Leadership

Five tips for becoming a successful IT manager

Even if you've always excelled in a technical role, you'll need to develop some different skills to succeed in a management position. Here are a few areas you may want to focus on.

Before I made the decision to become a freelance writer, I served as a CIO for one organization and as an IT manager for several other organizations. During that time, I learned quite a bit about what it takes to be a successful manager. Some of the criteria are obvious, such as completing projects on time and on budget. More often than not, though, being a good manager has more to do with how you interact with your staff than with how smoothly various projects go. In this article, I want to share with you some of the things I learned about being a good IT manager.

1: Listen to your staff

By far the best advice I can possibly give you is to listen to your staff and to take their recommendations seriously. You don't necessarily have to follow every recommendation, but at least hear your employees out. They are the ones who do most of the day-to-day work, so they may have insight into aspects of the organization's operations that you might not pick up on yourself.

Not only can your staff give you valuable guidance, but taking the time to listen to them helps build morale. Listening to your employees shows that you respect them and that you value their input.

2: Be accommodating

Another thing I realized during my tenure as an IT manager is that it's important to be accommodating to your staff whenever possible. In every organization I have ever worked for, IT jobs have involved a lot of stress and some really long hours. Because everyone worked such long hours, I had to accept the fact that sometimes my employees would need to leave for a little while during the workday. For example, someone might need to go to the bank before it closed or pick up their kids. As an IT manager, I always tried to accommodate these types of requests so long as they didn't interfere with IT operations.

3: Maintain your technical knowledge

Often, IT managers (and especially CIOs) spend more time in meetings than they do configuring servers or troubleshooting problems. As a result, it's easy to let your technical skills become outdated. But there are at least three good reasons why you should maintain your technical skills, even if you don't use them on a regular basis.

First, you don't want your staff to think of you as an idiot manager who knows nothing. If you don't have a minimal level of IT knowledge, your staff may not respect you. Second, you never know when you may have to fire an employee or when someone will quit or end up in the hospital or something like that. You need to have enough knowledge to pitch in and help complete whatever projects the employee was working on. Even if you don't have sufficient time or technical knowledge to complete the project yourself, you should know enough about it to help those who are going to be working on it, if necessary. Third, vendors will constantly try to sell you things. Unless you have a good bit of technical knowledge, you could easily get taken for a ride by a fast-talking vendor who is pitching an inferior product.

4: Know when to get outside help

No IT employee knows everything. Everyone has his or her strengths and weakness. Sometimes, a project may come along that falls outside of your employees' skill sets. As an IT manager, you must not be afraid to acknowledge that some projects simply can't be handled in house and to outsource such projects when appropriate.

5: Take measures to relax and avoid burn out

IT can be stressful. Being a manager can be stressful. So it's critical for IT managers to regularly take time to do something to relax and de-stress. Otherwise, you will become apathetic toward your job as you get burned out, and you will become irritable toward your staff.

Additional reading

10 things you should know about being a great IT manager

10 skills that can help you land an IT manager job

New IT manager: How to hit the ground running

Five tips for becoming a better leader


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About

Brien Posey is a seven-time Microsoft MVP. He has written thousands of articles and written or contributed to dozens of books on a variety of IT subjects.

11 comments
Regina55
Regina55

Dealing with vendors, under item #3, can be easily taken care of by implementing item #1. If you let your techies in on the vendor discussions they can easily spot crappy products. I have had to "make it work" on too many crappy products bought by ignorant managers. When I was finally asked to sit in on a second presentation for a product my latest manager was eager to buy, I brought a list of targeted questions to ask the vendor. Before we were halfway through the list my manager cut the presentation short, acknowledging that the product just didn't do what we needed it to do. Score one for our side!

hamdanakram
hamdanakram

Hello Greate list , My self, I did it all and let me add this point: 6. Delegation: as an IT manager I should not be a one man show so I should grant some authorities to the IT staff according to their level, so every member will be a leader in his/her position

teguh.umar
teguh.umar

"4: Know when to get outside help" how about always get outside help?that's what happended @ my organisation

jck
jck

I just wish more bosses would do #1 and #2. I get that silent grief if I take time to go to a doctor's appointment. Even got a negative review for having taken too many days off, and all of them were for medical and dental work, or hospitalization. Nice list tho.

Jellimonsta
Jellimonsta

No Aha moments for me (although I am not a manager). ;) Good common sense list though. Not that I would expect any less from Mr. Posey. :)

umaira09
umaira09

Helpful tips but they basically apply to a lot of managers out there, regardless whether it is IT or not.

akumudzi2
akumudzi2

"As an IT manager, I always tried to accommodate these types of requests so long as they didn?t interfere with IT operations" My experience is that accommodate the requests as long as they don't interfere with CRITICAL IT operations.

Techtoo
Techtoo

... your staff will love it. Asking for and listening to recommendations from others are always good. But just don't overdo it or leave a wrong impression that you need the staff to "teach" you how to run things.

maclovin
maclovin

What a great list....seriously... This goes for "management", in general. Managers/Executives do far too much DICTATION, then cause problems, and then pass the blame...which goes against the core idea of leadership: You're the one in charge, you're the one at fault. Can't take the heat? Don't be management.

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