Talent Management for Tech Transfer: First, Break All The Rules

Let’s face it. The technology transfer environment requires a broad set of skill sets across intellectual property, contracting, science, business, and investment realms. This is not a place for specialization; but, instead a setting to meld these skill sets through the selection and development of a well-organized team of leading tech transfer professionals. And as a manager of a technology transfer unit, you are responsible for identifying, forming, aligning, and directing the optimal team—a team that can only be high-performing when its individuals are at their best.

The managers that struggle with this concept often place their energy on trying to change the individuals to accommodate what they want the team to look like. The truth is that, while skills and knowledge can be taught, the passions and intangibles of people don’t change that much. They are core to the individual and often what makes them unique and special.

Instead, some of the best managers of tech transfer operations select individuals for both passions and intangibles that already exist and spend their time trying to help the expression of those traits through their assignments. These managers are also honing in on the vision of operations in evolving their top performers and rotating in new talent where needed for the demand of the strategic direction.

To grasp this approach, I will summarize a few of the points from one of my favorite books on effective management, First Break All The Rules (Buckingham and Coffman). This book flips the idea that a manager’s responsibility is to demand the individual to change to taking the approach of doing everything to maximize and develop what is already there. This can be applied as follows:

  • Key 1: Select for Talent: The effective manager will hire for new talent and identify talent from their existing professionals. Skills can be taught but things like analytical curiosity, drive, and networking are talents that tech transfer managers should recognize and target
  • Key 2: Define the Right Outcomes: Next, the manager should clearly define the end goals, position members with particular talent, and allow flexibility to their team in arriving at results. Creating too much process can inhibit the expression of certain talents. Instead, consider setting a foundation of core beliefs that will install a set of standards for the office
  • Key 3: Focus on Strengths: Set up your regular professional development strategy to teach new skills and knowledge to the team; but, arrange specialized opportunities like tag-along meetings, event speaking, program development, and others that develop and express the talents of the individuals
  • Key 4: Find the Right Fit: Finally, integrate individuals as a team working towards the ultimate goals of the tech transfer operation; however, position each member to exhibit their talent to the group in different ways.

This approach to managing technology transfer talent will lead to both unit and personal satisfaction, develop a group that wants to be at their best every day, garner respect for your leadership, and limit turnover.


Looking for quality candidates, technical reviewers, or seeking your next opportunity? Contact me directly, Glen Gardner at glen@vortechsgroup.com. Visit us anytime at http://vortechsgroup.com

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