CXO

Talking Shop: Create a Management Abstraction Layer (MAL) to insulate tech staff from upper management

Common sense career advice on how to insulate technical staff from the unintelligible ramblings of upper management


TechRepublic member tech believes that good managers should insulate their staffs from the insanity that is upper management.

"They are there to provide an abstraction layer—call it the MAL (Management Abstraction Layer)—insulating the IT people from the unintelligible instructions at the management layer and translating them into something that will work at the IT tech layer. They aren't there to create new problems for the techs (which is our experience). Face it, tech people's brains are not wired up to deal with management nonsense—this is why they are good techs. And it's why good tech managers are such a scarce breed."

His comments were in response to a recent article by TechRepublic contributor Steven Watson. Watson, who has 10 years of IT management and consulting experience, understands that issues faced by IT managers often differ from those of their nontechnical equals. He's been writing advice to help newly promoted managers create that MAL for their tech staffs.

"It is very common for people who excel in their chosen profession to be rewarded with management opportunities," Watson said. "Unfortunately, these opportunities do not often come with appropriate management training or encouragement from mentors. The transition from technical expert to manager is very challenging and can be discouraging for many people."

Here's a round-up of some of Watson's articles that offer suggestions for making this transition.

Advice from Watson
  • "Bring out the best in employees through empowerment"
    Empowering staff members can be challenging for new IT managers, as it's difficult to know where your responsibility ends and the staff's responsibility begins. This article offers suggestions on how to share responsibility and surrender control to the capable members of your IT staff.
  • "New managers must learn what and how to delegate"
    Handing over projects just doesn't feel natural for many new managers. However, effective managers recognize that's it's an important step toward empowering the staff. See how to determine what should and should not be delegated and what it will take to help staff be successful at the delegated tasks.
  • "Foster employee trust by demonstrating these four traits"
    Establishing trust is one of the biggest challenges you'll face as a new IT manager. Watson highlights four traits that will help you build trust among your staff: credibility, integrity, reliability, and commitment. In the article discussion, one TechRepublic member called them "musts." Even though trust takes time to develop, these leadership qualities can speed the process along.
  • "Dealing with irritating people on your IT team"
    Wherever you go, there they are: negative, irritating staff members. But dealing with them as coworkers is quite different from supervising them. Get some tips for intervening and, ideally, converting a difficult staffer into a flourishing contributor to your IT team.

New manager questions
As a new tech manager, do you have a question you'd like Watson to address? Send it to us via e-mail or post it in the discussion below.

 

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