Tech Manager—Eight Messages Tech Managers SHOULD be Sending
Last time we talked about negative messages I, and you, send and found that we may not even know that we are sending them or that others are picking up on these messages. If you have not read it yet, skip back a month are read the last Tech Manager article. I covered messages like, “It won’t work,”, “How hard can it be?”, “We don’t have time,”, “We tried that before,”, “It has to happen now,”, “I am not a team player,”, “I don’t have time for you,” and finally pulling rank with “I am in charge.”
Now we will look at messages that you DO want to be sending and how that can impact others in a positive way. Building up team morale, bolstering confidence, displaying flexibility and more can impact others and your team in great ways. Sometimes we are forgetful and miss opportunities to invigorate others. Here are some possible messages that can build others up.
“You can do this.” Just like encouraging a toddler to take their first steps, or a kid to ride a bike, we need to encourage others every day. I wish I did this every day, but I do not. It is so easy to be critical and see the flaws in work or mistakes that people make. But we need to stop and give an encouraging push to others to step out and make it happen. Overwhelmingly, people will step up their game and make progress when they have confidence. They just need permission and encouragement.
“This is a team effort.” It is easy for teams to scatter and see staff silo themselves into standalone efforts that do not remember the intertwined nature of teamwork. What I am doing impacts you and what you are doing impacts me. Bad handoffs and attitudes that do not care about other people’s success can damage project teams. Team members need to be reminded that we are all in this together. Celebrate individual accomplishments and remind others of how this helps the team. Inspire others to help the group rise together.
“What do you think we should do?” I catch myself NOT doing this when I think I have an answer to whatever problem might exist. Others do not grow by executing only on your solutions. Let others have a chance to problem solve or provide input before you lurch to the bottom line. As they grow, you can ask them what they think and then agree with their plans and press them forward. People may look to you for answers, but you should seek input and allow others to design solutions too.
“Let’s give it a try.” When solutions are offered by others and confidence is not high, just let everyone know that you are willing to take some risk, see if it will work and maybe accept some failure while you strive to get things right. Make sure you include yourself by saying “Let’s”, which goes back to a prior topic – this is a team effort. Give people permission to fail. How do you do that without making failure a default? Don’t freak out when things go wrong. Be resilient and try again. Thank people for trying and move on. As you seek success, don’t make failing so scary that no one is willing to risk an attempt.
“Standards can be changed.” Yes, they can. If something doesn’t make sense, or it is impeding workflow, then change it. Make sure staff knows that if the standard is there, it needs to be followed. But if it does not work, then it can be changed, but not abandoned. There needs to be guidelines and agreement on means and methods in design work. If changing the standard will take some time… and it should since you need everyone to agree, then grant projects what I call “Variances”. I typically will document the variance in a quick email to the PM and other key stakeholders and design staff.
“We are not going to do that” This may sound negative, but sometimes you have to say “No”. Rejecting an option can help narrow the field of possible good ideas. Obviously, you reject illegal or unethical options. These can happen because some things might be suggested that bend the rules. You should also reject any ideas that pull the team apart rather than unify it. You should also reject ideas that do not promote the standards. You should reject things that do not maintain a level of care that is expected in your industry. You need to know that a rational review by your peers would support your choice of methodology. You never want to be challenged to answer the question, “Who thought that was okay?”
“Did you read the instructions?” What a novel idea. You should actually read the documents that come with your tools. Not so much hardcopy any longer, but they are online. You need to read them yourself and spur your team on to read them also. When you do read things, you uncover little know and not well documented “tricks” that can increase your team’s productivity. Read, read, read.
“Here is what is expected” You should be having these conversations all the time. No need to leave people in the dark. Just tell them what is expected. When you are assigning work or need information, tell them what you want, what format is needed and when you need it. If it is a file, let them know the format, size, if compression is okay, delivery method or media, etc. If it is a project task, let them know who to get info from, what the deliverable is and recipient, plus who to tell when you are done. If it takes a while, let them know when to provide updates (daily, weekly, etc.). These talks do not have to take long. Just frame what you are expecting others to do or provide and when you need it by. Try to get feedback and an agreement to the request. If they cannot make it in time, just negotiate a good time. You may not know their workload. They may not know the critical nature of your need or timeline. Talk it up and get to an agreement.
Bonus Tip: “I appreciate your help” Remember to thank people and tell them that you appreciate their help. Be specific with what you appreciate, like saying “Thank you for always being so prompt”, or “I appreciate how you give it that one last quality check, prior to sending things out”.
By delivering positive messages and information, you can empower people to try new things, get stuff done and make measurable progress on tasks and projects.