When I was young, I played soccer, although I didn't play that well. I never really understood why some players would stay away from the ball instead of chasing after it. I could see the goalie stayed in his place, but I thought everyone else should chase the ball. I found, with experience, that the players who stayed in place were often more effective at what they were doing than those who spent their time running after the ball.
We have the same situation in IT. We need people to stay in roles and positions that leverage their strengths and allow them to be good at what they do. While occasionally the goalies have to get out of the box, their primary focus is guarding the goal. The same is true of your IT staff. They need to stay focused on what they do best and allow others to do what they do best.
Finding everyone's true position
People's positions do not necessarily reflect current roles in the organization. In placing employees in a role, it is important to assign them to tasks that fit their capabilities. Whether you are a CIO, director, manager, supervisor, or worker, you have a set of strengths and weaknesses that are uniquely yours.
I, for instance, hate long assignments. If I do the same thing day in and day out for a year, I become restless. Conversely, there are people who like the routine of knowing what they are going to do each day.
The result is that my position allows me to focus on important, rather than repetitive, tasks. I prefer the high-stakes, high-reward projects where I feel like I can make an impact and move on.
There are seemingly endless dimensions to a person’s position. Consider whether the person is introverted or extroverted. Does the person enjoy a large or small group environment? Consider what motivates a person. Is the motivation group recognition, overcoming challenges, or creative projects?
Creating the position
Now it's time to create a position in which your employee can succeed. Unlike a game of soccer, you have control of the positions that you create on your team and what people need to be able to be effective. In doing so, you have the ability to formally or informally create a small niche for each person that maximizes his or her ability to succeed.
By creating opportunities around their strengths, you give them the ability to do things at which they excel. By doing so, you maximize their enjoyment of their jobs, and thus, their productivity, and you minimize their frustration.
For example, if you have an energetic, extroverted network administrator who likes to talk in front of groups, you might ask him or her to deliver an IT status report to your management committee. You might also position a senior technician to write policies and procedures if he or she likes to create documentation or is a process-oriented person.
Perhaps these are not the roles that these individuals would normally play, but they still might be the right positions. By leveraging each person’s strengths and supporting his or her weaknesses, you can create a happier and substantially more productive environment.
Reevaluating the position
The interesting thing about putting people in the right position is that, over time, their interests, passions, and even skills will change. What was once fun for the individual may become a chore. This is particularly true for challenge-oriented people who like constant change.
Because of this, it's necessary to constantly reevaluate what is exciting and effective for each person and shift the position accordingly to capitalize on new strengths, passions, and skills. This not only maintains a positive environment, but also creates the opportunity to learn new things about each player on the team and how he or she may be more effective.
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