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In the past few months the area which I am I working in has grown and I do not longer work directly with the area manager (who is uber techie but still knows how to manage people, I know, it's hard to find those kind of people nowadays).

Instead, the area manager (who up until now was my boss), brought a team leader. I continued doing my regular work but whenever I try to explain him my doings and outcomes I see that he has no idea what I try to do or why.

I still have friendly and day to day relationship my area manager so we get to talk quite a lot about my work (which he understands and knows), so sometimes I get different looks of 'I would never allow this to happen but I don't really know why' from the team leader.

I feel a lot of frustration when I hear his saying about my project, he knows the cause and the purpose, but has no idea how to lead it or advise in certain cases when I need to choose (in previous cases the area manager would've advise me here) and therefore has no clue how to manage it.

I am not sure what to do, for now I just update the TL with my own decisions (I started the project on my own, and the area manager was only a tube for resources or bureaucracy in the company, he trusted me to do it on my own and it has escalated to the company trusting us so it allocated a new team) but I know that he is transparent, he does not understand what or why I do things, nor he thinks to learn a bit.

I am not sure what my options are, as I know that as soon as I will finish my current project I will have to see how to continue working under this TL.

How would other people here have managed to get along with non-technical team leaders?

The last resort would be to officially talk with my area manager "1 on 1" chat and explain him that. When he hired the TL we had a small chat that the only thing that my area manager fears is that the TL will be bored/scared away from techie stuff, and my project reflects this fear fully, for now he can't do anything as I started this project before he came, but once another project would rise I would be jailed and not sure what sort of outcomes would occur.

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    Usually you just hope that the non-technical person is smart enough to stay out of your way on technical matters, and secure enough to trust in your judgement. Although usually a non-technical person would be a 'project manager', not a 'team leader'. The team leader is typically expected to lead with respect to technical aspects and generally designs and implements code themselves. A non-technical team leader seems like a contradiction. Perhaps the area manager made a mistake in his hiring decision. Perhaps you should be team leader. – aroth May 3 '14 at 1:23
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I'm really sorry to hear about this situation. I want to applaud you for your ability to move forward, be decisive and make the best out of a difficult situation. Your problem is somewhat complicated and I have some experience in this topic.

Collaborating with people who don't share your intelligence or vision can be challenging. It's obvious your area manager is approachable and very knowledgeable. However, he's in a situation where his "hands are tied." He likely brought the team leader on board because he was tasked with more than he could handle. Effective managers hire good people to delegate their power to capable people. So, there must have been something valuable about this guy. Finding technically savvy professionals is becoming more and more difficult, as you pointed out earlier, managers that are techie are even rarer.

Here's my suggestion: be candid and respectful in expressing your frustrations. Empathy is incredibly important here - everyone has there areas of expertise. Find a way to work together strategically. You can use this time to sharpen your technical acumen. Even though it may not be your job or responsibility, by taking on the challenge you are proving yourself to be leader and add to your skill set. Also, in a non-threatening way, assure your team leader that you're on his side - trying to work towards a solution that benefits the entire team. Collaborate on ways to make the relationship work. Identify (with specifics) what you believe you need to be successful. Offer suggestions to make it happen.

Effective leaders know their people are their golden ticket. If you're not successful, neither is he.

  • "be candid and respectful in expressing your frustrations": to whom? the TL, the AM or both, privately? – smci Nov 11 '14 at 19:28
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Typically the higher you move up in a company the less technically inclined your boss will be (There are exceptions of course.) Business leaders in large companies often have different skill sets compared to most technical people, as illustrated by Dilbert / Scott Adams. This is just something you will have to get accustomed to.

The good news is you won't have a boss second guessing and micro managing you. If you enjoy your independence and building systems on your own this is a great arrangement.

Sometimes I would hardly ever see some of the non-technical bosses I have had which was fine with me as I have found that they are often not the kind of people I enjoy interacting with.

The bad news, as you mentioned, is your boss is not a resource for technical help. Also unless you spend a lot of time explaining things to them, they will often form their own conclusions about system issues they see. Their conclusions will usually be radically incorrect.

To counter this you need to spend a lot of time communicating with your boss and develop a good relationship with them.

If you just don't like working for a non-technical person then you should look for another job. Yes, you should talk to him, and very kindly and gently explain that you desire a boss who is in your field who can further develop your technical skills.

There is a chance your boss may not react well to this conversation so be prepared for your relationship to take a turn for the worse. The reason I say talk to your boss is that he may also try to help you and find you a team or position in the company that better suits your needs. If your boss does not react well then you may have to look for a job outside the company.

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