Leading From Behind: Learn & Engage

by drjim on September 22, 2011

Image Credit It's Never Too Early For IT Leaders To Learn

It's Never Too Early For IT Leaders To Learn

When I work with IT Leaders who are looking for ways to get that next promotion, I tell them that they are going to need to demonstrate leadership. This is an easy thing for me to say and a very hard thing for them to do. Complicating matters even more is the fact that IT managers are finding themselves drafted onto team that they are just members of, not leaders of. What’s an IT manager to do?

Learn Early, Learn Often

As IT managers, we all realize that we certainly don’t know it all. However, when we find ourselves part of a team that we are not leading, it can become frustrating when we realize just how much the team doesn’t know.

The classic solution to this type of problem is to have the team stumble forward and complete the project that they have been assigned to work on. When the project is over, upper management steps in and an after-action review is conducted in order to provide everyone with an understanding of what went well and what could have been done better.

That’s all fine and good, but if you want to use your skills to manage the situation even better, you can make a suggestion. Instead of waiting until the project is over, suggest that the team conduct so called “mini reviews” on an ongoing basis. Depending on how fast the team is moving, these reviews could be done once a day or more likely once a week.

Getting the team to take the time step back and understand how things are going even as the project is underway is a great way to keep things on track. Even though you aren’t managing the team, it’s suggestions like this that can allow the team to benefit from your management skills.

Engage With Others

Think back to the last team that you were a member of. Did everyone else on that team contribute equally to the success of the project? I suspect that the answer is no.

Once again, even if you have not been asked to manage the team, you can still contribute to making the team a success. Every person on the team has their own set of skills and talents. Likewise there are a diverse set of tasks that the team needs to accomplish.

Matching the right people to the right tasks is a key part of what IT managers do. While you are part of a team, you can take the initiative and create two lists: who is on the team and what skills they bring to the table and a list of what tasks need to be accomplished. By matching the people with the tasks, you will ensure that everyone gets involved in working towards the team’s ultimate goals. The trick here will be to get the team to agree to having the individuals perform the tasks – you can make suggestions, but you can’t make anyone to do anything.

What All Of This Means For You

When IT managers find themselves working as part of a team and not leading the team, it can be a confusing situation. What they need to realize is that management is not something that can be handed to them, in this situation they need to earn it.

One way to help the team to manage itself is to create situations where the team will be able to dynamically learn even as it is doing. This can be done by setting up weekly or even daily reviews of what the team has accomplished, where it has run into problems, and what needs to be changed.

Another issue that the team may encounter is that not all of its members are being fully utilized. Taking the time to do the extra work that is required to match team member’s skills to tasks that need to be done allows everyone to be engaged and to contribute.

IT managers who have not been asked to manage a team that they are part of can still lend their management skills to ensuring that the team will be successful. Consider this to be good training for when you are promoted into senior IT management positions!

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

Question For You: What’s the best way to get team members to agree to perform a job that is a good match to their skill set?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

When I work with IT Leaders who are looking for ways to get that next promotion, I tell them that they are going to need to demonstrate leadership. This is an easy thing for me to say and a very hard thing for them to do. Complicating matters even more is the fact that IT managers are finding themselves drafted onto team that they are just members of, not leaders of. What’s an IT manager to do?

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