How to Communicate With Employees Who Are More Technical Than You
As work becomes more specialized, it is becoming more important that managers and supervisors develop the skills to lead a workforce consisting of highly competent and focused technical employees and consultants.
These skills can be elusive, as every technical project has various unique features that can be both tricky and formidable. Communicating well with technical employees is the key to making sure obstacles don't become reasons for the project to fail.
Drop the Ego
The person you hired is probably smarter than you. This should not come as a surprise. There are probably a lot of people in the world who are smarter than you. Taking this reality as a personal challenge will do nothing but get in the way of your progress. The technology marketplace is littered with the wreckage of companies led by people who were more concerned with proving themselves at the expense of their employees than they were with getting the job done. You need to be primarily concerned with the project and not your own ego.
The more you listen to them, the more likely it is your specialists will have something to teach you. This, among other reasons, is why you need to spend most of your time listening. Anything you can do to inspire your specialists to talk more is something you should be doing as often as possible. Ask for explanations and guide your conversations towards addressing problems with solutions. These consultations will inevitably lead to highly valuable insights which will justify the cost of hiring the specialist in the first place.
Once it becomes clear your highly intelligent employees understand the project well enough, your job as manager or project lead is to delegate both the power and the responsibility to take ownership of a portion of the project, set a deadline and get it delivered. The key mistake most managers make is to either delegate the responsibility but not the power, or to delegate the power but not the responsibility. This will almost always lead to an intractable conflict which will only serve to obstruct your project.
The reason you hire really smart people is so your company can take advantage of their competence. As manager, your job is to make certain that competence remains unhindered. Put good people in circumstances where they can succeed and they will almost always surprise you with what they can do. If you can find ways to combine these competencies, not only will you build a great team culture, but you'll also be satisfied with the progress your team makes on your most important projects.