Emerging Tech

A number of staff hits makes this manager regroup

After a number of personnel setbacks on his team, one manager has to step back and reevaluate what he has to do to keep things running smoothly.

No matter how successful a person is or how much has been accomplished, getting from point A to point Z is not always easy and there are a lot of things that can get in the way. Over the past few months, I've worked longer and harder than at any point in my fifteen-year IT career, and, at one point, felt like my team and I were moving backwards.

We took major staffing hits, from forced turnover due to budget constraints to losing key individuals for higher paying jobs. To make matters worse, our funding method for many initiatives changed due to financial need in other areas. This kind of activity took place across the organization, so it wasn't just that IT was being "picked on" but the whole organization simply had to make sacrifices. And, to top it all off, my second-in-command left - again, for more money.

With so much going poorly, I started to feel pretty demoralized. My team and I have worked really hard to build an organization on which people can rely, and, slowly, it appeared that things were eroding. Sure, we still have the full support and confidence of the rest of the executive team, but our workload was absolutely incredible. We were training new staff at the same time that we were trying to support, literally, hundreds of new users that would spend a few months at our facilities. Keep in mind that my entire staff numbers eight people, and four turned over since March.

For a couple of years now, we've enjoyed success after success in almost everything we did, but all of a sudden, it looked like it was coming to a complete halt. I was careful to keep an upbeat attitude with my staff, but inside, I was watching everything we did with a critical eye.

So, what did I do?

First, I started to consider the "why" behind what I was feeling. Between two rounds of major budget cuts, having to let some people go, and others leaving of their own will, I started to take things too personally. I had to step back and realize that this stuff wasn't personal. It's life.

Second, I took some time off. Because of the staffing changes, I was simply working too much and it wasn't doing anyone any good. I read a posting here in IT Leadership on that topic and, sheepishly, realized that I was falling into the trap of thinking I needed to be around all the time.

Third, I started to delegate more. Most of my staff is very, very new, having only worked with me for a couple of years at most. My network person has less than a year on the job, for example. Yes, I need to get people started off on the right foot, but I took too long to let go. So, I did. Now, for the record, my staff actually likes me, so they accepted my ways very well. In the staff meeting where I started to truly delegate more, one of my staff said, "Whoa... we're going to have a lot to do!" to which my network person, a retired IBMer, replied, "Yep! Looks like the boss is learning to delegate more!" These comments were not made in a negative or condescending way, but were very positive and upbeat from a staff that works their butts off.

Finally, we're adjusting expectations at the most senior levels. We've endured multiple rounds of budget cutting, which included staff. Like it or not, expectations simply cannot hold at the pre-cut levels. With so much staff turnover, there will be short-term disruption and with significant budget cuts, services and hardware provided will change. Services will take longer and hardware will not be replaced as often. That's not negativity talking... it's reality.

I think it's human nature to "catch up" to major changes that are not for the positive, regardless of position. Even with the realization that none of this is personal, it's still difficult to handle. My staff is working, quite simply, too much, and we still have challenges in front of us that we need to confront, but as long as we can manage expectations from the top down in order to begin to reign things in, we'll get back on track and get through these tough times and back into positive territory across the organization.

So, I've realized that it's not really crumbling but our forward progress is simply taking a momentary respite while the organization regroups.

About

Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive w...

8 comments
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articles

" Third, I started to delegate more. Most of my staff is very, very new, having only worked with me for a couple of years at most." I faced similar situation where my hard trained staff became against me when i started delegating more work to them and transferring responsibilities to them. Only here I came to know that i had a team of people with lazy attitude. Good in your case where you were accepted but in my case my staff went against me and resigned. Things never go well when you want them to be WELL.

john.decoville
john.decoville

We had a problem in my organization that we just couldn't say "NO" ! Well now that we can, we are doing better. I am book-marking this for my CIO Thanks!

iForge
iForge

Thanks for the blog! The most paramount note in your blog is the ability to pull yourself out of the moment, evaluate, regroup and empower. Whether self realized or driven by feedback these are the true foundations of leadership as they allow you and your team to grow. You realized, stopped, looked, listened, heard and acted. Your team saw it through you, your customers will see it through your team, your executive management will see it through realistic results. Way to bridge the gap!

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

having only worked with me for a couple of years at most. 2 years and still treated as the new guy! That says it all to me.

IT-->PM
IT-->PM

Congratulations on moving mentally and emotionally to your current state and thank you for posting about your experiences. It is always helpful to hear how others faced adversity and found a way to overcome it. I believe many people in IT are "pleasers" - people who are motivated by their ability to accomplish tasks for which they are recognized in a positive way. When the workload increases, their natural instinct is to just work harder (and smarter) to continue to please. It is only when all the work needed becomes impossible to accomplish that they come to the realization that they can't do it all. My experience as both a professional and a manager is that setting high goals is a positive management trait. It becomes refined when coupled with the ability to listen to feedback from those doing the work to set high and realistic goals. The ability to determine realistic work loads and communicate that to upper levels is a trait needed by both professionals and managers.

g.conway
g.conway

Yes, not an easy thing to do but keeping a realistic attitude is so vital in this industry.

Block
Block

I can definatley relate. Sometimes we get so used to doing great things and these types of challenges can alter our path to the next great thing.

ThePoster
ThePoster

Here, Here! Congratulations. It sounds like you are *truly* becoming a manager. I am happy for you, and for your staff. I think most people relish the chance to spread their wings and grow. That can only happen when management nutures that sort of growth. I'll bet that your staff will surprise even you with their ingenuity, drive and capacity to do more than anyone thought possible. Another big attaboy for having the common sense and cojones to set expectations of senior management, too. It is important that accomplishments under these circumstances are acknowledged so that the folks at the big table don't somehow think that all your group needed was "a little push" because you were overstaffed to begin with. As long as you have the respect and good will of your staff, they will take you (as well as themselves) to great heights. It sounds like you already understand this point, so no further comments there. Other than - Way to go! FWIW, you sound like the type of person anyone would like to work with. Good for you.

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