Leadership

10+ tips for new IT managers


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.

15 comments
rbogar
rbogar

Re:Require your team to fill out timesheets. After 30 years in the business doing tech work and various levels of management, I can you that this will be taken by your staff as either 1) (some of them) you don't trust them to work, or 2) (all of them) you don't have any idea of what is the complexity or time requirements of the various tasks that you assigned them. This is certainly a great way to destroy any respect they have for you, and break down morale.

s.gee
s.gee

Being able to be a good and effective leader comes from being a good and effective communicator, not watching and waiting for opportunities to jump in and make someones failings work for you - it's better leadership and more important to help them to improve their skills/abilities to do a better job next time.

jdriggers
jdriggers

If you have remote employees. You will likely find they work without supervision, but if they need to communicate with you, the lines MUST be open.

mmurray
mmurray

Great advice for the new guys.

tomtrevathan
tomtrevathan

This is an excellent, practical collection of tips. Many of these are applicable to any area of management.

Web-Guy
Web-Guy

I found this article to very useful. The comments were short and to the point, but very practical. I have saved it in the off chance I were ever to make management myself. I think if most managers lived and breathed this list, they would have successful teams.

mgordon
mgordon

Dude, if you are not requiring accounting then you own your own company and write the paychecks for your staff. Timesheets is simply a method of accounting, not a very good one but better than nothing. You are very correct when you say "you don't have any idea of what is the complexity or time requirements of the various tasks that you assigned them": Let's say you have just decided to virtualize. You have a brand new VMware ESX license and a box to put it on. Maybe a new SAN from NetAPP. Are you going to tell me that you, the boss, have any idea of the complexity or time requirements to set all this up? No, of course not, you are the *boss* and you have hired experts to understand this stuff better than you. Once you have done one of these installations, and documented in however you prefer to document, NOW you have an idea of the time requirements and complexity. But if you did not document, and it seems that you do not, your corporate memory is going to be short lived and you have nothing to fall back on if your expert moves on to new employment. That's all if you are writing the paycheck and own your own company. If not, then whoever IS writing those checks has a right to know what you are doing, and it can either be the B.S. that sometimes goes up the chain of command, or it can be documented and believable (usually a bit of both I suspect).

M.W.H.
M.W.H.

I was horrified when I read this one. Otherwise a fantastic list. In the video version of this article, Jason does mention that time sheets might be met with some resistance. I would say that's an understatement. As a manager, you want to do everything in your power to facilitate the productivity of the professionals under your control. If the only reason you are forcing them to keep time sheets is to justify YOUR budgets to YOUR bosses and to shoot them down with reams of data when they come to request resources, your stay will be short!

dpeplinski
dpeplinski

It's vitally important to manage and cap your support activities, and insulate and keep support separate from project work. Otherwise, you end up with a department that is running simply to keep up with existing apps and hardware - running to stand still. You won't get rewarded or recognized for support work. Further, as the article says, it's very difficult to mix support and project work in the same position - I've struggled with it both as a manager and as a staff member. Invariably, support expands to consume most of the staff member's time.

khinesh.vallabh
khinesh.vallabh

Being apointed Manager in Jan 08, this article is a blessing... Been Dumped head first in the Dept, and still trying to find the light

esalkin
esalkin

I do see a value to time sheets if handled correctly. We have just finished the process of reviewing job descriptions. One of the things that we did is to have everyone document what they do and what percentage of their time they spend doing it. (We made sure they knew that we had no intentions of cutting staff.) It turned out that many people were doing mundane tasks at the expense of things they were hired to do. We hired a part-time "clerk" to handle the simple stuff and shifted tasks down level to those who should be doing them. So far, we have gotten far more production and less griping. Well worth $9/hr.

moose812
moose812

Prevent your staff from becoming fire fighters. If the job is done right the first time you will not have re-calls etc. Do not cut corners to "save" time because this will usually cost more time. Having a work log will help schedule staff as well as remind all what needs to be followed up with. A few rules I live by: 1)Prevent you and your staff from becoming the know all, It's ok to say I don't know but I'll find out and get back to you. 2)Never asume when troubleshooting. 3) Listen to everthing the user has to say about a problem. If they lose faith in you and your staff, the problems multipy. 4) Take notes, keep a log and update it always. 5) The most impotant, Follow up. You need to fix the people as well as the problem.