Managing a team of IT professionals is hard work when they all spend all day in the office with you. Transform this cozy scenario into the modern distributed workplace and you get a completely different scenario that you may not have the IT manager skills to deal with. Now you’ve got a much bigger challenge on your hands. What’s an IT manager to do?
Trust Your People
As an IT manager, it can be all too easy for us to get caught up in trying to decide how we’re going to get the most out of each member of our team. It sure seems like we’re going to have to hover over each of them in order to make sure that they are doing their job.
It turns out that IT manager training teaches us that this method never works. In fact, as your team grows larger, you soon won’t have enough time to do this type of micromanagement. Instead, a much better method is to trust your team. You need to clearly communicate to them that it their responsibility to make sure that the work gets done properly.
That being said, you are the manager. This means that you need to perform reviews of the work that is being done. I recommend a quarterly review. If there is someone on your team who is not living up to their side of the agreement, then after one of these quarterly reviews you may decide to let them go from your team.
Communicate Using Multimedia
Ultimately, how well you communicate as an IT manager is going to determine how well your team performs. This means that even when you are in charge of a distributed team, it is going to be your responsibility to find ways to get the team to understand what you want to tell them.
Yes, phone conferences are a way of life for many of us. However, it doesn’t have to stop there. You’ve got a lot of modern tools such as Skype available to you that you can make use of in order to bring multimedia communication into the way that your IT team communicates.
How frequently your team communicates is important also. I like to have my team leaders get together for a talk once a week in order to identify and work out any issues that have popped up. I like to pull together the entire team once a month to talk. This allows everyone to stay in touch with each other and be reminded that they are not alone – they are part of a larger team.
Find Ways To Bond
Culture is an important part of every team. As the IT manager, it is going to be your responsibility to find ways to keep the sense of culture alive within your team. When your team is distributed, this is not going to be easy to do.
First, you need to identify just exactly what type of culture you want to cultivate for your team. It has to be an idea that the entire team can buy into. Once you’ve got this identified, you are going to have to give some thought to how you can get everyone to commit to being a part of that culture.
I’m a big fan of trying to do some IT team building with the entire team at least once a year that reflects the culture. Pulling everyone together and having them participate in an activity that reinforces the sense of the team’s culture is a great way to make this happen.
Not everyone on your team is the same. As an IT manager you need to view the geographical diversity of your team as an asset, not a liability. This means that you’ve got to find ways to leverage this aspect of your team.
The fact that you have people on your team who don’t work together means that they all come to the table with a different view of the world. This can be especially important when the team is faced with a difficult challenge.
Having team members who can bring a fresh perspective to problem solving opens a couple of doors for you. First, you’ll get a collection of different ideas about how to solve the problem. Secondly, you may be able to come up with a workable solution faster than you would if everyone thought the same way.
What All Of This Means For You
IT managers need to have the ability to manage their team no matter where they may be located. As more and more teams are spread out over large distances these days, IT managers need to learn the skills that are required in order to make these teams operate smoothly.
Trust is an important factor in managing distributed teams. You need to follow up on assignments and make sure that the work is getting done. Communication, as always, is critical. You need to take the time to use multimedia tools in order to make sure that you connect with everyone. Find ways to bond with your distributed team and make sure that you take the time to embrace the diversity that your team brings to the table.
Your success as an IT manager is based on the work that your IT team can do. Turn the distributed nature of your team into an advantage. Learn how to mold your spread out team into a single smoothly operating IT machine.
– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™
Question For You: Do you think that it is going to be easier or harder to manage a distributed team if everyone works individually or in small teams.
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
As IT managers we are always looking for ways to develop the IT manager skills that will allow us to become better. We’ll take classes, read book, and consult with peers. Our ultimate goal is to discover the IT manager training that will allow us to do a better job of connecting with the members of our team. If we can figure out how best to do this, then we just might stand a chance of being able to turn our team into a high performance team. Now just exactly how should we go about doing this?