CXO

Talking Shop: Stretch goals for the IT staff

Identifies some of the challenges IT professionals face in their quest to move up the ladder, and suggests improvements you can implement to keep them motivated


Technology professionals have a bad reputation. Some believe these pros are difficult to manage, hard to understand, and hard to keep motivated. However, that doesn't have to be the case. Technology pros are not that different from other individuals who need to be coached and developed so they can grow. Use these tips to help encourage and mold the careers of tech pros in your stable.

More about coaching
This is the third article in a series about helping grow your tech staff through coaching. For more helpful advice, read "Coach your tech staff by providing meaningful feedback" and "Turn your young support pros into motivated problem solvers."

Providing the right amount of "stretch"
Every person likes to be challenged. We all want to grow and develop into more productive, more valuable professionals. However, many technology pros have become disillusioned. They perceive that their growth is retarded by goals that are too lofty, that new goals come too quickly, or that their goals simply change too often. Eventually, after they've missed too many opportunities for growth, they shut down and no longer seek challenges.

People need to be given challenges that stretch them a moderate amount, but not to the breaking point. Providing stretch goals—ones that challenge technology pros to grow little by little in their abilities—is an important part of keeping them engaged. For networking staff, it might be asking them to do something they've never done before, such as configuring a RAID controller. The goal is to find moderate challenges.

Learning about motivators
Despite the many similarities that technology pros share, each has unique goals and desires, and each has his or her own set of motivators. Some pros are motivated by money and power, others by pride, and others by having weekends off. Learning what motivates the technology pros you work with is essential in coaching them. Don't make the mistake of assuming that your pros have the same motivators that you do.

Encouraging confidence and avoiding arrogance
Common problems that coaches encounter when dealing with technology professionals are arrogance or lack of self-confidence—really just two points on the same continuum. We encourage our younger professionals to help them develop enough self-confidence to try new things. Similarly, we have seasoned professionals we must constantly work with in order to keep them from being overly confident.

Learning to trust your own feelings, instincts, and talents is an important part of being an individual. However, when you listen to your own feelings and instincts to the exclusion of those around you, you've crossed a line. It is crossing this line that makes others view you as arrogant.

In coaching technology pros, your goal is to help them become more self-confident. The line between self-confidence and arrogance is razor thin and is drawn from the perspective of those around us. It is a perception that is always changing: One day, others view the professionals you're coaching as self-confident, productive members of the team; the next day, they perceive them as arrogant and overconfident. When coaching your network and support staff, help them become self-confident, but not arrogant.

Compassion and condescension
Another challenge you may face is that tech pros are not often perceived as being compassionate. In dealing with people who may not have the same level of technical knowledge that they do, some pros might be regarded as condescending.

Ultimately, your novice staffers are responsible for being able to work with others to help them leverage the technology systems that are in place for their benefit. They must, above all, want to see their customers succeed. This supportive attitude—or the lack thereof—comes through no matter what.

It's imperative that others perceive your support professionals as caring, supportive, compassionate people who truly want to make their lives easier. Without this, the customers, both internal and external, will eventually stop calling.

Dealing with burnout
Coaching tech pros will eventually lead you to some discussion of burnout, the plague that haunts the technology industry because of the never-ending flow of problems, initiatives, and maintenance it demands. To be able to assist others in combating burnout, you need to figure out how to identify and move past it. Once you understand the causes for burnout and how to resolve it, you can coach your technology pros in ways that prevent burnout and help them recover from it.

More about burnout
For some guidelines for identifying burnout and defeating it, read "Tips for identifying burnout in yourself and your staff" and "Break out of 'burnout mode' at work."

 

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