CXO

4 self-development tips for tech leaders

Managing people and projects often takes precedence over developing leadership skills. Here are four ways to work on managing your own self-development.

Setting goals, managing your time, being motivated and being able to focus are all self-management skills that great IT managers cultivate.

Despite this, skills classes for managers tend to focus around time management and organization. Here are some other self-management skills, and ways you, as a manager, can work on developing them:

1. Keep your focus on projects

Maintaining a focus on projects, the mainstay of IT, seems obvious for IT managers but it isn't easy.

How many times do you get pulled away from projects to sit in on all-day administrative steering committees, or to participate in other non-IT functions?

This is a difficult quandary to manage through, because it is critical for you to represent your organizations in company meetings, but you also have to keep your fingers on the pulse of projects.

The solution:

When you anticipate having full days of outside meetings, come in early and take an extra hour to touch base with your project leads.You don't want make a practice of having too many overcommitted days like this, but taking that extra hour in the morning has saved many IT managers the headache of having to straighten out major issues that arose in their absence, and that they could have prevented if they'd stayed in touch.

SEE: Time management tips for tech professionals (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

2. Be a team player

It's easy to become so preoccupied with budgeting and staffing that you maroon yourself in your office and don't show yourself to be an interactive team player to your staff.

IT managers can ill afford to do this when projects depend upon strong collaboration and teamwork—and then they themselves fail to demonstrate those qualities.

The solution:

Get out from behind your desk for at least one hour per working day to mingle with staff and assess project work. If there is a project problem that requires collaboration and you can help, play a key collaborative role in the meeting. Also take the time to circulate among offices and cubicles to interact with staff and get to know them. The more you establish open communications and personal comfort levels with your staff, the more they will feel at ease and work together as a team.

SEE: Knowledge transfer: An underutilized approach to developing IT skills (Tech Pro Research)

3. Strive for a balanced life

Great managers are in demand for many other types of company functions. This is why it's important to make the supreme effort to keep your personal and professional lives in balance as much as possible.

It can be tough to do.

"I was literally going down the tubes," Phyllis Stewart Pires, who was heading up the global gender, diversity, and work-life office of a major tech company, told New York Magazine, in an article on work-life balance. "I was missing family events. My friends were calling me out on being AWOL. My husband was calling me out on not doing my share. It was almost like I was obsessed with this idea that people were counting on me to really make a difference in their workplace. I couldn't let them down."

SEE: How to create work-life balance in tech: 7 tips from the C-suite (TechRepublic)

The solution:

Set aside time for your family and friends in the same way that work will make its own demands on your time—and evaluate whether your work and personal life are staying in balance on a regular monthly basis.

Regular evaluation is important because it can be easy to lose this balance if you don't continuously work at keeping it.

Some years ago, I was in a management job that required me to spend 80% of my work time travelingl. I found that work was overshadowing my family time. I made a conscious decision to change jobs so that a better work-life balance could be achieved.

4. Don't lose sight of your own self-development needs

As a manager, you likely spend a lot of time assessing skills shortfalls in projects and in staff—but you should also keep an eye on your own skill development. .

One key project administrative skill that is developmental for many managers is capturing the time and cost of projects. In other cases, it can be beneficial to gain a better understanding of the end business so you can better align IT projects and results with business needs. If you come from a more technical disciplines, you may want to work on improving your communication skills. Whatever development areas you need to shore up, identify them and then make a plan to acquire the skills that you need.

At the end of the day, managers are hired to manage people and projects —but those who excel as managers will tell you that to do either of these well, you first have to successfully manage yourself—and to take your own steps to get there.

Also see:

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Image: iStock/stanciuc

About Mary Shacklett

Mary E. Shacklett is president of Transworld Data, a technology research and market development firm. Prior to founding the company, Mary was Senior Vice President of Marketing and Technology at TCCU, Inc., a financial services firm; Vice President o...

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