I have been a manager, in one form or another, for more than 30 years. I have managed people with a lot of structure while in the military, and I’ve managed people for various companies with significantly less structure. What I have learned from that experience is people need to be managed effectively to perform well. I have managed some really great people, and I have learned from them as much as they learned from me while we worked together to create great solutions to business problems. I have also had some great mentors, and those people were kind enough to take the time to guide me to the correct solution when I needed help.
I have also worked with some horrible people and for some really bad managers. You can’t force people to do a good job, and you can’t force people to want to manage people correctly. Sometimes you just have to do a good job with what you have and ride out the storm waiting for the bad times to get better.
Sometimes, a manager will question if they are doing a good job. Most of the people I have worked with have told me that I’m a good manager. Usually the people that have told me that I was a bad manager are the same people that I have been struggling with to get quality results from over a period of time. Usually they tell me I’m a bad manager when I’m explaining to them why that thing they did was a bad thing because it violated company policy or wasn’t good for the team.
During this long road to the great place I’m in today, I’ve worked with several people that were my boss. I’ve had a few really good ones, and many bad ones. I have worked with people so bad a management that they were fired. The good ones are mostly rewarded with promotions and even more money, but they are rarely treated as well as they deserve.
I think that managing technology professionals is hard. I know that a lot of people can say that about the people they manage, from payroll clerks, fast food workers, nurses, to civil servants. I think technology professionals are difficult to manage because of the complicated and difficult work they are expected to complete, but also because of the frequent changes to technology and the challenges that always brings. Even the artistic nature of what we are expected to accomplish can add some complexity.
From creating network diagrams, writing custom software, designing a database, or implementing complex system integrations. They all take a mind that can make the mental connections between technology points that are too complex for many people to understand. Yes, these people are usually well compensated for their work, but there is also a level of complexity to managing that team of wonderful minds to do their very best work every day.
Information Technology professionals are basically paid to think and be creative. Solving problems is something that you have to think about to do a really good job, and sometimes you have to be creative in selecting a solution to a problem so it resolves the issue, but is also inexpensive and dependable. You can’t schedule or force someone to be smart or creative, but you can create an environment where they feel allowed to do a great job.
Most everything else a manager does is planning, scheduling, and managing personnel issues. If a manager is doing a good job, the technical team is thinking of creative ways to solve problems. Your job as a manager is to identify, prioritize, and schedule the creative problem solving. A good manager is able to visualize how the team feels and be comfortable with how their decisions impact their people. If you are getting in the way of that process, you are a bad manager.
I’ve had a bad manager that thought of their job as a person that schedules meeting to talk about problems. I’ve once had a bad manager that avoided talking about personnel issues. They didn’t address issues with underperforming members of the team. They didn’t offer solutions on missing skills and wouldn’t approve any training. They cut the budget for everything from licensing to software upgrades, forcing the team to use outdated software and inferior tools. The team was held back and forced to do less than they could, while departmental productivity slowed to a crawl and the entire company suffered.
I’m glad to say I now work for a great manager and I have a team that is allowed to be smart and creative.
Please let me know your thoughts on management in general. What you have seen that worked really well, as what didn’t work so well?