Technically speaking

One’s training manager Rita Vanhauwenhuyse had to tackle the problem of
improving management skills and performance of the company’s technical staff

a global telecommunications company, Global One faces many of the issues common
to other world-leading businesses employing thousands of highly skilled
technical professionals.

offer multi-national clients a single source for seamless data and voice
telecommunications services, delivering communications solutions worldwide as
an integrated service provider with a fully owned network, and through a
portfolio of global enterprise network solutions. Global One employs some 4,000
staff, and revenues in 1999 were around $1.1bn.

role covers training across Europe, based at our corporate headquarters in
Brussels. I am also responsible for specific projects on a worldwide basis. One
such project is the global implementation of BlessingWhite’s Technical
Leadership programme. This initiative tackles a key issue facing many
organisations – how best to harness and develop technical supervisors and

were facing several key issues that provided the impetus for implementing
Technical Leadership:

The need to improve management and leadership skills, particularly within core,
technically-oriented departments

A major employee survey highlighted the need to provide better opportunities
for career progression and personal development

Staff retention -we must motivate technical professionals constantly and
provide new challenges.

Technical Leadership process was ideally suited to meeting these issues,
therefore we decided the programme should be implemented in the Global
Operations division, which deals with networks and engineering – the backbone
to the business.

executive manager recognised the need to improve managers’ skills and
competencies in his division, and wanted all supervisors and managers to

Leadership is basically a modular skills training programme. Its flexibility
has allowed us to customise the content and to run it as a two-day course
(rather than the standard three days) to minimise time out of the workplace.

is based on the premise that technical professionals have specific
characteristics and needs. Research undertaken by BlessingWhite from the early
1990s onwards, along with monitoring of course content and impact, has defined
these needs, which include a desire for autonomy, and they are motivated by
achievement of goals. They tend to be more resistant to committing to general
corporate/organisational goals than other groups, so their personal goals must
be aligned to those of the organisation. Leadership training for this
population, therefore, must address these characteristics.

programme’s major content areas are motivational skills, coaching, supporting
innovation and change, effective communication and leading teams.

key objectives and required behaviours are broken down into more detailed

are taken through three critical factors via a number of learning techniques,
with the overriding emphasis on applying their skills to situations they will
face in the workplace:

 This aims to build a vision of the
technical leader’s role in maximising productivity and to encourage personal
commitment to building that role. Activities include video exercises,
discussions and small group exercises focused on individuals’ business

Cognitive Process
This equips managers with the actual analytical tools and strategies they can
apply to specific business issues. Techniques include introducing leadership
models and practical tools.

Interpersonal skills
We use behaviour modelling learning methodology to enable participants to use
motivational skills in different situations. Again, this is based on actual
workplace situations, planned in advance by participants. Course facilitators
provide coaching and feedback on performance.

technical leaders, like those they manage, are highly task-focussed. By
focussing their attention on the people issues, they understand why difficult
situations occur and how to address them.

materials include a leadership development log – describing leadership
strategies and how to take them from workshop to workplace – and video
examples, exercises and modelling, and wallet cards giving action steps for
handling leadership situations. A post-workshop assignment is issued some weeks
after the course, reinforcing key elements and providing new exercises.

initially delivered the courses and has helped train our own facilitators. To
date, we have run 30 sessions worldwide, each typically involving 15 people.

has been very positive. Our technical professionals like the methodology and
the general approach. The course identifies their unique needs and they like to
be considered as specialists with unique skills and requirements. 

in-depth examination of issues is also important. It is vital that facilitators
can relate the knowledge elements to practical workplace situations, and lead
discussions. Technical staff tend to enjoy analysing and disseminating the

raises particular challenges, as the materials are not always suitable for the
different countries and cultures in which Global One operates and need adaptation.
As a regular facilitator for the course, I have introduced some more creative
elements into the delivery, as it can rely heavily on video-based exercises.

a process that is specifically targeted at those responsible for managing
technical professionals, it must remain up-to-date with the changing nature of
the workplace. It has certainly been well received at Global One, and managers
across the world are eager to participate.

Reaping the long-term benefits

Leadership is an excellent course, which tackles important developmental issues
for many businesses. It addresses the very specific challenges of leading
technical staff, and developing technical professionals’ own management skills.
At Global One we hope the long-term benefits will be to improve performance and
team leadership, which will also have a beneficial impact on staff retention
and employees’ personal and career development.

White’s Technical Leadership course
Designed and delivered by Blessing White UK, 55 King Street, Maidenhead SL6 1DU
Tel: 01628 771999  Fax: 01628 645000  Email:

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