find an answer to?
Then, from time to time, do weekly and monthly reviews. Initially, you will go reluctantly, but over time you will gain practice. Systematic is important. Point 4 surprise me more than once.
You will be surprised how many things you run away from, or how many problems you manage to solve. For writing you can use Evernote for example.
Do you know how much time you spend on specific tasks during the day? Do consultations take you 15 minutes or maybe half a day?
Perform one week of observation 🕵️. Record everything you do and at what times. After a week, analyze it. Check if the mailbox or company chat service (like Slack) doesn't eat your time. Maybe you're helping too much and you should reduce your time to help your team members (what will certainly develop them).
An example day using a free clockify tracker:
The feeling of time passage is emotional and the note will allow you to rationalize it.
It is worth to return to this technique from time to time (for example twice a year).
Task of the day
During daily planning (or even weekly), set yourself one of the most important tasks for today: "task of the day". Make sure that you have planned enough time to complete it.
Pro tip: It would be best to start the day of his execution.
Designate hours for technical tasks during a typical working day. For example, it can be between 8-10 am and 12-14 pm. The length and quantity depends only on your needs. This method works depending on the project and the overall flow of the company.
This idea is always worth consulting with the team. If it is difficult to calculate such zones, take a look at the following technique.
Idea is very simple (one cycle = one pomodoro):
- select task
- set the timer to 25 minutes
- work until timer rings (without distracting)
- put checkmark on paper 🤔
- take a short break, and repeat
- every 4 cycles take a longer break
As a leader, you can decide which "pomodoro" you will spend on a technical task and which will be non-technical. Perhaps you will take a break to conduct a short conversation?
Getting Things Done ☑️
GTD is time management method. If I would try to describe it in one sentence then
If you can do something under 2 minutes, do it immediately, plan or delegate the rest.
It assumes the existence of one central place for all your tasks. In this way you can relieve your head. Personally, I apply it every day and I encourage you to buy a GTD book or visit wikipedia to learn more.
The GTD workflow consists of five stages: capture, clarify, organize, reflect, and engage ... (read more on wikipedia)
The kanban board shown earlier can be one of the simple GTD implementation.
Pet project 🏗️
A real leader must be part of the team. To be part of the team, he must write the code. A time is needed for coding, which may sometimes be missing.
In this case, if you still have strength after a whole day of fighting, use it for a pet project. Make it public.
As part of the inspiration look at my projects page or github profile. Each of them was created after hours and allowed me to develop and acquire new skills.
A good leader can't demand this from his team members. His attitude should make members want to do it themselves.
The most important element in becoming a leader is transferring concentration from knowledge to attitude. Instead of your knowledge, the people and the process become the most relevant. It all means that you have to master your time management to perfection. Start systematically and slowly use the techniques described above and you will certainly notice the difference.
If you know other techniques that worked in your case, please leave a comment.