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Technical specialist vs. Technical leader – what is the difference?


We kicked off a busy autumn with the launch of this year’s Technical Leadership Programme with the Environment Agency. We developed this bespoke programme for the EA over four years ago and are extremely proud of its success. Over the next six months we will be working with over 100 technical leaders up and down the country, exploring what makes them leaders as well as experts.

It was an enjoyable couple of days in Birmingham and really great to see the cohort engage with, and challenge the topics we covered – exploring leadership styles, the impact of emotional intelligence on relationships, and the power of effective communication.

Personally, I was grateful to once again have the opportunity to work with a group of leaders who were so willing to be vulnerable with each other and support one another on their first module together.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the work we do with leaders with a technical specialism – you can browse some of our case studies and of course we’re always available for a chat.

Want to follow the technical leadership story? Use the Blog Updates button to stay in touch.

What do you stand for?

We ran a session last week onpersonal brand’ as part of a graduate development module and it was fascinating how people engaged with it and worked hard to capture the many elements that make them who they are – and what they feel is important for others to recognise about them. In other words, the reputation that they would like to have at work.

It struck me how important the concept of ‘the shadow you cast’ is and how it’s something that doesn’t have a defined start and finish time. Perhaps at the start of your career it’s important to give this some thought as working within a team and organisation becomes a day-to-day reality. However, in many ways, in order to land a job in such competitive times, people have already given some thought to their personal qualities and what makes them stand out. The challenge then is to make this a reality and live up to your employer’s expectations – and this is when the timing of a session like this with graduates combined with good levels of business feedback will help take this thinking to the next level.

However, the interesting thing about ‘personal brand’ is that as people get more experienced within an organisation, it’s something that often gets overlooked. For me it still merits the same level of scrutiny and focus – even with more senior leaders. The old adage that ‘it’s not just what you know but how you do it’ is one that holds true for all of our careers, yet sometimes it still needs a timely development session to remind us that this is ongoing work that requires ongoing focus. So when we run similar sessions with senior leaders, they often say how refreshing it is to have time to give this proper thought – and almost always they identify an area that merits further attention and focus.

For me the moral is we never stop learning about who we are and how we come across. What’s important is that we retain an active curiosity in how important this is to our effectiveness at work.

Bright graduates = Bright future

A busy week saw 62 National Grid graduates embrace a business simulation to deliver a presentation with Q&A’s at a conference of senior leaders, business guests and peers. With a focus on Preparing, Planning, Doing & Reviewing as a foundation, the project was an experiential mix of indoor and outdoor team building and self-awareness exercises, time management, negotiating, interviewing and budget control as well as group and 1:2:1 coaching.

The week was a huge success with the graduates delivering high quality presentations and sharing their personal and team developments, as well as growth goals for the future. A network has been set up to promote peer to peer support and help embed best practice.

The feedback from delegates, senior leaders and business guests was overwhelmingly positive, reflective, specific and insightful; it made us feel proud of the work we do and we look forward to working with them on the next module.

Having worked in partnership with National Grid for over 10 years, we attribute the success of our graduate programme to tailoring our offering to meet their evolving needs. Get in touch to find out how we can help you invest in your graduates to ensure a bright future.

Interaction Graduate development programme

If you recruit graduates but don’t want to run an in house development programme, we have the solution – an open programme, run by experienced graduate developers providing the opportunity for graduates to acquire the skills they need to succeed and network with peers from other organisations.

We are seeking participants now to join the 2011 programme starting in November.

Rapid graduation

Over the years Interaction has worked with many organisations to create graduate programmes that really deliver.  For organisations that recruit low numbers of graduates we’ve now created a unique open programme that focuses on the critical capabilities graduates need to develop in their first year. 

The programme

This is a creative, experiential programme that provides relevant, practical development and consists of four modules:

  • understanding myself
  • commercial awareness
  • working in teams
  • influencing

If you are looking for a more bespoke programme we can deliver this programme in-house, tailored to reflect your company culture and business issues.

We can also offer additional modules such as induction.

Additional support

If you are looking for ways to engage and support graduate’s line managers we can provide coaching skills training.  This one day workshop has been developed using feedback and first hand experiences of graduates’ managers.  It provides practical tools and techniques and insights into the graduate experience to enable managers to provide support and coaching.

Our qualified coaches can also provide one to one coaching sessions to enable graduates to develop their individual skills and manage their profile within the business.

For more information please contact Jill on 0117 315 5243 or send her an email or visit our website.

Getting the business behind training

How we get the cynics on board

One of the toughest challenges for getting a return on the investment made in development training is making it stick once people return to work.

Whilst the programme may have been excellent, and everyone will be clear about what they want to do back at work, it is hard for people to implement change without support or feedback in the business.

We go to great lengths to build good partnerships with our clients. We also work hard to get alongside line managers in the business - key stakeholders in the success (or failure) of development training.

If managers don’t understand the process, there is a danger they will not support or challenge people on their development plans. Worse, they might inadvertently conspire to sabotage the process, and more senior managers may meddle unhelpfully in the overall process.

We can overcome this problem and reap even greater rewards by involving managers in development programmes. We can involve them as facilitators, or invite them to input information, and network informally.

There are more exciting ways too - perhaps they can feel a little risky - but the pay-off is well worth the discomfort:

We’ve just run a programme where groups create their own presentations about their learning and then deliver this to a large group of managers, including Directors.

It can be pretty nerve-racking, wondering if the group will impress, because if they don’t the programme will surely be negatively judged and lose support.

But when a very influential and somewhat undecided manager leaves really impressed, the programme has a champion in the business that it didn’t have before … Perhaps the very best kind of champion.

This is experiential learning at its best. A meaningful challenge with the full engagement of the business.

Read related case studies here, and here.

How can you get the business behind development training?