Four things you should know about your technical staff

As a manager of technical projects teams, I have come to make some generalizations about IT people to help you gain a better understanding of the people in your group.

IT pros...

...tend to be introverts

An introvert is someone who is more comfortable with an inward focus in life while an extrovert is generally more comfortable with an outward focus. For example, when introverts receive a lot of new information, they tend to want to think for a while before speaking or drawing conclusions. Extroverts, on the other hand, are more comfortable expressing ideas to others. If they jump to the wrong conclusions, they just change their minds. Basically extroverts are comfortable thinking out loud. Introverts would rather think through the "rough drafts" in their minds and then talk when they think they have a coherent and logical position.

...tend to think more logically than emotionally

This tendency should be obvious. Technical staffers typically are not motivated by a lot of "rah-rah" speeches. In fact, they tend to be cynical of this type of motivation. They will usually listen politely (perhaps even snickering to themselves), but the effects are short-term. On the other hand, they can be persuaded and motivated by a logical argument. If the logical argument can be combined with some motivational techniques, you might have a chance to actually get them excited.

...tend to be problem solvers

This is a strength as well as a weakness. Most technical people love being confronted with a problem. They get excited and immediately start to apply their problem-solving skills. The weakness comes in because they have a tendency to jump on a problem without fully understanding it first. Habits like that can waste resources. In many cases, the technical person will attack a problem immediately, and then have to regroup when they realize they didn't really have a full understanding of the problem to begin with.

...tend to be technically creative

This may seem like a contradiction. Your first thought might be that the sales and marketing staffs are the creative people. In fact they are - in the sales and marketing areas. They will also be the first to tell you so - because they are extroverts. However, the technical discipline requires a fair degree of creativity as well. This is especially true in the IT world. In many cases, there's not one best solution to a business problem. In the development (programming) field, for instance, analysts need to be creative when they're defining a solution with the business clients. Designers need to be creative applying technology in the best manner.

Understanding these general characteristics is the place to start if you manage a technical staff. Once you begin to understand how people work and how they're motivated, you'll find the best way to manage them. In my next blog, I'll look at some techniques for managing IT people effectively.