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