How Can IT Managers Be Innovative?

by drjim on July 24, 2014

Making innovation happen is hard work

Making innovation happen is hard work
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On top of all of those budgeting and staffing things that you have to do each and every day, your company is pushing you to become more innovative. Oh great, and just how is an IT manager supposed to go about doing that – have you had any IT manager training on how to innovate? Being innovative can be very hard to do if you don’t know how to do it. The first step in pulling this off is making sure that you understand what true innovation looks like.

Don’t Try To Please Everyone

Innovation is all about doing new things. This can be a risky undertaking for any IT manager who is unsure of their IT manager skills. We are expected to be able to do the things that will help our IT team to be successful. Generally speaking, people don’t associate “new” with an IT manager. However, the world in which we work in is constantly changing. If you don’t innovate and do new and different things, then you run the real risk of being left behind.

One of the biggest challenges that you are going to run into when you try out new things will be the doubters that you run into. As an IT manager, you interact with your management, your team, and the other departments that your team works with. Not everyone is going to understand what you are up to and they won’t be supportive. You’ve got to respect their doubts and push on – don’t let them hold you back.

The good news here is that you are not alone. As you try out new approaches to old problems, you are traveling a well-worn path. Innovation is what made Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, and Jeff Bezos successful. Yes, we all know who they are today, but back in the day they were just managers who were willing to try out something new.

Where Does Innovation Come From?

Hopefully we can all agree that innovation is a good thing. Now the big question is just exactly where does the innovation that drives us actually come from? Is this something that only some of us have or is it really inside of every IT manager?

The good news is that I believe that the ability to be innovative is inside of everyone. You just need to have the courage to look inside of yourself and find it. At its core, innovation is that part of us that allows us to act like a rebel. We are rebelling against how things currently are. We have to be willing to challenge the status quo in a quest for something better.

Innovation is not designed to make people feel good. Instead, as you innovate it’s going to end up making a lot of other people quite uncomfortable – innovation is all about change after all. Innovation is all about evolving and doing things that have not been done before. This is going to get you noticed. You’ll be charting a new path and inviting others to follow you no matter what the doubters might be saying.

What Does All Of This Mean For You?

The need to innovate is only now being recognized as a key to a company’s long-term success. What this means is that more and more IT managers are being asked to be more innovative as they go about doing their jobs and their daily IT team building activities.

In order to be successful at the innovation game, you are going to have to learn to do things differently. The first thing that you are going to have to realize is that you won’t be able to please everyone. As you innovate, various people are going to believe that you are making mistakes – ignore them. You’ll also have to understand where innovation comes from. It turns out that the best innovation comes from the IT managers who are willing to be rebels and who are willing to defy the norm.

Yes, your company wants you to innovate. However, they never told you that it was going to be so difficult to do! Innovation is hard work. However, it turns out that that is ok because what innovation can produce is so valuable that it makes all of that hard work well worth the effort. Take the time to think about how you can bring more innovation to your IT manager job and you’ll be richly rewarded for your efforts.

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

Question For You: How much time on innovation do you think that you should try to spend each week?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As an IT manager, you are always looking to use your IT manager skills to create innovative ways to do your job. If you can come up with new or different ways for your team to get their work done, then there is a good chance that your management will notice you and either a raise, a promotion, or both will be coming your way. However, we don’t live and work in a vacuum – there is always the chance that just when you’ve come up with a great new idea, another IT manager at your company may roll out the same innovation with their team. What’s an IT manager to do?

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Is showing concern a form of showing weakness?

Is showing concern a form of showing weakness?
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Hey, big tough IT manager. Do you ever show concern about members of your team? Should you? Is this one of those IT manager skills that we’re supposed to have? A lot of us struggle when it comes to showing genuine concern for the people who are on our teams. Deep down inside we’d like to, but we are terribly afraid that if we do so, the rest of the team is going to see us as being weak and an easy mark for manipulation. It turns out that this is not the case…

The Case For Showing Concern

So just exactly what is “concern”? I like to define this as being when an IT manager shows empathy for what’s going on in the lives of the members of his or her team. What’s important is that concern has to be genuine, you can’t fake this stuff. How to do this correctly is not something that is ever covered in IT manager training. New IT managers think that they have to put on their “tough guy” face and can’t show concern because they may be seen as being weak. It turns out that nothing could be further from the truth.

As an IT manager you need to understand that you have a responsibility towards your team just like they have a responsibility towards you. Ultimately it is going to be your responsibility to make sure that the company’s objectives are accomplished via your team. In order to make that happen, you are going to have to get the most out of your team and you won’t be able to do that if you don’t take the time to show some concern about them and their situation.

As an IT manager you need to work with your team in order to help them to understand how they are going to be able to achieve their personal objectives. You need to find a way to tie those objectives back into the company’s objectives. Only by doing this and convincing your team that by making the company successful will they be successful will you achieve what you need to as an IT manager.

It’s Really All About Good Communication

Before you team is going to be willing to accept any concern from you, they are going to have to first see you as their leader. Your role in the team structure is to act as a communication channel between the larger company and your team.

What this means is that your team is going to be looking to you to provide them with information on what is going on both inside the company and outside of it. The one thing that you don’t want to do is to withhold information from your team.

If the members of your team can’t get the information that they need from you, then they will turn to other sources to get it. The information that they will be able to obtain from other sources will be different from what you would have told them and may not be correct. Additionally, by withholding needed information from your team you will have created a sense of distrust between you and that will prohibit you from being able to show concern for them when it is needed.

What All Of This Means For You

As the leader of a team of IT professionals, you have the responsibility to know what is going on with your team. One way to make this happen is to show genuine concern for the members of your team.

Don’t get this confused with showing weakness. Just because you show concern for what’s going on in a team member’s life does not mean that you are a push-over. Ultimately, a key component of showing concern for your entire team is to do a good job of keeping them informed. Consider this to be part of your IT team building responsibilities. You need to be the one that provides them with the company information that they need to know – you can’t have them learning about things first from other sources.

Showing respect for your team by showing concern for them is what a good IT manager does. Take the time to make sure that your team is always properly informed about what is going on at the company. Do all of this right and you’ll not only be seen as a compassionate manager, but also as a strong one.

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

Question For You: Do you think that it is possible to show too much compassion?

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

On top of all of those budgeting and staffing things that you have to do each and every day, your company is pushing you to become more innovative. Oh great, and just how is an IT manager supposed to go about doing that – have you had any IT manager training on how to innovate? Being innovative can be very hard to do if you don’t know how to do it. The first step in pulling this off is making sure that you understand what true innovation looks like.

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