Leadership

Five things your manager could be doing better

In an effort to meet budget or hit deadline, some IT managers forget about the finer behaviors that make their teams better.

In an effort to meet budget or hit deadline, some IT managers forget about the finer behaviors that make their teams better. 

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I don't know your manager personally. He or she may be perfectly wonderful. And I'm not indicting all managers as being somehow deficient in their jobs. But chances are, all managers could use some strengthening in certain areas. Here are some ways most managers could improve:

1. Dealing with personnel problems sooner rather than later. Nothing demoralizes employees more than working with a co-worker who is a problem that no one will deal with, either because doing so would be "uncomfortable," or the happiness of the team is just not a big priority to the manager. Basically, it ends up with the sub-par employee holding everyone emotionally hostage.

Although it’s never pleasant to deliver criticism, the burden should never outweigh the need. If someone is a personnel problem, he or she has to be responsible for the consequences. I’m not suggesting anything that would involve weaponry or a stockade. I'm not even saying that criticism should be blunt and loud, by any means; it can be finessed. But a manager should never be apologetic for having to criticize the work performance of a team member. If Employee A exhibits behaviors that negatively impact the rest of the staff, then Employee A needs to be made aware that it won’t be tolerated.

If not, what's the message to the rest of the team? I can show up late, push my work off on others, be intimidating, be toxic, and watch YouTube videos all day at work. Who’s going to say anything? 2. Giving more positive feedback. Many managers operate from the assumption that their employees will know they're doing OK as long as they aren't reprimanded for something. This is not a productive way to operate. There are ways for staffers to infer that they're doing a good job, but why should they have to do that? Many people don't look at things from a "no news is good news" standpoint. You'd be surprised at how motivating it is for an employee to find out his or her performance is noticed for good reasons.

Good managers notice good performance -- and they don't just wait until performance review time rolls around to express their appreciation.

3. Leading more, managing less. Management establishes the framework for work, while leadership provides the inspiration for it. Successful IT managers learn to be both a good manager and leader, depending on the needs of the team and the situations they are addressing. How does one lead? First, communicate more. Although "meetings" have become four-letter words in most organizations, they really are essential in communicating the vision of the company and explaining how employees can work to make that vision come true.

Second, IT managers need to work harder toward establishing their group's reputation in the company. This involves creating constructive partnerships with people in business management and other departments. Good IT managers act as their team's PR agent.

4. Be an advocate for the team. Sometimes in an attempt to make the company vision happen and look good in the process, the overzealous manager will take on more and more work that he then promptly passes on to the team. The problem with this is that the team comes to feel that their manager is not an advocate for them, and that he hasn't even bothered to see what's already on their plate before he piles more on. Employees soon start to feel like it's not so much what they're doing for the company, but more about what they're doing for their manager's career. Good managers know their team's bandwidth, and they learn to say no on their team's behalf. 5. Be open to feedback. Strong managers don't just pretend to be open to feedback -- they listen to new ideas and discuss their pros and cons with the person who presents them. Good managers aren't threatened by employees who have better ideas than they do. Good managers are also able to admit they're wrong. They know that doing this is not the same as admitting they're incompetent.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

33 comments
Beothuk
Beothuk

Managers should know the people they manage. IMO one of the best ways is "Managing By Walking Around". A manager I had a few years ago knew every one of us (around 250) by name, knew our partner's names, our kids. Every day he spent an hour or so walking round the office chatting with the staff. The place went downhill when he moved on

Lee T
Lee T

While I find many managers will take the time to tell the team or the department "hey guys, good job!" I find that there is a vaccuum when it comes to recognizing individual qualities, efforts, or results. Team members also tend not to give much recognition to each other individually either, so perhaps the habit is never developed. Good teams in even professional sports dish out tons of recognition and celebration over successes, and repeated failures also get recognition, but are not turned into as big of deal as they seem to be in the white collar world--they just get more coaching and practice until they get better. This kind of activity should be seen more in the office, and I make a habit of letting people know when they do a good job, I try to help when someone stinks, and I ask for help when I know I stink (but sometimes I don't know, so someone needs to tell me!). While I've run projects, I am not in "management" yet, but I'm sure when I get there, I'll be good at regularly letting people know where they stand, simply because I let people know where they stand now!

eohrnberger
eohrnberger

Very good article. Spoke to my style of leadership very much, a very interactive and participatory style. Being a previously technical focused person I always approached leadership from 'how would I like to be lead' and 'how to best give the team what they needed the most' perspective, adapting to the situation rather than having a fixed approach. Through my teams success I would have my success (we are all in this together), so it behooved me to provide what my team needed to succeed. I have to admit that I still have need for improvement, scoring 4 out of 5, from the stand point that I've not had to dismiss non-performers, believing much more in reform and coaching rather than dismissal.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Was the only personel problem you could think of dealing with a problem employee? Leading vs managing is a hard one. Two different skill sets. To be honest, I'd rather have my manager, manage well and lead badly than the other way round. Thankyou, should be here's some more money All else is self serving drivel. Getting your team out and about and being an advocate for them, yes please. Feedback and discussion, yes we'll have some of that too. However all that can be made irrelevant. Against what criteria is your manager judged, far too often it's not based on the performance of the people they manage.

alfredj.deluca
alfredj.deluca

- Be a manager: take care of nuts and bolts. - Be a leader: inspire your reports to realize their potential - Be a teacher: care enough about them to pass on skills... and in being a teacher, realize that it's part of the teacher's job to let them teach you. Everybody gets cake.

dbecker
dbecker

What management has forgotten is that their only purpose is to provide the resources for workers to do their job. Period. There is no other function. If managers keep this in mind always and work consistently within this framework, they will not only do well, but the company / agency for which everyone works will do well. Otherwise... well, we've already seen the complaints, let alone the huge business failures of recent months. [Just how can the State of Washington have a $6 Billion deficit?!!! Bad management!]

jhoughton
jhoughton

While I agree that grammar is important, I believe the examples are petty and Ms. Bowers to be pedantic to say the least. The author, in my opinion and in her own words, needs to get a life. More importantly are the people who have not mastered the basics of the English language, let alone grammar. "They", should address the use of the English language and then grammar, but most of "them" do not even know that they are bastardizing the English language. An example is when I hear a person use the word, "Axe" instead of, "Ask". Regards,

rhkramer
rhkramer

This is more of a general comment / wish for all of these types of articles (n things ...): It would be nice if each article had a TOC which listed the "headings" in the article (e.g., "1. Dealing with personnel problems sooner rather than later.") for easy copy and paste to my personal learning notebook.

rhkramer
rhkramer

This is more of a general comment / wish for all of these types of articles (n things ...): It would be nice if each article had a TOC which listed the "headings" in the article (e.g., "1. Dealing with personnel problems sooner rather than later.") for easy copy and paste to my personal learning notebook.

wsf
wsf

Toni gave us five great points for improving manager behavior. In my experience, managers who want to become leaders tend to work hard at improving their skills and knowledge so they can be effective in leading their groups. I suggest they be required to experience 360 degree feedback with specific plans for improvement within a certain time or else be told to not let the door hit their backsides as the leave.

ernesto_mendoza
ernesto_mendoza

You wrote the article in a "message to the cat" style. Your target are not the staff members, but the managers. Good job. I think that the important word here is "sympathy". Most managers did not started as managers. They were part of a team before. So they shouldn't forget the things that they appreciated from their managers and the things that annoyed them.

keesari
keesari

Value to skilled Employees: Managers should give opportunity to skilled employees to grow. Need to identify skilled employees should recommend to management for bonus.

neil.bodger
neil.bodger

Well Toni, there is one other alternative to your point 1.....and that is not confronting personnel or personal problems at all. The idea that it is easier to ignore the problem or to refuse that it exists is one of the main problems that HR Managers face when this kind of issue ends up as a Grievance case. By that time it is usually too late and the offending manager is often heard to say " I did not think taht it was that serious" or "I just thought XXX was being oversensitive".......Oh Dear....when will managers learn that when an employee comes to them with a personal problem, then it is a problem to them. It may need action or they may need support, whatever they need they have come to their manager for a reason. The managere has the responsibility to try and achieve a solution. I garee with you totally, deal with it now....not later. Dealing with it later signals to the employee that you do not care and that you do not consider them or their problem important......What price team spirit, loyalty and getting that all important 110% effort now??

prosenjit11
prosenjit11

I have seen Managers sitting in their cabins and seeing UTube videos. The videos also with kinky parties and shorts up with women. Advantage to the Manager is that he is in a cubicle. IF he is careless enough then these things are observed. Some are there who are keenly working on some stuff, say they have on widget open showing going through lines of code, on the other hand watching the online stock trading from the start of the day till the end. INTERESTINGLY THESE MANAGERS ARE KNOWN TO BE VERY GOOD AT TECHNICAL WORK AND THE PETS OF THE HIGHER MANAGEMENT. THE WORK THAT IS DELIVERED BY THESE MANAGERS ARE MOSTLY DONE BY THE TEAM MEMBERS, THEY TAKE THE CREDIT, ABOUT PERSONAL PROBLEMS, IT IS INTERESTING THAT THE MANAGER TAKES THE OPINION OF A FELLOW TEAM MEMBER ABOUT THE WHEREABOUTS OF HIS COLLEAGUE AND IF ANY FEEDBACK THAT IS NEGATIVE IS GIVEN TOWARDS HIM. MOST OF IT ON PHONES. ALL THE MANAGERS SHOULD HAVE THEIR PHONE CALLS MONITORED. IF A TEAM MEMBER'S PERFORMANCE IS NOT OK THEN THE MANAGER HAS THE RIGHT TO CRITISE IT, EXPLAIN AS ALSO LISTEN TO THE TEAM MEMBER ON HIS GROUNDS. THIS COULD BE VERIFIED FROM HIS MAILS AND THE COMMUNICATION HE HAS HAD IN THE ENTIRE TENURE OF THE ORGANISATION. IMPORTANT, SOME SAY THAT "HANDS ON" THIS IS A TERM WHICH PEOPLE SAY IN TERMS OF WRITING CODE, DEBUGGING AND PROBLEM SOLVING, BUT ON THE CONTRARY MANAGING A PROJECT IS ALSO HANDS ON AND IT IS A TEAM EFFORT.

SorinD
SorinD

Great points, indeed. The problem, now, is how to "suggest" them to the manager. And not hurt his/her ego, of course.

oschmid14
oschmid14

Great points. I could not agree more.

jmarkovic32
jmarkovic32

Notice that I quoted "IT" in IT Manager. Most IT Managers I've seen don't have a background in IT and have no idea of what it's like working in the "trenches". Most are ex-bean-counters shuffled over to IT because they've proven useless elsewhere or a manager of another department that's "stuck" with IT because they drew the shortest straw. Therefore their attention is divided and they have no clue about what's possible and what's not possible. They often care more about short-term dollars and cents (the bean-counter tendencies bleeding through) than getting it done right. Their main department tends to get all of the attention, spot-light and accolades. Then when IT gets something right, guess who gets the credit? You guessed it!

reisen55
reisen55

At Aon Group, following 9/11/01, our IT department was given an idiot of the first order. He insisted on coming up with a catchy name for our department with shirts that we could all wear in the office with the name (nobody wore them and we are all professionals to start with - motivation not needed). He handled people badly and alienated everybody. Finally he went crazy, disappeared for 2 or 3 months, came in at 4:30 am, took everything out of his office and ran FDISK on his computer thus destroying all of his, and OUR, performance reviews. New manager was terrific, one of our team members promoted and he looked out for all of us. When outsourcing was introduced in 2004, he gave all of us free hours to study for certifications and moved certain staffers off of the phone support desk to on-floor tech work because the phone area was soon to be demolished. He was practical and real, and totally on our side of the fence. To this day, I count him as a friend and good contact. Best manager I ever had.

paul.hudson
paul.hudson

A good manager leads people in the successful conclusion of a project. A manager directs the resources to that project to the benefit of his team. People are not resources to be managed. They are human beings with needs and fears and all the rest that make us such complex beings. In the last 9 years, I've had 7 managers. Needless to say, none were leaders. Management by negativity. Dividing the team by showing favoritism. Isolating themselves away from the workers and not giving out their phone number so you can call them when you need some help. Not supporting the team in the accomplishment of their jobs. Sound familiar? When we, the workers, see you, the manager in that light guess what? Deadlines slip. Problems multiply. Personnel problems increase and job stress escalates, not only for you, but for us also. We quit supporting you when you quit supporting us. Good luck with that.

eohrnberger
eohrnberger

I agree with you and am drawn to your sentiments. Now, how can we promote the same value system with our leadership? It would just make everything so much better.

Bizzo
Bizzo

I thought it was a very good article. It was clear and I understood it. What I don't understand is one of your sentences: "More importantly are the people who have not mastered the basics of the English language, let alone grammar." So much for YOUR grasp of the English language!

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

It's the button that appears at the bottom of the post, between the "Reply" and "Save" buttons.

ppg
ppg

I agree this article is intended for managers but based on the replies most people seem to have missed the point. If a manager sees themselves in this and improve great but it doesn't do a worker much good to know their manager is doing a poor job. A useful follow-up article would be to provide ideas on how to help your manager or team overcome these problems

skrying
skrying

Points 1 and 2 described my manager right on the head. I should probably leave it at that.

ascott
ascott

Most managers dont reward original ideas. Either they steal the idea and claim it as one of their own,or they come up with excuses like "oh no, we don't want the department to be too efficient or the management will want to reduce the number of staff"

mininginformation
mininginformation

Simular scenario ? Our manger replaced an outgoing guy who was moving back home as an expat. This guy came in all guns blazing, quoting I?m the man CISSP, CCNA, I?ve done this and that been there got the shirt etc. Turns out after 11 months this guy is not only an idiot of the first order, he?s a grandmaster bull dust artist. He?s knows little, in fact I?m sure he doesn?t even know what CCNA stands for. He?s blagged his way around, gets paid good money, made some terrible decisions and frankly is laughable. Firstly we all covered for him as we suspected he was integrating himself with our WAN and LAN ? But now it?s a big time joke. My question ...How do these people get away with this? I?ve spent lots of money, time and experience gaining my skills. If I don?t know I?ll say so, I?m not frightened to ask ? I?ve sat in on meetings with him and he plays ?Buzz word bingo? quoting buzz words he?s picked up along the way. Any technical questions he?ll either spin a story or ask me to step in. Hahah!! Maybe he was a Politician in his last life

alfredj.deluca
alfredj.deluca

Good question. I think highly functional/ effective managers quite typically have highly functional/ effective directors and executives. If you're fortunate enough to have such a supervisor, consider ways to demonstrate team-process to them; stipulate why things are working (as well as delineating those that are not). Help upper management transfer what works to other units. Managers represent the junction between the tactical and the strategic. The military handles this junction in a certain way, and there is little opportunity for upward leadership, and that's the way it needs to be. In business environments where innovation and discovery are needed more than expedience and chain of command, we have greater opportunity to speak honestly with executives and directors (to talk back), and managers would do well to take advantage of such opportunities. Be good students and teach them. If they resist... Culture management, especially from the middle, is difficult to begin with and only compounded by ego driven top leadership. I would advise managers who are caught between a rock and a hard place to recognize that only so much can come from the middle and moving on to a differently organized and led company is sometimes the best option to explore. Not a comforting thought in these economic times... an ethics of resolve might be the best we can hope for for in the next few years... Hang in there, folks.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

You know what he meant. :D :p It's everytime isn't it?

david.shane
david.shane

I think that the further up the chain of command one gets, the more insulated one becomes. The IT world changes so quickly that those of us with our hands on IT even have a little trouble keeping up with it all. And the more insulated one is, the less reference one has to gauge the change. So it's our responsibility to communicate what it takes to do our job effectively. And what is effective in one organization might not be effective in another. On the other hand if you know that the higher ups simply don't want to listen, then maybe they don't deserve someone as good as you. But you still need to ask yourself, "How can I get the real message across?" Here's a hint: don't cook your metrics, tell it like it is.

dbecker
dbecker

The short answer is MP=I/S: Management Potential Equals Image Divided by Substance. The long answer is narcissism and protentially the person is a psychopath. Other options include: Alcholic, drug abuser or mentally ill. There's nothing like having all three. We had a manager who smoked in his office against all the rules, drank and came in to work two sheets to the wind, took drugs [but not the ones which would help the fact that], he had schizo-affective disorder. HR [Hypocritical Rats] didn't deal with him. He was given an ultimatum by the Director to stop drinking, but the real break came when he started stalking a woman in accounting whose husband was a Sheriff's Deputy. He had a restraining order from approaching the work place [within 100 yards], and was committed to the state mental hospital for awhile for treatment. He eventually died alone in his apartment without any friends or career at the end of December 2002. Ah, yes, then there was the Dragon Lady, director of an IT unit within the business of a misfortune 50 company who took every chance she could as a chain smoker to blow smoke in my face. That was mild to what she did to the rest of her managers. She was a REAL terror to other women in the unit. Eventually, she was put to pasture, but the damage she did was inestimable. Yes, we are all aware of what sort of people who wind up in management because their image is a triumph over substance. Fortunately, there have been good managers who people could really respect for their effectiveness in management and leadership -- both of them -- back over three decades ago. Advice: Get "Snakes in Suits" by Dr. Robert Hare and Dr. Paul Babiak and follow the advice, such as it is there. Assume all your managers are psychopaths and treat them as such without letting on that you know. Also helpful is "Moral Mazes" by Robert Jackall. Unfortunately, my book, "Assertive Incompetence, an Introduction to Management Malpractice" is out of print, but it explains all of this and more of what you are experiencing.

eohrnberger
eohrnberger

Challenge in these days being finding that new opportunity. Market around here for those types of roles seems to be eluding me and many others.

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