IT Managers Need To Learn How To Do Altercasting

Altercasting is all about getting people on your team to do what you want
Altercasting is all about getting people on your team to do what you want
Image Credit: Thomas Hawk

As an IT manager you are responsible for a group of IT professionals. What you need to do is to use your IT manager skills to clearly communicate to them what tasks have to be accomplished, when they are due, and who on your team is going to be responsible for doing what. Although this may sound like it is straightforward, many of my friends who are IT managers like to describe it as “herding cats”. How can an IT manager get their team to do what they need to have them do?

Say Hello To Altercasting

If you want to use your IT manager training to get the members of your team to do what you need to have them do, then you are going to have to persuade them to do it. How to make this happen is the trick. One such way is to use altercasting. When you altercast, you characterize the member of your team that you want to do something for you as certain type of person. You do this in order to encourage them to behave in a desired manner. An example would be telling one of your team members that you were giving them a coding task that has to be done soon because you know that they are the fastest coder on the team.

An interesting thought is that we all altercast already. When we want to get someone to do something for us, we cast the person in what is called an “alter”, the role that we want them to assume, before we make our request of them. The reason that this is such a successful technique is because the person that you are talking with typically wants to rise up to the role that you have identified.

A key question that IT managers need to ask is if the use of altercasting can be considered to be manipulation? The answer, as it always is, is that it depends. It will depend on if you are being deceptive and how the person that you are trying to influence perceives your actions. If they think that they are being manipulated then you may end up damaging your relationship with them. However, if you are able to keep thinking about what’s best for the other person, then this could be an effective persuasion technique.

Types Of Altercasting

There are two different forms of altercasting that are practiced. The first form is called “manded”. In this form of altercasting, you don’t change your behavior. However, you openly state a role that you’d like the other person to perform. An example would be telling a team member that they have a good eye for detail before asking them to do a code review. The other form is called “tact”. In this form of altercasting, you don’t state anything explicitly but you change your behavior to suggest a role for the other person. An example would be asking a team member to work with you while you try to create some requirements and doing such a bad job of it that they just offer to take over the task themselves.

In order to make altercasting work, you must first know the person that you are talking with. What you want to understand is how this person sees themselves. If you can show them that you see them in a role that they want to fill, then the interaction will be a good one. You’ll also want to remind the person about the relationship that you already have. Most people want to make their relationships better, so this will motivate them.

How you attempt to influence the other person matters a great deal. The words that you use can have a big impact. One of the most important words that you have at your disposal is the word “willing”. If you ask someone to do something, there is a chance that they’ll refuse you. However, studies have shown that if you ask the same thing, but this time add the word “willing” as in “Would you be willing to…” things dramatically change and more often than not, people agree to do it.

What All Of This Means For You

The job of an IT manager is to be successful. The way that you are successful is to get your team to do the things that you need to have accomplished. However, they don’t always do what you ask them to do no matter how much IT team building you do. That’s why you need to find ways to convince them to follow your directions. This is where altercasting comes in.

Altercasting means that you characterize the member of your team that you want to do something for you as certain type of person. By doing this it makes them want to become that person and thus do what you want them to do. When we are altercasting we need to be careful that we don’t come across as trying to manipulate the person that we’re talking to. If we have their best interests at heart then it can be seen as an effective form of persuasion. There are two different forms of altercasting that you can use. However, to make altercasting work you need to first make sure that you know the person that you are talking with and then you have to use the word “willing”.

As IT managers we’d like to live in a world where everyone would just do what we ask them to do. However, we don’t and that’s why persuasion is so important. Using altercasting to get the members of our team to want to do what we ask them to do is a powerful tool that we need to learn how to use. Get good at it and you’ll discover all that your team can accomplish…

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

Question For You: Do you think that altercasting only works when you are in 1-on-1 discussions with team members?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As an IT manager, your performance is going to be judged by what your team is able to accomplish. What this means is that it is your responsibility to use you IT manager skills to motivate them to work hard to complete the tasks that you assign to them. This motivation thing turns out to be a bit tricky because we’ve never had IT manager training in how to do it: getting a group of people to all work towards the same goal is not easy to do. In addition to finding ways to motivate our teams, we also have to be very careful to not kill what motivation they already have.