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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.

Is 'Mindfulness' the new black?

It’s fair to say that the popularity of ‘Mindfulness’ has gathered considerable pace in the last couple of years. In fact it’s hard to move these days for Mindfulness articles, guides, books and discussions. 

However, with this rise in popularity comes a danger that some of the fundamentally sound (and ancient) principles and practices of ‘being in the moment’ (either in traditional/formal meditation or by means of an approach/state of mind) become less clear, or diluted in their value. This is something that Oliver Burkeman tackles in a recent article in the Guardian - and is well worth a read.  

Within organisations there is some great work being done to integrate Mindfulness in to wider employee well-being programmes, as well as in day-to-day practices to reduce stress, improve communication and ultimately improve productivity.  There’s also plenty of evidence and articles to suggest that the proliferation of technology and communication places considerable challenges on our ability to ‘focus’ - and this is an issue that’s here to stay - hence why ‘mindful working’ is required.. 

Linked to this is some of the ground-breaking research that’s being done to understand Mindfulness in tangible business terms.  Of note is the amazing work by Cranfield University, which recently hosted the sell-out ‘Mindfulness at Work Conference’ in 2014. Here’s hoping they run another one in 2016.

If you can find your way through all the bells and whistles, it’s still a subject and ‘approach’ that merits our time and energy either to explore for yourself or your organisation - just don’t believe all the hype!

Leadership over Christmas

How well leaders cope and deal with holidays is often a telling indicator of wider well-being and delegation issues, as many surveys tell us. As we fast approach Christmas a few questions spring to mind:

-As a leader how well do you set an example by drawing a clear line between work and home/holiday time?

-Do you manage expectations placed on you or your team around deadlines?

-Do you find it easy to delegate well when you’re about to go on holiday, or do you prefer to keep control (and work during your time off)?

- What worries you most about taking holiday?

No definitive ‘right’ answers to the above questions, but we’d be interested to know your thoughts…..and in the meantime, have a great Christmas!



ABP discussion: Recruiting and developing the best leaders

At today’s regular meeting of the south-west division of the Association for Buisness Psychology (ABP) we discussed the challenges leaders face in ‘non-standard hierarchical organisations’ such as matrix structures, voluntary organisations, and co-operatives.

The general consensus was that effective leaders in these types of structures/organisations need to have highly sophisticated skills to be able to manage relationships and successfully motivate their teams/volunteers - in the absence of more ‘traditional’ hierarchy and obligations. French and Raven’s seminal research on the bases of power provides a useful perspective on just this.

Furthermore employee engagement is absolutely critical to success.

Leadership summits that work

This is an interesting article and debate started by Harvard Business Review. For today’s time poor organisations and leaders, what makes for an effective summit? Is there a ‘magic formula’ or is it sometimes that these large, high-profile sessions need to move with the times and continually evolve the format? It would be interesting to get a UK perespective.

In reading the article and ensuing debate, there are also some interesting parallels to be made to effective leadership training. Although the objectives are perhaps slightly different, the underlying principles are the same. To make sure leadership training (at all levels) delivers results, clarification of objectives, engagement, interaction, flexibility and follow-up are critical. Delivering the training in a relevant and time efficient way is also key.