Confidence in emerging leadership has reached record-low numbers among businesses. Per Corporate Executive Board intel, 87 percent of firms aren’t confident in their up-and-coming star performers.
Why the waning trust in rising talent? Perhaps well-meaning executive teams are barking up the wrong tree. After all, some of the best movers and shakers are in the weeds.
I’m speaking of makers — the designers and developers with ears to the ground. As a member of their ranks, I understand the value they bring to the table. During sales meetings, I can hop on a whiteboard and sketch out solutions. Product- and tech-inclined clients appreciate this approach, and they trust that my project estimates won’t screw them (or us) over.
Being a maker puts me in a different category in their eyes, especially when they see me roll up my sleeves to solve any problems that crop up. I can move in and out of tickets, leaning on my design thinking to approach solutions as if they were experiments.
Regrettably, other firms don’t seem to understand that makers are their secret weapon.
Skipping Over Makers for Promotions Doesn’t Make Sense
Historically, companies have filled top seats with people whose résumés are stacked with long-term sales or management positions. But some makers can make great managers. After all, they’re accustomed to solving problems every day. As long as they want to become supervisors rather than design or code day in and day out, those makers are ripe for the picking.
Besides, makers connect better with other makers tactically, strategically, and personality-wise. Case in point: Our New York director of engineering is a maker who is constantly tackling his jobs and helping his team complete assignments. He’s successful because he can bridge those two worlds effortlessly.
Of course, hiring a maker without prior proven personnel skills can fall into the “risky” category. It’s not for businesses that have traditionally played it safe. However, we’ve all seen how “safe” can become a trap, especially in a global economy in which disruptors are hiding behind every brand.
How to Convince the C-Suite of Makers’ Leadership Value
Want to move a few of your makers up the ranks but not sure your stakeholders will see the benefits? Explain the advantages to the C-suite by highlighting what makers do best:
1. They’re comfortable planning.
Makers have a leg up on supervisors who have little experience planning projects or budgets. After all, makers live in a realm of realistic estimates, product development intricacies, and healthy skepticism. Not only do they bring their hands-on expertise to the task of leading others and building trust with clients, but they also tend to have an accurate picture of how long it will take to achieve outcomes. Talk about a strong way to improve bottom-line performance.
2. They’re accepted by other makers.
As a group, highly skilled creatives are kind of like cats: They don’t appreciate being told what to do by those not in their pride. Consequently, managing them can be challenging for a non-maker. However, a maker who has experience with the maker mindset can rise above this type of cynicism, running a team of designers, engineers, and product managers expertly. As a result, output quality should improve, as should overall workplace morale.
3. They’re willing to solve problems differently.
Want a refreshingly novel perspective on a truly head-scratching puzzler? Ask a maker. Makers see the world through innovative lenses thanks to years of training. When faced with a critical business problem, they don’t do what everyone else has always done. Designers are particularly suited for any leadership role in which out-of-the-box thinking is an asset. After all, much of the design process includes brainstorming and then converging on a single solution.
Makers might not be your executive team’s first pick to glide up the corporate escalator; however, you needn’t overlook the design pros in your ranks. Those ready to share their gifts and become groundbreakers could be the difference between winning the rat race or becoming a competitor’s cheese snack.
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