Hello IT Manager: You’re In Politics Now!

by drjim on March 1, 2012

Image Credit No matter where you stand, you are now in politics

No matter where you stand, you are now in politics

Can’t an IT manager just rise above all of the politics? I mean really, with all of the technology leadership decisions that need to be made along with the business processes that need to be streamlined, can’t we all just skip the politics and get down to business? It turns out that we can’t and that means that as an IT manager you’re going to have to show some management and make sure that your dream team is good at playing the office politics game…

Why Politics Matter

So let’s get to the heart of the matter right off the bat: the political skills that your IT department members have will be key to their ability to build successful IT careers. You didn’t become IT manager by chance, but rather by skillfully navigating the political maze that is your company. Your IT team needs to learn how to do the same.

Office politics has a bad name – it’s often viewed as using deception to get things done. Nothing could be further from the truth. What’s really going on here is that your IT team is combining their knowledge of what the IT department needs them to do with an ability to actually get things accomplished. When they can do this, your team will benefit.

Politics And Your Staff’s Careers

Having political skills means that your team will spend their time building personal networks (not the IT kind!) so that they can get both the information the help that they need, when they need it. It also means that they need to be smart enough to not pick fights that just don’t matter. They need to be able to decide if they want to always be right, or they want to get something done.

All too often we IT folks don’t exactly know how to maintain the support of both the folks who work for us and for whom we work. A lot of what it takes to be successful in the world of office politics is for IT team members to find ways to inspire confidence in others and to build support for their ideas. This means that they need to project self-confidence and a certain amount of force behind their ideas. The last thing that anyone wants to do is to come across as being remorseful – nobody is going to support you if you do.

Sending Signals

Finally, winning the office politics game often comes down to how other perceive you. It turns out that if others are able to view your IT team as being very focused and clear about what they want to accomplish, then they’ll be successful. They won’t be successful if they seem tentative or unclear about what they are trying to do.

I almost hate to pass this final bit of advice along, but studies have shown one key characteristic of how IT team members can project power. Those who interrupt signal to others that they have power. Those people who allow themselves to be interrupted are signaling that they don’t have power.

What All Of This Means For You

As an IT manager, you are going to need to become politically savvy as well as taking steps to make your team politically savvy. Don’t think for a moment that this will be an easy job. You’ve got to do it right or else you risk losing staff.

There are points in an IT team member’s career where having political skills becomes very important. If they’ve taken the time to develop their political skills, then they’ll be able to continue to rise in the company. If not, then they’ll find their careers being derailed.

IT managers need to take the time to teach their staff how to negotiate the political challenges that every IT department faces in a modern company. Only by doing this can you ensure that they’ll be able to accomplish the things that you need them to get done. IT managers who can teach their IT teams how to use politics to their advantage will become successful IT managers.

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

Question For You: Do you think that formal training on office politics is needed or just constant on-the-job training?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

There you are, an IT manager trying to run an efficient IT team. All of sudden — wham! One of your key team members comes and tells you that he or she is leaving. Time to go back the bus up because you’ve got another soon-to-be-former team member who deserves to be thrown under it. Or maybe not. What’s the best way to deal with team members who break up with you?

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