Communicating with Technical Leaders

by | Feb 25, 2022 | Communication, Technical Leaders

Technical leaders often tell me that they are told they need to learn how to communicate with non-technical people outside of their teams, but the reverse is not true. Non-technical people are rarely told they need to learn how to communicate with technical people.

Communication works both ways. It can be helpful for non-technical people to learn what is different about technical leaders, teams, and organizations. There are certain unique characteristics of technical leaders, teams, and organizations that are worth understanding when working with them. This four-part blog series will focus on four factors:

  1. Distinguishing characteristics of technical industries
  2. Distinguishing characteristics of technical people
  3. The complexity of technical teams and leadership
  4. Technical industry and organizational cultures

Distinguishing characteristics of technical industries


Technical industries tend to be tackling extremely complex problems, like searching for cures to diseases, building spaceships, and developing artificial intelligence. Building a spaceship, for example, requires experts from multiple domains to work together, including chemists, biologists, engineers, mathematicians, doctors, and computer scientists. When leaders describe the challenges they are facing, it can be hard for people not trained in their field to understand what they are talking about.


  • Take the opportunity to learn about the technology. Even a very basic understanding of the technology and/or the processes the technical teams use can be helpful.
  • Speak in plain English and ask them to describe their challenges in plain English, using no jargon, acronyms, or industry-specific vocabulary.

Rapid Change

Technical industries are particularly susceptible to rapid change because intense competition, technological developments, security breaches, and government regulations can radically disrupt their workflow. In the pharmaceutical industry, for example, if a competitor gets FDA approval for a drug first, it can make or break a company. People may be working overtime one day and be looking for a job the next. The neck and neck competition for a COVID vaccine is an example of how being approved first had an enormous advantage.


  • Be aware of the pressures technical leaders are under to work quickly and stay focused on achieving results. They may need support and resources to free them up to get out of the details and see the big picture.
  • Pay attention to their technical concerns. They may have valuable information that could mitigate substantial risk to the organization.

Stay tuned to learn more about distinguishing characteristics of technical people and how to work with them.