An IT Manager Who Is Doing It All Wrong

by drjim on October 11, 2012

Image CreditJust because you are a manager, doesn't mean that you are doing things correctly…

Just because you are a manager, doesn't mean that you are doing things correctly…

Who likes to hear success stories all the time? I’m working with a new IT manager who only recently started her new leadership position. An important point to understand here is that this is not her first management position; she had been responsible for a small team in the past. This new assignment is her first time running a team of this size (roughly 100 IT employees). However, her efforts are not working. What’s going wrong here?

What She’s Doing Wrong?

This IT manager’s heart was in the right place, it’s just that what she was doing wasn’t working. Her previous management experience was with a smaller team – a group of 5 people that she actually physically saw every day at the office. Now that she was in charge of a much larger team that was geographically diversified, she was in trouble.

I had a talk with members of the team that she was managing. What I discovered was that they felt that she was not treating them as professionals. Instead, they felt as though she was always talking down to them – treating them like they were first time workers who had just started working at a fast food restaurant and had to be told how to do everything.

Next, one of the techniques that this manager had been using with her small team to motivate them was a collection of awards programs. “Employee of the month” or “Biggest effort this month” types of things. As she handed out such awards in her new position, it was turning off members of her larger team. They told me that they didn’t know the people who were winning the awards and it seemed like team members who worked in the same office as the manager were the ones who were always winning the awards. In short, they saw the awards as being a silly distraction.

For that matter, members of the team didn’t feel as though the really big accomplishments that members of the team were making were being properly recognized or rewarded. They pointed out that if their extra efforts weren’t going to be acknowledged, then why should they be going to the extra effort to accomplish them?

Next, the new manager had not made any real contact with the members of the team. She would routinely hold “all hands” calls with the entire team, but that’s not the way that the team worked. Instead, they were all divided into multiple smaller groups each with their own team leader. The IT manager had not made contact with these team leaders or addressed the individual teams. What this meant is that nobody felt a connection with her or believed that she knew what they were currently working on.

Finally, the IT manager had not set any clear goals or objectives for the team. Instead, she had been parroting what the company’s senior managers were saying. That was all fine and good, but the team members pointed out to me that the company’s objectives needed to be related to what the different parts of the team were working on in order to make everything clear to the workers.

What Should This It Manager Be Doing?

Ouch! That was a whole lot of problems for one IT manager to be dealing with. The most important thing here was that she was willing to try. She really wanted to be an effective IT manager; it’s just that she had not adjusted her management style from the small group that she used to manage to the large group that she was now managing.

The first thing that I had her do was to stop the awards programs – clearly they were not having the intended effect. Next, I had her cancel her “all hands” calls. Since she had no real connection with the members of her team, these were also a waste of time.

What I did have her do was to set up a set of meetings with each of the individual team leaders within her team. During each of these one hour calls, she introduced herself to the group and found out who was in the group, where they had come from, and what they were working on now. The 60 minute discussions left the team feeling as though she now understood who they were and what they were doing.

Once she had met with all of the teams, I had her schedule a less frequent set of calls with all of the teams. She’ll be able to have another 30 minute call with each team twice a year in order to catch up with what they have been doing.

Once this had been handled, I had her once again start her “all hands” calls. The vibe of these meetings was now different because she had connected with each of the teams. I had the manager be very careful to not show preference for teams that worked in the same building as her.

Finally, I worked with this IT manager to have her take the time to relate the company’s goals to specific objectives that her team could deliver on. Once she had determined what these were, then she could use them as the basis for what she talked about during her “all hands” calls.

What All Of This Means For You

Being placed in an IT manager role is a great complement for any IT professional. However, it is not an easy job to do. I’m currently working with a new IT manager who is doing a lot of things that are not working out for her.

She’s trying to connect with her IT dream team, but her efforts are missing the mark. She’s not been treating her team as professionals and she’s not come up with a good way to reward accomplishments. Combine this with a lack of a clear objective for the team and you end up with an IT manager who is not being effective.

Fixing this IT management problem is fairly straightforward. The first thing that she needs to do is to create a clearly defined high-level objective for the team. Next, she needs to make a personal connection with all of her team members. Finally, she needs to make sure that they know that she respects them as the IT professionals that they are.

Managing a team of IT workers is not an easy task. It’s very easy to do this job incorrectly. Understanding if you are doing it wrong is the first step in correcting the problem. Follow the steps that we’ve talked about and you’ll discover that it is possible to get the most out of any IT team.

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

Question For You: What do you think would be the best way to find out if you are doing a good job as being an IT manager?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

In the world of high finance, there are three primary financial reports that your management will use to tell you how a firm is doing: income statement, balance statement, and the cash flow statement. An IT manager needs to be aware of what each of these reports contains and how to read them. The cash flow statement is one such report and, unfortunately, it’s probably both the least used and least understood. Let’s solve that problem right now…

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Marlin Page October 24, 2012 at 8:41 pm

When I became Deputy Chief Information Officer for the City of Detroit one of the first things I did was to hold 15 minute meetings will all 300 employees and contractors. Although some of them were not initially happy with an “outsider” getting the job, many of them had never experienced working with a leader that took the time to meet with them.

As a former Coder and “Techie,” I knew it was important for me to bring the human aspect to the job. We accomplished many wonderful things together.

Great Article, Great Advice.

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Dr. Jim Anderson October 26, 2012 at 6:35 pm

Marlin: that’s the way to do it! Fantastic story — you know how to do this management thing correctly!

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