7 techniques for managing your technical staff

In my last blog, I talked about some of the general characteristics of an IT project team. For example:

  • They tend to be introverts
  • They tend to think more logically than emotionally
  • They tend to be problem solvers
  • They tend to be technically creative

Knowing some of the characteristics of your technical staff allows you to better understand how to manage them effectively. Applying some or all of the following techniques will help you create a more conducive work environment where people can excel.

Give them the tools that need to do their jobs.

Establish an environment where people feel they have what they need in order to do their jobs. This includes having appropriate hardware and software. It doesn't necessarily need to be state of the art, but it should be of acceptable quality. Because they're in the IT field, IT people get frustrated when they don't have the right hardware and software to do their jobs effectively.

Make sure they have the right skills and provide opportunities to learn.

IT people love to learn new things. Managers should make sure their people have the skills needed to do their jobs and that they receive opportunities to grow into new technical areas. This doesn't have to be third-party training classes. It can include computer-based training, seminars, webinars, books, magazines, etc. Also, once someone has mastered a certain skill and they start to become bored, look for ways they can cross-train and learn new areas of the group.

Create a viable work environment.

Technical people like to understand the work processes in the group, and then they like to be creative in working within that structure. So, set the high-level rules, but don't micromanage the details.

Give people as much information as they need to do their jobs.

Managers should strive to be proactive communicators. Remember, many IT people are introverts who like to process information internally. They may or may not come up to you and ask you what's going on all of the time. Managers should make sure that they communicate as much as they can about what's going on in the company, their organization, and their group.

Shield the team from office politics

Don't let your team get bogged down in the organization muck. This means removing organizational roadblocks and shielding the team from organizational politics. IT people will tend to get cynical fast if they feel like a political environment is affecting their work or in decisions that affect them.

Make sure each person remembers he's part of a team.

Even though IT people tend to be introverts, it doesn't mean they prefer to work alone. IT staff may prefer to work independently, but they also like being a part of the team. Managers should nurture this need. For instance, they should have regular team meetings. Managers should also make sure they have opportunities to do fun stuff as a group - even if it's just going to lunch together once in a while.

Be there when needed and respond to problems and concerns.

Not all problems can be fixed, but many times the simple act of listening and trying is enough. People will give you credit for trying, even if the ultimate resolution to a problem isn't available.

You might note that many of these management techniques are not unique to technical staff in general or IT staff in particular, but they're particularly applicable to the IT staff.