The #1 Worst Thing That An IT Manager Can Do

by drjim on April 6, 2017

If you do this, then you can't be a good IT manager

If you do this, then you can’t be a good IT manager
Image Credit: Marc Delforge

You know, we spend a lot of time talking about what we think that a good IT manager should be doing. We explore how they should use their IT manager skills to manage their team, how they can provide good feedback and how they can take care of all of the administrative things that come along with the job. However, what we probably don’t spend enough time talking about are the things that an IT manager should NOT be doing. There have got to be a bunch of these, but, based on our IT manager training, what is the #1 thing that an IT manager should not do?

It’s All About Sleep

It turns out that how much sleep an IT manager gets is really, really important. It can have a huge impact on the quality of work that we do. I’ve been talking with some newly-minted IT managers and they have been bragging. They’ve been bragging about how much time they have been spending at work. They talk about 16-hour days. They talk about all of the things that they are responsible for getting done and, more than one has used this phrase when talking with me, they can “… rest when they are dead.”

In all honesty, I think that they have this all wrong. I personally think that getting enough sleep is a critical responsibility that we all share. If you are going to be walking around all of the time being exhausted, then I’m thinking that you are an idiot. The effects of not getting enough sleep will start to show up quickly. There have been a number of different studies that have shown that as we go without sleep for more and more days, we progressively become dumber and dumber. If you think that you can do good work on little or no sleep, then you are just too tired to notice that you are doing poor work.

One of the most important things that too few of us understand about not getting enough sleep is that it changes who we are. It impacts everyone that we interact with. When you are not getting enough sleep, you become cranky and irritable. Interacting with your team will become harder to do because you will be less understanding of their issues, less tolerant of their shortcomings, and less patient in your dealings with them. Meetings will become a waste of your time because you’re going to find that it’s hard for you to pay attention to what’s going on and you’re not going to be able to relate to the issues that are being discussed.

Why Is Sleep So Important?

All too often when I’m talking with (mostly) new IT managers, I’ll be told that they are just going to be working this hard / getting such little sleep for awhile while they “get things under control”. There’s a problem with this kind of thinking. We humans are what are called “creatures of habit.” Once we start to do something one way, we tend to keep doing it that way. If you start working long hours and getting too little sleep when you take over an IT manager job, then what’s going to happen is that you are going doing this as time goes on. The final outcome of all of this is that you’ll become burned out, get sick, and leave your job.

So what’s an IT manager to do? It turns out that the right thing to do when you come into a new job is to get plenty of sleep. Use this time to form a good habit. There are a lot of benefits of doing this. You will start each and every day better. You will be a better colleague to your peers and a better boss to your team. One of the things that we tend to forget is that we can’t turn our brains off at night when we are sleeping. This means that people who get more sleep are often more creative and better problem solvers.

Life is life. There will be situations where emergencies at work come up and you are going to be the only person who can deal with them. There will also be projects that your team is working on that have deadlines that can’t be moved and they will require and extra effort from you as the end date approaches. It turns out that it’s ok if in situations like this you don’t get enough sleep. This is because this type of exhaustion is not a sustained state of being. Instead, it’s a temporary state that will go away on a fixed date. However, you want to make sure that these types of events that interrupt your getting a good night’s sleep are both few and far between. Just keep in mind what else the scientists have discovered: we will die faster without sleep than we will without food.

What All Of This Means For You

As IT managers who want to become better at doing our job, we are always on the hunt to discover things that we should be doing like IT team building. It turns out that this coin has another side – the things that we need to make sure that we are not doing. Skipping sleep is something that many new IT managers not only do, but then like to brag about. It turns out that they are making a mistake.

Sleep is important. How much sleep you get can have a direct impact on the quality of the work that you do. The lack of sleep has a negative impact on your intelligence. When you don’t get enough sleep, you become someone that nobody wants to deal with and your ability to manage your team decreases. If you start skipping sleep when you start a new job, you need to be careful because you are forming a habit that may stay with you. There will be situations where you’ll be required to spend more time and get less sleep, but these are temporary situations.

We all like to sleep. Our bodies have no problem telling us when we are not getting enough sleep. We need to understand that skipping sleep to work more will only result us doing poorer quality work. We need to take the time to get enough sleep and make sure that when we are at work, we are at our best. The next time that you are thinking about staying late at work and skipping sleep, think about how wonderful it feels to go to sleep in your bed and then go home and do it!

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

Question For You: How many hours of sleep do you think that you require each night in order to be operating at your best?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

I must confess that I have a deep need to create all of my own code. I sorta feel as though if I didn’t write it, then it really should not be part of the final product. However, even I know that this is wrong. It takes a lot of time and more often than not a lot of very smart people to develop good code. Not every company can employ the right people or have the time that it would take to write all of the code that they need to create a final working product. It turns out that there is a solution to this problem: open source software.

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