The final habit of inspiring tech leaders may be the most important… to be an Agent of People. The best tech leaders lead human first. They create organizations that individuals and teams want to be part of. They create engaged, talented, and inspiring workplaces. They make people the best versions of themselves. There is no more important skill for a tech leader than to understand how to harness and build strong individuals and teams.
Can you look your people in the eyes? Are you a human-first company?
In my twenty years as a consultant I’ve experienced hundreds of businesses, each of which having individual strengths and weaknesses. The biggest difference that is readily apparent is employee engagement. This is a result of the connection between the person and the company mission, as well as the company’s engagement of the person. I’ve seen dramatic transitions from companies nobody wanted to work for, with team members with legacy skills, and zero forward movement… turned to companies that are the highlight of the region. The catalyst moment was the hiring of a tech leader that was willing to engage and challenge their team.
What do your teams think about you? If you don’t know, you don’t care… find out:
What is the highlight of most inspiring sports films? Many follow a common cycle… the team is down, not performing, dis-engaged, think they want “something”, and going backwards. The new coach joins the organization… seemingly takes the team further backwards with discipline, challenge, listening, or standards. Then, something inspiring happens… the team turns around… starts to perform… starts to grow as individuals and a team. Why is this inspiring? It’s not exactly new, right? The reason we love this cycle so much is we subconsciously want to be connected, challenged, and engaged. The unique balance of challenge and connection is critical. The best teams don’t just have connected or challenged players… they have both.
I’ve seen teams that have had neither, one of the two, or both. The teams with neither are graveyards of technology… they have bad work environments, are doing nothing interesting, and are ineffective cost centers for their business. The teams with one of the two fall at either extreme. The teams that are just challenging burn out their teams to accomplish goals. The teams that are just connecting are often directionless and fail at inspiring. The teams with BOTH are those that define audacious goals and inspire their teams to get there. They do this in a human-first way, that supports who everyone is and wants them to be the best version of who THEY are.
Can you achieve balance? It’s hard, but necessary.
The best leaders take the mission-driven and tech modernization capabilities of the organization and pair that with a human engagement strategy that inspires people to get on the boat and row in the same direction. The team becomes stronger and reaches their goal.
Do a quick inventory of your employee engagement by asking these questions:
- Is my team becoming the best version of themselves every week?
- Are my team members spending extra time on their career?
- Are they actively evangelizing the company and its mission on social media?
- Are my team members an individual leader in their tech domain regionally?
- Are my team members actively engaged in mentoring?
- Do my team members share their knowledge internally and externally?
- Do my team members feel supported by their leaders?
- Are they mission driven in their pursuits?
- Are they actively pursuing relevant, modern skills as part of their job?
If I have engaged employees that are upskilling, won’t they just grow their career and leave for more money, or better opportunity? This is a common question. The ask “why are we investing in our employees if they just leave”? This is something I’ve navigated a lot in my career. I’ve struggled with the result of team members leaving and a feeling of personal disappointment. As I’ve experienced it more, I’ve moved from disappointment to joy, because creating a company that retains top talent, as well as makes them attractive to other employers, tells you that the company is doing a good job building inspired team members. The job is to create a company that always has the learning and engagement culture, that is a great place to grow a career from intern to architect to executive and beyond.
Think about the answers. How can I better engage my team in a mission-driven career? How can I help them to be the best version of themselves? The best leaders are asking these questions and personally investing in creating not just an inspiring company, but inspiring people. Let’s make the commitment as leaders to make this happen.