According to Daniel Goleman, from his book Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationship, the top six competencies that distinguish star performers from average performers in the tech sector are (in this order)
1. Strong achievement drive and high achievement standards
2. Ability to influence
3. Conceptual thinking
4. Analytical ability
5. Initiative in taking on challenges
Out of the top six, only two (conceptual thinking and analytical ability) are purely intellectual competencies. The other four, including the top two, are emotional competencies. Which one(s) do you already have? Which are holding you back and making you realize that something is "off?"
And what does it take to be a "star performer" in the tech sector?
Here are three points that I often address in my coaching sessions:
1 - Get out of the Tech Closet
I've experienced several episodes early in my tech career where I realized that despite all my technical prowess, methodical mind, and knowledge in tech stuff, it would not be enough to help me in the corporate world and my career. What I needed was to understand the "people" stuff—the ability to interact and operate with more influence in social contexts.
We've all been through similar experiences and revelations; such is our growth as human beings. But to be a "human being" is to be a verb, a process of becoming human. So while conceptual thinking and analytical abilities are great, we need to stop hiding behind our well-planned diagrams and start mining and questioning our gaps.
2 - Take a hard look in the mirror
One simple way to get out of the tech closet is to take a good look in the mirror. Think about areas where you experience repeated struggles. When is that happening? What triggers your feelings of inadequacy? What are people telling you frequently that needs adjustments?
To get out of your cocoon, you must take risks, look in the mirror, and see your gaps for what they are.
We can't code our way to a successful career and life. Our technical skills will only get us there halfway. If, however, you have the courage to work on yourself and your behavior, you will notice that not only you as a person will change, but everything around you will change.
3 - Leverage your technical and problem-solving abilities
Don't completely let go of the tech mindset. I've learned from my own experience that we can leverage our current problem-solving and analytical skills and use them as a template for self-development and working with others. Here are some examples:
When you are coding, problem-solving, or designing, you are most likely completely focused. You can use that same single-minded focus to become present and centered when interacting with others, listening carefully, undistracted, and paying full attention.
You probably have good confidence because you have proven that you can overcome mind-boggling challenges others would be intimidated by. Use that confidence to face your development needs, knowing that with dedication, you will improve.
You have a desire to help people and make processes more efficient. How can you use that to plan for self-transformation and make your social interactions even more fluid?
You are amazing at following the logical flow of thoughts to understand facts or reach technical conclusions—leverage that ability to help yourself out of unfounded self-doubts or fears and prepare for difficult interactions.
These, and more, are all skills you can use in optimizing your own "system"—in transforming yourself into an inspiring leader.
But it all starts with choices: choosing to explore what is outside of the tech closet, choosing to take a good look at yourself, and choosing to plan your self-transformation.
Looking for more tips to get out of the tech closet and lead with heart and empathy? My new book, You've Got Algorithm, but Can You Dance? is available now on Amazon.