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On the Separation of Technical and Disciplinary Leadership

We've all been in a situation where a weekly meeting highlights a long list of overdue tasks, with someone failing to meet their commitments once again. This can lead to disappointment, but often no one speaks up clearly about it, causing important projects to be delayed and delivery promises to be unfulfilled.

However, procrastination ("putting off") can have deeper reasons than just poor time management. For example, an employee may feel overwhelmed, recognize technical deficiencies, or face challenges in their personal life.

Despite this, tensions must be addressed. This requires a trusting approach within the team that allows every person to say when they can't meet a certain task. But how can conflicts be addressed objectively without any judgement?

One solution is to separate the person from the role: "I understand that I should plan this campaign in my role as marketing manager. But as a person, I have a particular challenge, so I can't take on this task." It's a clear statement without justification that the team can deal with. If you stay in your role, you can act solution-oriented. Then the only question is who can take on the task.

However, there's still the personal side that shouldn't be discussed in the meeting. Nowadays, disciplinary superiors take on this role in companies. In some companies, it's now common to separate technical and personnel or disciplinary leadership and responsibility. In our case, we call the disciplinary supervisor the "People Lead." And the People Lead is also a role with the responsibility (accountability) to take care of employees' well-being.

The People Lead deals with the respective person and supports them in personal matters. Their needs as a human being are at the forefront. One of the most important questions that should be asked regularly in this context is: "What do you need?" Or "What's missing for you?" The answers to these questions should lead to an action plan that supports the person in their development.

In many companies, the role of the "People Lead" is mixed with the role of the technical supervisor. However, when both roles are performed by one person, the superior, individual conversations can repeatedly digress into technical matters, and the human aspect can get shortchanged.

I would find it innovative if employees could choose their disciplinary superiors. This would lead to the "natural leaders" being chosen for these roles, and the most suitable people for these roles qualifying themselves within the company. The human leadership, one could also call it internal coaching, would thus no longer be derived from the company hierarchy. As a "rule," however, it should be ensured that technical and personal leadership are taken on by different people. The team leads and department heads take on the technical responsibility and act with their team members in their respective roles.

In my next post, I'll talk about the importance of roles and how to implement them in a company's organization.


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