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  • Writer's pictureMark Hordes

Transitioning Techical Contributors to Successful Leadership Roles: What's Required?

Updated: May 5, 2019

What’s Your Leadership IQ? Successfully Transitioning “Technical Contributors” to “High Performance Leadership Roles


Mark Hordes

Senior Consultant, Leadership Development

Mark Hordes Management Consultants, LL

Houston, Texas 77006

713 416 1781 contact


Does this sound familiar?

“John is a senior energy engineer at a global company with an exceptional track record of outstanding technical performance across multiple projects. His performance reviews consistently identify as a “star technical energy performer” and he was recently promoted to the head of the company’s Engineering Operations with 25 direct reports and a total of 350 staff.

“….not surprisingly, John is failing in his new role. His most recent performance review indicates John’s needs to more effectively manage his team, think strategically, address complexity issues, effectively, coach others, and improve his overall Communications, Engagement, Relationship and Leadership skills.

John after 6 months in his new role quickly realizes that his engineering technical skills and prior accomplishments may not be all that he needs to help him accelerate successfully as a Leader.

The “War for Talent” still rages across all industry sectors despite the recent downturn in energy prices, but the question remains:

HOW do you transition “star technical talent” professionals into high performing leaders? This question is especially critical in the engineering and technical functions where using data, design knowledge and logical reasoning have helped subject matter technical experts historically be successful.

Learning new leadership, relationship and communications skills, commitment – based behaviors, and processes to effectively manage teams, people and global projects are only part of the key components and the emotional mind-set that must be mastered for the technical professional high potentials to ultimately be an effective leader who can manage a diverse group of professionals.

Learning Leadership Skills

I have always been intrigued by the statement on automobile mirror that says, “objects” in the mirror are closer than they appear.”

Car manufacturing experts who have reflected on this statement indicate that it’s about distorted perceptions of distance, and space, and how light is reflected from many positions, (standing still, moving forwards or going backwards).

These are all important driving tips that ideally keep us safe, but can also provide value when applied to how an individual star performer is viewed in a company.

Let’s assume for a moment that your line of sight is to be promoted to a Leadership or management role.

You have worked hard at your craft, have great technical engineering skills and you are perceived by your peers and supervisor to be at the top of your game.

But as you step back, you know something is missing as you have seen others in your company be promoted to leadership roles with sometimes only limited success.

You wonder why?

The answer lies in learning these Leadership skills

- Top technical competent Leaders understand the power of communications, (verbal, nonverbal, inter-personal and team.)

- They can translate technical data information into simple terms that help others make a connection on a visual, emotional and tactical level.

Preparing You for Success

Although there are tons of books that have been written on the “Art of Leadership” below are the topics and skills that I have found to be most helpful working with technical experts who transitioned to high performing leaders

Topical Skills That Are Also Required:

- Practical Communications

- The Management of Change

- Creating a High Performance Team

- Making the Intangible, Tangible

- Behavior-based Leadership Essentials

- Measuring and Tracking Results

- Creating a Trust-based Playbook

- Learning how to flex your personal communications style that aligns with others perspective, values and communications filters.

- Learning the skills of change management from assessing readiness, stakeholder engagement, involvement and reinforcement

- Understanding what makes high performance teams really work and fostering group dynamics that engages and gets others committed

- Insight and understanding in how to sell the “invisible.” Professional Engineering services are different, way different than product selling.

- At the heart of a “Commitment based Leader” is the ability to understand behaviors and to create an environment where the Leader is focusing on specific behaviors that are operating “now” and what behaviors, “need” to be fostered” to be successful.

- Process, organizational, change, financial, strategic and customer metrics is the bottom-line of business reality. You don’t have to be a CPA to become competent in measurement.

- Trust building skills are essential in every aspect of a Leader’s life. Create the capability to know how to build trust with external and internal customers, once obtained can create relationships that last a lifetime

- Cross-cultural communications, proposal writing, talent and performance management, recognition and rewards, quality management, supply chain realities, conflict and negotiation management, operational excellence process management and optimization and technology enablement.


No journey is ever completely free of obstacles and unforeseen circumstances, but what is required, though, is the ability to prepare yourself with the right training, experience and guidance, so that your compass is always facing “true north” and by putting one foot in front of another, to enable a positive and sustained effort in becoming a successful, high performing Leader.

Need help in making the transition from Technical Contributor to a Successful Leadership Role?

I can help!

Several Packages and Support Models are Avaialble:

1. Career Transition Coaching sessions are available in (1-3 hour) packages, via phone or in person. $100 an hour.

2. In-house Training can be customized to meet any organizational need: 1-2 day programs are avaialble @$99.00 a person. 12 person minimun

3. Webinars on Leadership Development Skills: $1,500.00 per 90 min session. Multiple sessions can be arranged at an additon $750 per session

4. Reinforcement Leadership Coaching: After you have been in the Leader role, individual Leadership retained coachign can be arranged at $75.00 per with a 3 hour package minimun.

5. In-company Presentations and Speeches, (Lunch & Learns, All-hands meetings, Association Fuctional Meetings/breakfast, lunch or dinner events. $1,000 per speech

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