The #1 Frustration of Brilliant Technical Experts

and how to fix it.

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Photo credit Kelly Brito.

There are a lot of variations, for sure, but the underlying frustration is the same. I’ve heard it uncountable times across organizations of all shapes and sizes:

“Nobody listens to me.”

It comes across from younger engineers and scientists who are ready to move into some kind of management role:

“I don’t know why I haven’t been promoted yet.”
“I want to try this new idea but my managers won’t consider it because they think it might not work.”

It comes across from experienced experts at the heights of their success:

“I’ve figured it out and I know the right answer; why won’t they just take my recommendation and move on?”
“Nothing ever changes. I’ve been doing this for decades and I’m explaining the same basic concepts again and again.”
“Ugh. I’m managing a team/department/program now and the people can be really difficult.”

The problem for everyone is that we’re getting a degraded version of our experts’ abilities, and we all know it. When these thoughts are chronically present, the expert is functioning at a level below their full capabilities. And these frustrations don’t go away by themselves, they build up over time – over a whole lifetime even. Energy and initiative that we could channel into new levels of brilliance are instead held back by an old refrain, “Why won’t they just listen to me?”

While it’s common to think that the brilliant technical minds among us must forever suffer fools who don’t understand them, it actually doesn’t have to be this way. I’ve found that it is possible to focus on one or a few key personal or leadership skills (based on the latest brain science and methods) in a way that is consistent with our experts’ experiences and values. This respectfully puts an obvious course of action into their hands.

By reframing the possibilities, technical experts at all levels can create new superpowers that give them the patience and influence to more effectively see their ideas and technical solutions through the “messy” process of real-world implementation. The experts who experience the most satisfaction and increasingly meaningful opportunities are those who are able to confidently adapt, enjoy, and contribute to many varying steps throughout the solution process.

You might be an expert who says, “Yes! I get exactly what she’s talking about!” or you might work among experts and want to better understand this common dynamic. For more information on how to uncover greater leadership skills based on the unique strengths of technical experts, let’s talk.

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