IT Managers Need To Learn How To Do Altercasting

by drjim on February 15, 2018

Altercasting is all about getting people on your team to do what you want

Altercasting is all about getting people on your team to do what you want
Image Credit: Thomas Hawk

As an IT manager you are responsible for a group of IT professionals. What you need to do is to use your IT manager skills to clearly communicate to them what tasks have to be accomplished, when they are due, and who on your team is going to be responsible for doing what. Although this may sound like it is straightforward, many of my friends who are IT managers like to describe it as “herding cats”. How can an IT manager get their team to do what they need to have them do?

Say Hello To Altercasting

If you want to use your IT manager training to get the members of your team to do what you need to have them do, then you are going to have to persuade them to do it. How to make this happen is the trick. One such way is to use altercasting. When you altercast, you characterize the member of your team that you want to do something for you as certain type of person. You do this in order to encourage them to behave in a desired manner. An example would be telling one of your team members that you were giving them a coding task that has to be done soon because you know that they are the fastest coder on the team.

An interesting thought is that we all altercast already. When we want to get someone to do something for us, we cast the person in what is called an “alter”, the role that we want them to assume, before we make our request of them. The reason that this is such a successful technique is because the person that you are talking with typically wants to rise up to the role that you have identified.

A key question that IT managers need to ask is if the use of altercasting can be considered to be manipulation? The answer, as it always is, is that it depends. It will depend on if you are being deceptive and how the person that you are trying to influence perceives your actions. If they think that they are being manipulated then you may end up damaging your relationship with them. However, if you are able to keep thinking about what’s best for the other person, then this could be an effective persuasion technique.

Types Of Altercasting

There are two different forms of altercasting that are practiced. The first form is called “manded”. In this form of altercasting, you don’t change your behavior. However, you openly state a role that you’d like the other person to perform. An example would be telling a team member that they have a good eye for detail before asking them to do a code review. The other form is called “tact”. In this form of altercasting, you don’t state anything explicitly but you change your behavior to suggest a role for the other person. An example would be asking a team member to work with you while you try to create some requirements and doing such a bad job of it that they just offer to take over the task themselves.

In order to make altercasting work, you must first know the person that you are talking with. What you want to understand is how this person sees themselves. If you can show them that you see them in a role that they want to fill, then the interaction will be a good one. You’ll also want to remind the person about the relationship that you already have. Most people want to make their relationships better, so this will motivate them.

How you attempt to influence the other person matters a great deal. The words that you use can have a big impact. One of the most important words that you have at your disposal is the word “willing”. If you ask someone to do something, there is a chance that they’ll refuse you. However, studies have shown that if you ask the same thing, but this time add the word “willing” as in “Would you be willing to…” things dramatically change and more often than not, people agree to do it.

What All Of This Means For You

The job of an IT manager is to be successful. The way that you are successful is to get your team to do the things that you need to have accomplished. However, they don’t always do what you ask them to do no matter how much IT team building you do. That’s why you need to find ways to convince them to follow your directions. This is where altercasting comes in.

Altercasting means that you characterize the member of your team that you want to do something for you as certain type of person. By doing this it makes them want to become that person and thus do what you want them to do. When we are altercasting we need to be careful that we don’t come across as trying to manipulate the person that we’re talking to. If we have their best interests at heart then it can be seen as an effective form of persuasion. There are two different forms of altercasting that you can use. However, to make altercasting work you need to first make sure that you know the person that you are talking with and then you have to use the word “willing”.

As IT managers we’d like to live in a world where everyone would just do what we ask them to do. However, we don’t and that’s why persuasion is so important. Using altercasting to get the members of our team to want to do what we ask them to do is a powerful tool that we need to learn how to use. Get good at it and you’ll discover all that your team can accomplish…

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that altercasting only works when you are in 1-on-1 discussions with team members?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As an IT manager, your performance is going to be judged by what your team is able to accomplish. What this means is that it is your responsibility to use you IT manager skills to motivate them to work hard to complete the tasks that you assign to them. This motivation thing turns out to be a bit tricky because we’ve never had IT manager training in how to do it: getting a group of people to all work towards the same goal is not easy to do. In addition to finding ways to motivate our teams, we also have to be very careful to not kill what motivation they already have.

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Negative thoughts can kill an IT manager's productivity

Negative thoughts can kill an IT manager’s productivity
Image Credit:
Dave Sykes

As IT managers, we are always expected to be “up”. That means that when our management comes to us with a new assignment, we use our IT manager skills to say “yes”. When members of our team come to us and ask for help we use our IT manager training to say “yes”. Basically, everyone expects us to always be ready to help them out. However, we don’t always feel like helping everyone out. In fact, sometimes we feel a great deal of self-doubt and really don’t want to have to deal with anyone. Is there any way for an IT manager to deal with the challenge of negative thoughts?

Why Negative Thoughts Are Bad

When you have a negative thought, it’s the start of a bad process. All too often when we have a negative thought we will start to have the same thought over and over again. These thoughts do us no good and are basically unproductive. What we need to realize about our brains is that the more often that we have a thought, the more firmly established that thought is going to become in our brains. We really don’t want that to happen.

The good news for us is that things don’t have to be this way. We can take control of our thoughts. If you have the intent and if you take the time to practice having the thoughts that you do want to have, then you can create different paths in your brain. There is a name for this technique: “cognitive reappraisal”. If you can accomplish this, then you’ll have stronger neural paths that are devoted to happy thoughts, not negative thoughts.

If you want to have more happy thoughts, you need to understand how to go about doing it. The first thing to realize is that you cannot turn off your negative thoughts – nobody can do that. Additionally, if you are having untrue negative thoughts (nobody likes me) you can’t turn them into untrue positive thoughts (everybody likes me). Rather, what your goal needs to be is to re-frame your thoughts so that now based in reality.

How To Deal With Negative Thoughts

When you discover that you are having negative thoughts, your first step needs to be aware that this is happening. Before you can change your thoughts, you have to first know them. Recognize when you start to have negative thoughts and tell yourself that this is a waste of time. A great way to start to deal with your negative thoughts is to write them down. Take a look at what you’ve written and see if you can determine what may have triggered them.

When you start to have negative thoughts, one of the things that you need to realize is that most of your thoughts are going to be untrue. Because of this, you are going to have to start to challenge your thoughts. One way to do this is to turn your negative thoughts into questions: why am I a loser? Why does everyone hate me? You are going to want to write down the reasons that what you are thinking is wrong. Writing it down will strengthen your memory.

You need to realize that you’ve been having your negative thoughts for a while. Perhaps even for years. What this means is that when you start to train your brain to have more positive thoughts you are going to turn having them into a habit. Studies have been run that show that people who do this have been able to significantly reduce their negative emotions in just 16 weeks.

What All Of This Means For You

IT managers are a key part of how companies get things done. We are the people that other people come to when they have needs, questions, or want to do some IT team building. However, if we allow negative thoughts to start to fill our heads, then our productivity can start to drop quickly. When this happens, we need to look for ways to banish our negative thoughts.

Negative thoughts are unproductive and the more that we think about them the more embedded they become. You can take control of your thoughts and have positive thoughts. You can’t stop having negative thoughts, but you can start to have more positive thoughts. You need to challenge your negative thoughts and you can do this by writing down your positive thoughts in order to commit them to memory. Ultimately, you need to spend time having more positive thoughts in order to retrain your brain.

As IT managers we need to take control of our own productivity. This means that when negative thoughts start to creep into our heads, we need to recognize that they are there and take actions to send them away. The good news is that all of this is under our control and if we can find the time to have positive thoughts, we can get rid of our negative thoughts and boost our productivity.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: What steps should you take if you discover that the trigger for your negative thoughts is in your workplace?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental IT Leader Blog is updated.

P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental IT Leader Newsletter are now available. Learn what you need to know to do the job. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As an IT manager you are responsible for a group of IT professionals. What you need to do is to use your IT manager skills to clearly communicate to them what tasks have to be accomplished, when they are due, and who on your team is going to be responsible for doing what. Although this may sound like it is straightforward, many of my friends who are IT managers like to describe it as “herding cats”. How can an IT manager get their team to do what they need to have them do?

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