Leveraging technical ability for success

I am constantly in rooms with people that are technically brilliant. They have high intellects, a keen eye for industry insights, and high levels of expertise in their specific industry areas. Technical ability has never been so high, but battles with productivity, inefficiency, and work efficacy continue or even grow.

So, what is the answer for organisations looking to leverage the technical talent in the team for better business results? And how do organisations sustain this?

In the area of Organisational Culture Modelling, there are five models as described below:

  • Star: “We recruit only top talent, pay them top wages and give them the resources and autonomy they need to do their job.”
  • Commitment: “I wanted to build the kind of company where people would only leave when they retire.”
  • Bureaucracy: “We make sure things are documented, have job descriptions for people, project descriptions, and pretty rigorous project management techniques.”
  • Engineering: “We were very committed. It was a skunk-works mentality and the binding energy was very high.”
  • Autocracy: “You work, you get paid.”

The classic study named “The Standford Project” proved that the Commitment Model led to less organisational failure (22 per cent), and was responsible for the fastest growth to a successful public offering. Damian Hughes also writes about this in his book “The Barcelona Way” which follows Pep Guardiola’s journey of leading Barcelona to a cultural evolution, taking the club to a haul of trophies and worldwide adulation. This can be compared to their arch-rivals Real Madrid “Galacticos” era of the 2000’s (based on the Star Model) that had to be ditched by the club as the little success they achieved came at an extraordinary financial cost and was not sustainable.

Commitment in our intelligent, talented, and experienced team members is therefore critical. But how we get it is even more important. There are four main areas which I’ll dive deep:

1. Leading side-by-side with your team – Being able to give the team what they need when they need does not require Churchillian speeches or acts of superhero sacrifice. A blend of audacity, tenacity, and humility within actions drive powerful signals. These signals drive people to care and work with more attention at higher standards.

2. A leader that is in touch, makes better decisions – Ivory Tower Syndrome is an easy trap to fall into. Myer CEO, Jon King aims to turn around the fortunes of the department store and has a big job ahead of him. But, it was his first 100 days where he spent two days a week on the shop floor with staff and customers that I thought was brilliant. A lot more insightful than just relying on spreadsheets and Executive Reports.

3. The courage to go there – Turning a blind eye, shying away from conflict, and not taking the time to coach staff all add up to a lowering of standards. Without consistent feedback and being able to have difficult conversations, there is a loss of power and teams can slide very quickly.

4. Be the culture you want – Breeding a high-performance culture can seem like a unicorn. Ultimately, it is a series of “ways we do things around here” that everyone does without exception. When those actions are done consistently by everyone over a long time, the organisation as a whole improves in its perseverance, credence, and confidence.

Ultimately, leaders need good technical knowledge. But throwing more technical training at them will not enhance the results achieved by their technically-proficient teams. By increasing the people skills, there is a much bigger lever that can be pulled for sustained excellence in our teams.

Paul Farina, Team Performance Specialist, www.paulfarina.com.au

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