Tech managers are typically good at managing their tech or their people, but not at both.
Some IT managers sometimes rise up through the ranks of the department, making them great at taking care of technical issues when they arise, but not at taking care of issues with their human capital. Other IT managers are brought in from departments throughout the organisation, sometimes to shake things up; these managers are great at working with people, but may struggle with administering the tech.
When leadership struggles to manage any of its capital, human or otherwise, this can make the human capital apprehensive about the working environment, one of the reasons why many of them fail.
However, there are ways to improve your skills if you are an IT manager struggling to succeed as a manager of tech and of people. The better your leadership skills, the easier it will be to retain employees.
Sometimes, organisations like to shake things up and give leadership of one department to a manager from another. If you are one of these leaders, you have likely been brought in for a fresh perspective on your IT department.
You’re great with people and business practices, and that’s why you’re there. However, you may find the technology you’re now managing difficult to approach, as others outside the department do.
If this is so, look to the people you are now managing. A good leader surrounds herself with better people; your team already knows how to take care of its technology. Learning from your team will help you become more comfortable with the technology and help all of you make it more accessible to the organisation as a whole.
On the opposite side of this coin, managers who have risen through the IT ranks often have such a wealth of technical knowledge that they are perceived as intimidating. If your employees seem to be wary of approaching you, start by sharing more about yourself with them.
You don’t have to give them a detailed biography, but letting your employees know you too are a human being and not an encyclopedia of technical knowledge is a great way to break down barriers. At the same time, this will make your employees more approachable to you.
If you’ve come from the IT ranks, you may have a penchant to want to get things done without communicating to your employees. You’ve done the work they have, so why not continue to do so? Because that’s now their job, not yours. Instead, hand over the reins and open up the lines of communication.
Talk to your employees regularly about work and invite them to talk to you. This reciprocal communication will cut down on time wasted when employees detect an issue with your organisation’s technology.
One of the best ways to develop better leadership skills is active listening. Improving your listening skills are just as important as improving your speaking skills. Especially when there are problems, your employees might say more either by their silence or with their body language.
If you’re a business manager before a tech manager, your employees might fear reporting problems to you because of a business manager’s tendency for “shooting the messenger.” Business-minded managers see the bottom line first, then look at the bigger picture.
Instead of dismissing a problem out-of-hand, no matter the scale, let your employees give you as much detail about the situation as they need to. If the details feel insufficient, gently solicit more information. This will help you all make better decisions about technical problems as they arise. When things are running smoothly, require regular updates from your employees.
Technology is certainly an immutable force in today’s business world. While always present, it is always evolving. If you’ve never dealt with IT issues other than being the one to report them, now is the time to learn flexibility in your leadership.
A key trait of great leadership, being flexible means that you understand a code can’t always be rewritten in a day or that a data breach can’t be fixed in a week. Technology, while constant, is also unpredictable. Trust your employees will get the work done.
Because technology is changing constantly, one of the best ways to stay abreast of trends is professional development. Yet professional development is sometimes seen as a waste of time by managers, especially if it cuts into work hours. A good manager, however, will be willing to be flexible about schedules if it means a better-prepared workforce.
Managing tech while managing people isn’t always easy. You’re dealing with humans and inanimate objects that can both be highly demanding. Developing your approachability, flexibility, and your ability to communicate will help you with the demands of your tech and your employees, helping you retain the best ones and provide the best tech products and support you can.
How to succeed as a manager; what are your recommendations?
Do you have your own experience of being able to succeed as a manager of both tech and of people? Do share them with us in the comments section?
By H. E. James, MBA