November 21


Tackling the Transition from Tech Expert to Manager

By Sara Canaday

November 21, 2017

business leaders, career, career success, communication skills, leader, leadership, leadership behaviors, leadership qualities, leadership skills, potential, professional development, professional success, success

Today, technology has seeped into every crevice of our organizations, from manufacturing, operations, marketing, and beyond. That explains why technical professionals play such an essential role in their companies’ success.

While some tech experts prefer to continue as strong individual contributors or follow the domain expertise path, others will be recognized for their outstanding value and promoted into management. In recent years, I’ve repeatedly seen that happen—with mixed results.

The problem? Leadership requires vastly different skills and competencies.  Consider the contrast.

If you fall into this category — shifting from a technical position into a leadership capacity — it’s critical for you to implement a deliberate strategy to make the transition. Here are three guidelines that may be helpful.

  1. Develop Your Leadership Style

If you’re like most new managers, you may not have a clear picture of what that is.

The key is to understand the factors that impact how others experience you. To uncover those factors, you need to really know yourself. This includes your strengths, vulnerabilities,  temperament, personality traits, and everything that makes up who you are and how you show up at work. Your goal isn’t to become some cookie-cutter copy of someone else; it’s to leverage your own best qualities and showcase your individuality as a leader.

  1. Enhance Your Communication

You already know the importance of communication. But as a manager, you’ll need to expand that concept and add in a whole new layer of communication skills to maximize your effectiveness.  Move from informing to engaging by illustrating how your teams work supports the organization’s objectives, by sharing your rationale for decisions that impact them, and by bringing your data to life through stories and visualization.  And, keep in mind keep in mind that how you say things can be just as important as what you say.  Be careful about your word choice, your tone, and your body language.  All those things matter, either supporting or contradicting the message you are communicating.  And finally, ask questions and really listen. Request feedback and pay attention to the responses. Communication was never meant to be one direction only.

  1. Expand Your Perspective

The approach that made you successful as an individual contributor isn’t necessarily going to work in a management position. Expanding your perspective is critical. Think business strategy instead of pure technology. Calculate long-term instead of just short-term. And focus on people rather than processes.

  1. Commit to People and Relationships

As a leader, your success will be measured by your ability to help other people perform at a higher level—empowering them to strengthen their skills and talents. Work to connect with your team members and build strong relationships with them. Position yourself as a coach to motivate and support their progress, as well as their career aspirations.

To learn more about this topic, I hope you’ll investigate my latest course offering on LinkedIn Learning:  Transition from Technical Professional to Manager. Or visit my website at

Sara Canaday

About the author

Sara began her journey working full-time while she earned an MBA. As she climbed the ladder of corporate America, she repeatedly observed a surprising phenomenon: the most successful people weren’t necessarily the ones with the highest IQ or best job skills. She recognized instead that career advancement was much more closely linked with how people applied their knowledge and talents — their capacity to collaborate, communicate, and influence others.

Today, Sara is happily fulfilling that commitment as a keynote speaker, author, and executive coach. These venues have given her the opportunity to mentor and support thousands of people in diverse situations, inspiring many of them to move from insight to action with dramatic career results.

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