Moving from a purely technical net admin role to a managerial position can be a long and winding road full of pitfalls. Steven Crane has become quite familiar with that road during his long career in the IT industry.
For eight years, he was an IT manager for major blue chip "fast moving consumer goods" (FMCG) companies such as Gillette and Parker Pen. In that time, Crane faced and overcame many management challenges.
To help newly appointed IT managers avoid some of the mistakes he's made, he offers these 15 tips gleaned from his experience.
This information is based on the article "Fifteen tips for the new manager from an experienced IT pro," by Beth Blakely. It's also available as a PDF download.
Tips for developing your management skills
#1: Read the One Minute Manager series of books by Ken Blanchard
A one-minute manager is someone who gets good results without taking much time, according to Blanchard. Apply his three easy steps to management and situational leadership.
#2: Learn the internal politics of your organization
Network with peer and upper managers. Ask their advice. Managers usually like to help other managers.
#3: Find and understand your own weaknesses as soon as possible
Remember, you're allowed to take training, too, so make sure you do.
#4: Learn to manage an IT budget
Manage it down to the last penny and clearly show the business where money can be saved.
Tips to improve your communication with executive staff
#5: Don't take day-to-day problems to your boss
Instead, take recurring issues and optional solutions to the problem. Then, ask which approach your boss would recommend.
#6: Try to keep project work and support work separate
It's a lot easier to justify bringing in extra staff members for a new project, as long as their salaries are included in the cost of implementing the project. Don't allow your staff to be pulled in both directions.
#7: Record and report everything
Require your team to fill out timesheets so you can show where resource time is spent and back it up with data. This will aid in any arguments for extra resources and will keep you current on what the team is doing. It will also make writing your monthly reports to executive staff members easier.
#8: Know your role in the event of a disaster
If you're faced with a disaster, remember that your team's job is to get the systems back in place. Ensure you have good disaster and recovery plans for mission-critical systems and leave the business recovery to others.
Tips for motivating your team, negotiating politics
#9: Don't get buried in support obligations
If you have no formal help desk protocol and find that you're getting swamped with help calls, create a centralized help desk. Outsource this function if necessary. If you go this route, you should create service level agreements (SLAs) that outline your complete services.
#10: Set boundaries for your team
Invest your time in enabling your staff to succeed and fend off any counterproductive requests from other departments as much as possible.
#11: Learn Monkey Management
When employees come looking for help, be sure to send them away with the next action. Don't take on your employees' workload, because you'll have enough to do.
#12: Perform staff appraisals at least once or twice a year
Provide staff members with clear objectives and then help them reach their goals.
#13: Hold regular team meetings
This is difficult because of constant deadlines and because everyone always seems too busy. If absolutely necessary, have lunch meetings, but be sure to provide the sandwiches.
#14: Don't forget recreation and rewards
Treat your team to a meal out at least once per quarter. If you control the budget, you can manage the cost.
#15: Recognize that the sum capability of your staff is your team's maximum output
Just because you have high standards, don't expect your team members to hold the same values. Praise and encourage them in their areas of strength and provide good training for their areas of weakness.