Analyzing Your Strengths as a Technical Professional
Knowing your strengths
As a technical professional, you have specific strengths that have helped you succeed. You probably also have some weaknesses that have hindered your work.
As you move into a management role, it’s important to assess your strengths and weaknesses so that you can consider how they’ll affect your performance as a manager.
Assessing your strengths and weaknesses can have two main benefits:
- it will help you capitalize on your strengths and compensate for weaknesses as you develop a strategy for making your transition into management a success, and
- it will reduce some of the stress associated with this transition.
Qualities of technical professionals
Technical professionals — such as IT specialists, engineers, technicians, scientists, and knowledge workers — generally share certain qualities and a particular approach to work.
Some of the qualities that successful technical professionals share may be inherent to their personalities.
For example, they tend to be practical, objective, and logical by nature — and this helped lead them into the professions they chose.
In addition, technical professionals have learned certain qualities that enable them to be effective in technical roles. They’ve developed and nurtured these qualities through their education, experience, and training.
Four particular qualities typically contribute to the effectiveness of a technical professional — being precise, task-oriented, adaptable, and self-reliant.
Let’s see each quality to find out about its role in the success of technical professionals.
Technical work requires precision and accuracy. Technical professionals need to make sure things are done correctly — according to requirements — and that they work efficiently and to high quality standards.
For example, a computer technician works in a methodical, precise manner to troubleshoot a problem with a computer, eliminating potential causes one by one and then addressing the cause responsible for the problem.
Because their work is often project-based, technical professionals have learned to be driven and goal-centered. They contribute to projects based on fixed schedules and budgets and provide support services in critical circumstances. Therefore, they know to follow through to completion.
For example, a medical laboratory technician focuses exclusively on each set of blood tests so that she can complete her task and send the test results on to the doctors who rely on this information.
Technical professionals often have to deal with changes as new technologies emerge and as unexpected situations occur. They need to be flexible enough to adapt to these frequent changes — learning fast and being able to solve problems in creative, tactical ways.
For example, a software engineer needs to keep up with the latest hardware, software, and programming advances, and to respond effectively when software malfunctions.
Technical professionals often need to give recommendations and advice to people not in their fields — whether they’re asked for product recommendations or to help with solving complex problems. Because of this, technical professionals need to be self-reliant — trusting their own knowledge and being confident that they can perform in stressful situations.
For example, an architectural engineer often needs to advise clients on building choices that require major financial investments. As a result, she’s learned to trust her ability to give good advice under pressure.
These four qualities are broad categories, and it’s not likely that a technical professional will perfectly reflect all of them.
However, most successful technical professionals will exhibit each quality in varying degrees.
Using your strengths
These four qualities — being precise, task-oriented, adaptable, and self-reliant — can help you as you move into your role as a manager. However, if you’re not careful, they can also hinder you.
Being precise is an excellent quality for a manager, because a tendency toward being accurate, exact, and specific can lead to efficiency. This is especially useful when, for example, you need to adhere to time and cost constraints.
Being precise can also help you communicate your expectations clearly to your team, suppliers, and other managers.
Being too focused on precision can lead to various problems, such as conflict related to organizational goals and values, standards, and details.
Let’s see each source of potential conflict arising from an overemphasis on precision for more information.
Organizational goals and values
If you believe that quality and meeting exact standards are of paramount importance, it may mean that you take longer to complete your work.
It’s important to remember that organizations are always run for multiple purposes. You might not always agree with those purposes, but you need to accept and understand that certain strategic decisions follow from them.
For example, if your organization is focused on quality, then it may be fine for you to take longer on your work, but if your organization values getting products to the market fast, you may need to rethink your approach.
Because you hold such high standards, you may think that your own standards are better than those of others — especially if the others aren’t as technically accomplished as you are.
This could become problematic, because when team members work according to standards that aren’t yours, you may lose trust in their abilities and start micromanaging them in an unhealthy way.
Managers usually need to take a broader, more general perspective of things, so they need to be less detail-oriented. Scrutinizing every detail makes managing much harder than it needs to be. Such a high degree of precision can also cause you to work more slowly as you try to analyze too many details.
Because managers must be aware of and guide the different activities of their direct reports, being task- oriented is important.
This quality helps you to focus your team members on their individual tasks. You’ve learned to be driven and goal-centered in relation to your own tasks as a technical professional.
Now, you can help others to set goals and focus on completing their tasks. Your knowledge of the tasks will also help you in providing clear direction.
However, being task-oriented may make you too focused on one area or one activity.
This could mean you are missing the bigger organizational picture, which, as a manager, needs to be your focus.
Your focus on tasks may also give you the belief that tasks and their completion are more valuable than maintaining good relations with people.
This view is problematic because bad or neglected relationships can seriously hinder your team’s work, thereby diminishing your ability to achieve your goals. You may not necessarily believe that people are unimportant, but rather that the work comes first. But as a manager, you’ll need to recognize that people relationships are essential for completing tasks.
Being task-oriented may also make it difficult for you to delegate work to team members. If you feel you can complete tasks faster and more effectively than your team members, you may be tempted to take over and complete all key tasks yourself. This can have three negative consequences — resentment, decrease in development opportunities, and time pressure.
Taking over work can cause resentment from team members. It can give them the impression that you believe their work is inferior.
Decrease in development opportunities
Taking over work decreases team members’ opportunities to develop and improve their own skills. Rather than letting them make mistakes and learn, you simply do their work for them.
Taking over work reduces the time you have available for management duties, because much of your time goes to doing work that your team — not you — should be doing. As a result, you’ll be under much greater time pressure to get your management work done.
Being adaptable is also an excellent managerial quality that can help you in several ways:
- it enables you to work well under pressure,
- it helps ensure you can overcome unpredictable challenges,
- it enhances your ability to manage multiple tasks and individuals,
- it makes it easier to manage different types of personalities, and
- it means you’ll find it easier to adjust responses, timelines, results, and expectations to suit changing circumstances.
Adaptability is generally a positive trait, but if taken too far, it could lead you to lose focus and not make decisions for yourself.
As a manager, you’re the leader — the one who guides the direction of your team. So it’s essential to trust your own abilities — particularly when you face challenges and differing opinions from team members.
The self-reliance you’ve developed through working as a technical professional can help you make well-informed decisions — even in the face of opposition.
Self-reliance gives you two other important qualities valuable to a manager:
- the confidence to take risks when necessary, and
- the confidence to take personal responsibility for the consequences of your decisions.
As a self-reliant technical professional, you may have regularly conducted independent study in your field, seeking to improve your knowledge and abilities.
This habit is valuable as you transition into your new role, because it can help you to learn the new skills and knowledge needed to make you a successful manager.
Technical professionals typically work independently — but for managers, the opposite applies. Most managers’ work requires a high degree of collaboration. Adhering too firmly to a self-reliant mindset can make collaboration difficult and so hinder your role as a manager.
As a technical professional, self-reliance benefited you because your success or failure was based on your own work.
As a manager, however, your performance will be judged largely on the performance of your team. So rather than being too self-reliant, you need to focus on other people.
As technical professionals move into management roles, it’s important that they assess their strengths and weaknesses. This ensures they transition into their new roles successfully and reduces some of the stress involved in doing this.
Technical professionals are generally precise, task-oriented, adaptable, and self-reliant. In managerial roles, these qualities can help them to be efficient, confident managers who get the most out of their teams and adjust easily to changing circumstances.
However, these qualities can also hamper effective management. They can prevent individuals from focusing on the broad goals of their organizations and on team — rather than personal — performance, and from collaborating with others.