It’s a new year—often the time when we see lots of articles on resolutions. This post is not going to be a list of resolutions that all tech managers should make. Rather, I want to take a few minutes of your time to get you to stop and think about the last thing that is usually on your mind—yourself.
As a technology manager, it is easy to get caught up in the swirl of issues that define your job: the budget, weighing the pros and cons of new technology choices, your employees, your department, your parent organization, your boss, your customers, upcoming projects, etc.
These topics can consume you and leave little time to think about your own well-being and your family's. However, you need to— because no one else is. Now that’s a little harsh, but the reality of the situation is that most of the time (in the workplace) the only one looking out for you is…you.
Given that premise, I ask the question, “What have you done for you lately?” What have you done for yourself both personally and professionally to make your life “better”. If you are like many tech managers, the answer is first silence and then, after some thought, the answer is nothing or very little.
Because of our positions, we often place ourselves at the back of the line when it comes to personal and professional development, vacation, compensation, etc., in deference to our employees. By doing this, we are doing our families, our employees, our organizations, and ourselves a disservice. Burning yourself out, or letting yourself stagnate helps no one. So in an effort to get you to think about yourself, here is my list of New Year's Questions for Reflection:
1. Are you happy in your current job situation? If your answer is no, then you really need to ask yourself why. If the reasons for your unhappiness cannot be realistically fixed, then perhaps you should quietly begin a job search. Not liking your job can make you a very ugly person—at home and at work. Been there, done that, and have the T-shirt. If you're unhappy about things that you have some hope of fixing, take the time to come up with an action plan to address each of them.
2. Have you vacationed lately? American’s tend to have huge leave balances in relation to our international cousins. Taking some real time away from the workplace (leave the Blackberry in your bag) and relaxing will help you recharge and focus—and perhaps time to ponder question #1.
3. Are you healthy? When was the last time you had a physical? Not feeling well means not performing at your peak in whatever you are doing—whether work or play.
4. Are you professionally stagnant? What are your skills and what have you done to increase them in the last three years? What new skills have you developed? What would you like to do that you do not have the knowledge to do now? Have you read anything longer than a few pages? When was the last time you read a book from cover to cover?
5. What were your achievements this year? If you kept a job journal, this is an easy question because you have been jotting them down as you achieved them. If not, give this some serious thought. Then update your resume—just because.
6. Do you have an employee that makes your life miserable? Figure out why and then DEAL with the situation. Managers are notorious for letting employee problems fester because dealing with them is so difficult. However, if you find yourself doing their job in addition to yours, or making others in the unit do more to make up for a problem employee, then you need to make a change. Go see HR if you don’t know where to start.
7. Are you tired of trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear? If you are continually trying to do more with less and less and less and less—you need to start documenting what the trade offs are. What needs are going unfulfilled? What services and customers are suffering because of it? Take the time to sum up the year in writing—it’s a good exercise. Then share it.
8. Speaking of sharing, have you tooted your own horn? Remind others that 24/7 uninterrupted operations, programs that work, smart purchases, etc., don’t happen on their own. Communicate about yourself and your unit or you will be forgotten and taken for granted.
9. Do you know what makes you successful or unsuccessful in your job? Are you sure you know the rules everyone else is playing by? Or have you been hunkered down in a bunker and playing the me-against-the-world game?
10. Lastly, are you thanking your employees (particularly your stars) for doing such a great job? Doing so makes them feel appreciated and also helps to make sure that you don’t have to fill a vacancy in 2007. Always remember that we get our work done through others and try to reward them the best way you can. Having good people around us makes our tech manager lives easier.
Now, take a lunch today and don’t try to swallow your food whole in order to get back to work. Remember, in the work world no one is irreplaceable; it is only to our family and friends that our loss can be a hole that is never filled. Keep your priorities straight ;-) and have a great New Year!