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Identifying and Developing Complementary Skills for a Leadership Position

Different Skillsets
Personal Growth
Leadership

26 January, 2020

Ilya Kozlov
Ilya Kozlov

VP of Engineering at Taxfix

Ilya Kozlov, VP of engineering at Taxfix, is no stranger to the varying expectations that core companies place on engineering managers. He highlights the importance of identifying those market demands and working to ensure they remain strong personal skills.

Problem

It is not uncommon for engineering managers or team leads to arrive with very little awareness of their actual skill-map and clear personal development goals because they receive feedback based on their weaknesses rather than strengths.

Actions taken

Let's take an example of a team lead who is very skilled technically, self-organised, good communicator but struggling with people-related topics. The likelihood is he would receive feedback that he/she needs to improve there, and it will be a very little return on the time invested. Instead, he/she could grow into a software architect or a project manager putting a very little effort and building on top of existing skills.

It's much easier to develop further skills we already have rather than starting from scratch, how to identify which one to invest?

I suggest to start with 2x2 skill matrix, where one axe is strength and the other one is the demand for your skills in your current organisation.

Then you analyze what is in there:

  • weakness, low demand - we don't care about this quadrant at the moment

  • weakness, high demand - try to delegate these responsibilities or improve these skills to the bare minimum required

  • strength, low demand - easy win, you can easily pick up another role in the company that require this skill

  • strength, high demand - this is the most interesting for us.

In the last quadrant, we would like to answer two questions: what are the skills can be developed based on existing ones? Is there anyone in the company who would like to learn?

  • That would allow you to grow by delegating your current tasks to someone eager to learn, structuring your knowledge, taking on more and stepping up into new roles.

Lessons learned

  • This is not a year timeline kind of development, but rather a three to five years out timeline that yields a high chance of finding a job in the future or further builds a strong career path in your current organization.
  • Complementary skills for a leadership position can be anything. You know better than anyone the areas you need to grow into. It is important, however, not to focus on just one skill, but rather on developing the skills you already have and making them stronger as you define them. I have around five skills that I am actively using and maybe five extra that are more in non-use mode; I know how they work, but I personally do not like to pursue them.

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