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I have a direct (software engineer) who wants more leadership responsibility.

When I try to discuss coaching goals with him, he doesn't show much interest. I believe the reason is that his DiSC profile (7-1-5-2) shows him to be a "low-I". Most of the coaching goals that I have in mind involve heavy interaction with other people.

I think what I need is:
[list]- help coaching him to exhibit more "high-I" behaviors
- help convincing [b]me[/b] that you can be a "low-I" leader
[/list:u]
Anyone out there have any ideas?

Thanks!

--Rich

p.s. I already had him listen to Manager Tools podcast #1 "Solution to a Stalled Technical Career." He had some initial interest after listening, but no real changed behavior.

Dani Martin's picture

Rich -- Short answer -- feedback. Long answer -- it might sound something like this:

"Hey Joe! Can I give you some feedback? [wait for permission] When you tell me that you want more leadership responsibility and then don't respond to my suggestions and coaching, I begin to doubt your commitment, and frankly, I'm not very motivated to help you with this anymore. What could you do differently?"

Reading that back to myself, I realize it may sound harsh. However, I've been doing O3's with my folks for a year now, have great relationships with them and would be absolutely comfortable saying that.

jhack's picture

Rich,

What specific coaching goals do you have? Perhaps "exhibit more high I" isn't something he knows how to do.

It's unlikely a low I will become a high I. To lead, he needs to discover his own means of communicating effectively, etc.

The coaching should be specific around a communications plan for a project he's on, learning to present effectively, etc. Those tasks can be broken down further, and those are skills he can develop.

If he chafes or is bored by these specific skills, then I think Dani's advice is the next step for you.

John

terrih's picture

[quote="RichRuh"]I have a direct (software engineer) who wants more leadership responsibility.

When I try to discuss coaching goals with him, he doesn't show much interest.[/quote]

I wonder if there is a disconnect here... does he realize that the coaching goals you're setting out are designed to grow his leadership skills?

bflynn's picture

I'll answer in a second, but the first thing that hit me was:

The traits of a good software engineer are not the traits of a good manager. In a way, you're going to have to "ruin" your software engineer to create a manager. OK, ruin is too strong a word, but his focus isn't on the business or making money. To be a business leader, he will have to develop that focus. And that will naturally change his ability to be a great engineer (BTDT, got the tee-shirt). Not a reason to quit this, but be aware of it.

Can you be a low-I leader? Yes, but its difficult. Management is about people, not processes. You have to develop some people skills even if people are not key in your plans. People skills can be more difficult for non-I people to develop.

Otherwise - I don't know enough about this engineer to give more advice - I think everyone needs to develop skill, but that isn't the same as changing his DiSC profile. Remember that DiSC talks about how, not why. Its similar to a foreign language. If you're talking to someone who speaks French, you need to use French to be understood. If you're talking to a high-D, you speak high-D to be understood. But what you're saying still has to motivate the person.

Find his why and you can give him effective feedback on why he needs to learn about this coaching.

Brian

RichRuh's picture

Thanks for the suggestions.

I know what you mean, Brian. I've seen plenty of good software engineers turn into lousy managers. While I like to think I'm not in that group, I've certainly worked for plenty of people who were.

I'm not thinking of making Joe a manager- that's too big of a stretch. We have a position called "technical lead". Such a developer is usually in charge of design for a project, helps other developers learn, and so forth. He has expressed a desire for this role many times.

You don't need to be a Super-High-I to have that role, but when Joe's apparent goal of his day is to spend as many hours as possible sitting at his desk with headphones on, other team members tend not to think of Joe as a leader... Go figure. :shcck:

John, specific coaching goals are exactly what I am looking for. Once I starting work with those, I can give feedback as Dani recommends (I'm a MT conference alum :) )

As for Terri's comment, yes, there is probably a disconnect. I've been telling him that, but I'm not sure he believes it. After 14 months of O3's, I still can't seem to engage him. Arrrgggh.

--Rich

ccleveland's picture

Caveat emptor and be careful of your assumptions: When someone is "Low-I" in DiSC that only means that they do not prefer to work in that mode. He's not "Zero-I". No one is. Everyone has the capability to use modes outside of their preferred. One of the DiSC podcasts talked about a CFO who had to do just that.

I think Dani's approach is best. Don't get trapped in a "a High-I can't lead" fallacy... that could make it worse because of a "self-fulfilling prophesy".

CC

RichRuh's picture

[quote]Don't get trapped in a "a High-I can't lead" fallacy... that could make it worse because of a "self-fulfilling prophesy". [/quote]

I'm not. I have another direct who is successful tech lead. His score is 6-1-3-7. I use the phrase "low-I" as shorthand.

--Rich

stephenbooth_uk's picture

A couple of ideas came to mind.

Software developers are often focused on problem solving, can you present it to him as a problem to solve? Maybe something like describe to him briefly what the goals of the team leader role are (concentrate on the soft people focused skills) and ask him to write down what he thinks the top five things a team leader would have to do (the behaviours) to achieve those goals. Unless he's really out of it he will probably get them mostly right, if he doesn't then he'll probably need some Socratic teaching to get him back on track. Then ask him if that sounds like him. If he says that it is say "OK" and then when you see him failing to use those behaviours give him adjusting feedback, "Hey, Joe, can I give you some feedback?...[wait for permission]...You told me that one of the traits of that role you want is being approachable and willing to explain things to people. You said that's something you can do. When Bob came to ask you about XYZ just now you blew him off. When you do that it makes me think that maybe you're not willing to follow through on things you say and makes me doubt you, I think it makes others doubt you as well. What can you do about that?" Rinse and repeat as required.

A variation ont hat you might use would be to say something like "When I think of this role the sort of words that come to mind are approachable, supportive... Do you think those words apply to you?" ... "What could you do to make those words apply to you?" ... "How can we help you get to that point?"

Are there team leads (even if they're not in the same area of the business) around? If so could you arrange for him to shadow one (ideally one who is known to be the best or one of the better ones and who is widely and well respected) for a few days. Ask him to identify what makes them a good team lead then try to incorporate that into his own behaviours. If possible (and needed) coach the team lead he shadowed in the feedback model (part of their ongoing professional development) and get them to observe him periodically then give him feedback as appropriate.

Stephen

jhack's picture

Rich,

This is a great question, and I just today in an O3 had one of my directs ask for a leadership opportunity. So I'm looking forward to the responses here, too. Anyway, coaching goals for a software team leader aren’t purely interpersonal. Nice that he isn’t shooting for management, as the skill set is smaller. If he can’t do those below, then there is no chance for management.

Communications skills:
- Excellent writing (design documentation is a great place to start)
- Email communications (BLUF, etc)
- Status reporting (including data gathering!)
- Presentation skills (including, but not limited to, PowerPoint)

“Leadership” skills:
- Creating an agenda
- Facilitating a meeting
- Effective interviewing (not necessarily for hiring, but eliciting information from others)
- Handling conflict (start with ideas, then move on to interpersonal)

Project skills:
- effectively breaking projects into measurable chunks.
- Estimating the effort for each chunk
- Assigning chunks of work to team members
- Getting their buy in on the schedule.
- Use of whatever your project management tools are

Misc smaller things:
- NOT problem solving: letting others solve a technical problem.
- Presenting alternatives to senior management (as opposed to problems)
- Not needing to contribute to every conversation.

John

WillDuke's picture

That's a great list John. I don't know what more you're waiting for. I do have to say though, that I was a little concerned by:
[quote] - Not needing to contribute to every conversation.[/quote] :wink:

bflynn's picture

[quote="RichRuh"]We have a position called "technical lead". Such a developer is usually in charge of design for a project, helps other developers learn, and so forth. He has expressed a desire for this role many times.

You don't need to be a Super-High-I to have that role, but when Joe's apparent goal of his day is to spend as many hours as possible sitting at his desk with headphones on, other team members tend not to think of Joe as a leader... Go figure. :shcck:[/quote]

Ah, yes. He doesn't understand that the second word of the new position would be "lead". As in leading people.

You're not doing him favors by tiptoeing around it. I'm stretching on how to go about it, but it sounds like he needs to be confronted with the fact that tech lead is an interpersonal skills position. And he does not have the skills. And until he develops the skills, he cannot be considered for the position. Anywhere.

But, I could be totally off base here too.

Brian

jhack's picture

Ha! Yes, I resemble that remark...

I still struggle with letting my team discuss issues and make decisions on their own. High Ds know the answers. Letting others do it their way is not easy, even though it is the right thing to do.

John

RichRuh's picture

Thanks everyone for the great ideas. I'll follow up in about a month.

--Rich

andrewmullens's picture

Why not get specific, ask them to solve a problem or perform a task(a real one, but nothing enormous) by collaborating with team mates. Set out the challenge of collaborating with the team-mates or other colleagues to do the task and set out that the job isn't done until concessus is achieved, and, all the communication work has to be done face to face. If the high I type behaviours are important in your business there should be plenty of tasks like this available.

Then, discuss with them how they might go about developing the approaches to do this.

There would be some useful resources to help him develop the skills, for instance they could watch a team member who is very good at this do a similar task, and ask questions about the approach that has been taken, there would probably be books about building report, communication, group collaboration, but, these might not be as useful as part of getting the ball rolling.

If the issue is that there on the PC all day and not communicating, maybe the challenge would be for one week to use email at an absolute bare minimum with team mates.