Technical Expertise and Relationship Building SkillsCraig was a brilliant young engineer who aspired to be the go-to technical leader in his company. He studied journals and books, attended professional conferences, enrolled in technical courses, and was active in his professional association. He prided himself in his outstanding academic ratings. He routinely aced technical exams and scored in the top 10% of his class.

As Craig’s technical expertise, experience, and confidence grew, he became increasingly puzzled by how infrequently he was consulted by others for his technical advice. So when a career development opportunity was presented to key professionals he decided to participate in a “270 feedback process” (a 360 assessment without direct reports).

His highest rating was in solving problems and analyzing issues. Craig was disappointed to learn that his peers, manager, and others in his organization rated his technical expertise at the 75th percentile. He felt he was already in the top 10% of technical leaders and should have been rated at the 90th percentile.

The workshop facilitator presented Zenger Folkman research data that shined a bright light on his situation. A study of 35,210 leadership assessments like the one he was participating in showed:

  • If Technical Expertise was rated as a strength (75th percentile) and Relationship Building Skills were OK but not a strength, the probability of being an extraordinary performer (90th percentile) was only 11%.
  • If Relationship Building Skills were a strength and Technical Expertise was not, the probability of being an extraordinary performer inched up slightly to 13%.
  • But… when Technical Expertise AND Relationship Building Skills were both rated as strengths at the 75th percentile, this powerful combination meant 73% of the time performers were in the top 10% of job effectiveness.

Craig went on to learn how Zenger Folkman “reverse engineered” the feedback on top performers rated at the 90th percentile in Technical Expertise to discover what skills and competencies most highly correlated. From that cross-competency map he chose to work on Communicates Powerfully and Prolifically and Relationship Building and Networking.

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