Honesty, communication skills, decisiveness, confidence, responsibility, empathy, focus, creativity, optimism and commitment are all traits that companies look for when they hire or promote employees into management positions.
The message is clear for employees who aspire to management positions: it's never too early to start cultivating these traits if you aspire to a management career. And the best way to mold them is by creating your own self-management techniques that enable you to be a highly effective employee.
Here are five self-management tips that will not only improve your effectiveness as an employee, but that will also prepare you to take on the mantle of management down the road:
1. Be honest and direct, yet tactful
Companies value integrity in their employees. This begins with telling your manager if you feel a planned assignment is unrealistic in terms of its timeframe, or if a specification for an app or a system seems to be missing a critical design element. Managers can't always see everything from their vantage point because they aren't the ones who are actually doing the work. If there is a hidden surprise in an assignment that everyone has missed, let them know.
However, let them know in a respectful and diplomatic way. In other words, don't tell your manager that a specification is unacceptable or that an app you have been assigned will never get done on time. Find a more diplomatic way to express those sentiments. Try saying things like, "I was looking at the order discount rules, and they don't show any promotional discount for first-time customers. Should there be a rule for this?" Or, "This app will also have to be tested for integration with the purchasing system. I don't see a task for that. Will we be testing for purchasing?" Your supervisor will appreciate your diplomacy as well as your forthrightness.
SEE: Hiring kit: IT vendor manager (Tech Pro Research)
2. Find your own way if project direction is lacking
As much as project managers don't like to admit it, lack of direction can be a problem in projects. There are reasons for this, such as constant changes in management or project objectives, or poor project communication. When this happens, project team members get confused. The best thing to do if you find yourself in a situation where you are a confused team member is to seek clarification on your task from your team leader. What you don't want to do is to just sit there or complain. Your supervisor will appreciate your zeal and tenacity. Also, if there is any way that you can work to resolve a project snag, volunteer to take it on as a challenge.
3. Be creative and practical
Many times, what appears to be an insurmountable obstacle on a project can be easily resolved. If internet connections are poor at outlying field offices, storing data onsite, although it is old-fashioned and "low tech," might be a solution. If users are having difficulty running a new app that is excellent but hard to use—a few tweaks to the user interface could resolve the problem. Coming up with an inventive, yet practical solution to an issue will be appreciated by your project manager. It will also get you noticed as a "doer" and a positive thinker who can knock down project obstacles.
SEE: How to succeed as a new IT manager (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
Early in your career, it is advantageous to get to know as many individuals in IT and end user areas as you can—and to develop open and trusting relationships with them. So often a promotion into management can come because you are a known quantity whose quality of work and ability to communicate are already known.
Companies do a poor job educating project team members for the new technologies they are asked to deploy—and professional education companies and vendors don't do particularly well, either. The best way to take project tech challenges in hand is to educate yourself. This self-education might be a combination of picking the brains of more senior team members, looking for company-sponsored courses and programs, or looking for outside sources like professional groups and classes.
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Mary E. Shacklett is president of Transworld Data, a technology research and market development firm. Prior to founding the company, Mary was Senior Vice President of Marketing and Technology at TCCU, Inc., a financial services firm; Vice President of Product Research and Software Development for Summit Information Systems, a computer software company; and Vice President of Strategic Planning and Technology at FSI International, a multinational manufacturing company in the semiconductor industry. Mary is a keynote speaker and has more than 1,000 articles, research studies, and technology publications in print.