Tech Manager—A Culmination: Advice I Give Myself, Part 3
This is the last installment in this little series. In the first article we reviewed how I remind myself all the time to provide great customer service. How the value of communication, sharing knowledge, taking initiative, being proactive, organizing and planning my work makes me better at what I do. In the second installment, I looked at the importance of documentation and at how being quality driven, reporting on progress, having a plan “B,” and being a team player moves you forward.
These are the things that I keep telling myself. Why? Because I need to constantly give myself advice on the basic things that make for a great tech environment. The foundation needs to be strong and reinforced. Here is the final group.
Think about new tools and methods that might improve the organization. Combine existing processes and methods into new approaches. It is not just something totally new that might bring innovation. Mashing together two processes or combining two methods might gain you some speed. Refine existing procedures to make them work even better. When you start a new project, think about refining the way you approached the last one to make improvements. Don’t settle for good enough. Question the status quo. Ask “Why?”
Complete tasks and projects 100 percent. Don’t leave the last bit of work hanging out there thinking that you will return to it later. Finish it all up now. And don’t forget the documentation. Strive to not have to do things twice or return to a problem that was left uncompleted. Stay focused on a problem or task until it is totally done. Set aside other tasks when needed to work on critical final items. Cultivate the ability and willingness to go the extra mile and put in more hours when needed. Come in early, stay late. It also includes the understanding that working on routine tech support issues cannot be ignored. The little things that fail to get fixed will only grow.
This is closely tied to Dedication but presents itself as the ability to change direction on short notice. You need to be nimble and prioritize on the fly. When something more important comes along, move in that direction. Never let yourself slip into being annoyed by interruptions from users. Be willing to jump on a problem or task at a moment’s notice and not be perturbed by it.
A love for technology is why you are here in the first place. That plus vigor for CAD and BIM efforts will energize you and others. Don’t get annoyed by mundane and repetitive tasks. Don’t do them begrudgingly. Approach every aspect of your work with robustness and optimism. Dig in. Get dirty. Get it done. Never forget to think or even say out loud, “I love this stuff.” It will rub off on others.
Always Strive for Productivity
Look for ways to increase output, avoid unneeded steps, and reduce time wasted for yourself and others. This is akin to innovation, but steers you right toward moving faster. Economy of effort is the key. Reduce 10 steps to seven, then try for five. Put the productivity of others above your own. You should take on the load and not pass it on to the design staff. Seek to make tasks for others easier, even if it makes your own a little harder. Customize, configure, and create ways to make things easy and fast.
Admit your mistakes—everyone else probably knows about them anyway. Take responsibility for errors. By owning up to them, you engender trust. As long as your mistakes are few, others will understand. Share success with those who helped you get things done. Avoid prideful boasting. Stand confident on your own abilities without making others feel inferior. You don’t have to put others down to build yourself up.
Always be willing to learn from others, modify your behavior as needed, admit and address shortcomings. Come on… no one knows everything. Never stop learning. Ask more questions. Admit that you have not yet read much on some new subject and ask others to explain. Reach outside of your knowledge base and ask how other areas of your firm work. Admit it when you have provided the wrong information to someone else. Stand ready to be “realigned” when you are a bit off in your understanding. Take correction from others as helpful, not demeaning. Even if someone is spitefully “rubbing it in,” take it in stride.
Drive to Deadlines
Everything has a due date. If something does not, why are you even doing it? If you have something that is defined as “whenever you can get to it”—guess what? You never will. Put due dates on everything. Set realistic delivery dates and meet/exceed the deadline. When someone gives you a task, ask for a due date. If they say “ASAP” I tell them “that is not a date. Please give me a date.” Get a date and even a time. Ask them, “Did you want that before lunch on the 16th or by the close of business?” You never know when someone is thinking first thing in the morning and you are thinking by the end of the day. Notify stakeholders if a deadline is going to slip as soon as you become aware of it. Don’t let a missed deadline impact them without warning.
It’s Okay to Ask for Help
Delegate. Simple to say, but sometimes hard to do. I often find myself thinking that I can get to things that I just don’t have time for. It is better, when you don’t have the time, to pass it on. Others can help you get things done. It is better, when others can be more effective than you, to pass it on. It is better, to help others gain more expertise, to pass it on. Things need to get done, but not always via your direct efforts. Let others lend a hand.
I often find myself needing a reminder on these things. I find that when I review my list, it helps spur me on to good things. You may have a list of your own that presses you forward. Whatever you do, take some time to think again about what makes you successful and return to the basics. By pondering things you already know, you can find that you gain insight and energy to make progress.