Sorry in advance for going off on a bit of a rant here, but I’ve become fed up with both IT workers and managers who continue to completely miss the boat when it comes to creating, working, and managing exciting and fulfilling IT jobs.
This time my trigger was going out to lunch with a group of my friends who have gotten themselves roped into running one of those internal “High Achiever” IT management programs. You know the type: your boss identifies you as having management potential and so you get picked to attend a weekly/monthly class where they teach you about teamwork and, perhaps, introduce you to other parts of the company. This particular program selects the team to run next year’s program from the students who are participating in this year’s program. My friends had participated in last year’s program and were now complaining about how much of their time running this year’s program was taking up and that they didn’t feel that they were getting anything out of it.
I didn’t actually reach across the lunch table and grab them by their shirt collars; however, I was sorely tempted to do so. My frustration with them came from the simple fact that they were not taking the time to notice that they had been given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I asked them how many management training courses their company had sent them to. The answer was, of course, none. I then proceeded to point out to them that what they were doing as a part of running this training course was basically real-world practice for becoming IT directors, executive directors, VPs, etc. The challenge was that none of the students in the class worked for them. This meant that they couldn’t get things done by telling people what to do (managing), instead they were going to have to convince folks to do what they wanted them to do (leadership). This was where the real learning for them was going to take place!
At the end of our lunch, my friends were reinvigorated and pumped up about what they now had to accomplish. Their job had not changed one bit, but the way that they looked at their job had undergone a complete transformation. At the end of the day this is the key to making any IT job a success: you have to clearly identify the challenges that it will be required to solve and the acknowledgments that will be given for solving those challenges. This is exactly what IT staffers are looking for in a job and they will stay if they find it and move on if they don’t.
What really got my goat was trying to understand where were my friends’ managers in all of this? Instead of having to go out to lunch with me to get re-focused and re-energized, their managers should have been doing this on an almost daily basis. Once again it appears as though IT managers have allowed themselves to get too focused on project schedules, code delivery, and server configurations and have missed the key role of IT management: creating challenges and providing acknowledgments. How good of a job are you doing at this?