Tech Manager—Eight Messages Tech Managers Should NOT be Sending

I send messages all the time. I am not talking about emails, texting or posting. I am talking about those subtle and not so subtle messages I send with my words or my gestures. It may not be Morse code or semaphore as many may not be able to decipher those anymore. These are messages I do not intend to send and sometimes I do. They are caught by others and the message lets others know what is on my mind. You may not know it, but you are sending signals and others are receiving them loud and clear.

Let’s start with the negative messages I might be sending. Some are saying “you are wrong” or “I am right” and others may be interpreted as overly cautious or that I am throwing caution to the wind. Either way, what you say matters and others are watching for the messages that you send.

“It won’t work.” I may have sent this message in the past without even knowing it, and I may have even said exactly those words. In my confidence, I may telegraph this when I say things like, “I have not seen that done before,” or, “This will only frustrate people and delay our progress”. Try not to wave off solutions or plans that are not yours, or that you think are futile. Others may have some insight that you do not. Be willing to let others take the lead.

“How hard can it be?” On the flip side of thinking it will never work, is underestimating the time and effort it will take to complete a project. I may not have finished by homework and want to move on something that others know more about. They tell you and others that we should do more research and I just want to plow ahead. Others may take your confidence as a signal to trust your decisions, even if they are not fully informed. Make sure you are right!

“We don’t have time.” Another way of throwing negative vibes is to think that you don’t have time to do something. When something is a good idea or a good fix… there is always time to do it. You may have to negotiate an extended deadline, but do not undercut a good thing. This is usually transmitted prior to starting an effort. And don’t let it be that you never have time for other people’s ideas, when yours seem to have enough space to give it a go.

“We tried that before.” This one always seems to pop into conversations from somewhere… try not to have it be you. When this comes up, unless it was just tried last week, you need to not have it be a deterrent to new attempts. If you do need to remind people that something was actually tried before, then frame it as a reminder with lessons learned. I call them “History Lessons” and actually say that, then outline what was tried. But I try to end by saying, “With that in mind, let’s give it a try.”

“It has to happen now.” Letting deadlines derail quality can happen to everyone. “Just get it out the door,” is a message that we sometimes broadcast by trying to get people to move too fast. It is similar to “Not having time,” but it differs in that it can make a lower quality product go out the door. Don’t let the old adage that, “There is never enough time to do it right, but there is always time to do it over,” impact your team.  Avoid it by defining the level of effort and quality with the team before you start.

“I am not a team player.” No one ever says this, but they often show others that they are not fully a team player. I am hoping that you do not take this attitude often, but it can be sensed by others. It comes when you take too many tasks to do yourself and it is evident that you just don’t trust others to get it done right. It can be shown when your ideas and perspective seem to always bubble to the top of the list. It can happen when you drag your feet when others are taking the lead. It can be demonstrated when you do not fully share all your input. Or you may appear divide the team into small groups and then rally a group to your side. Others can see this happening, even if you think you are really good at the politics of teams.

“I don’t have time for you.” When this is detected by others, it can be offending to them. It comes when you always seem rushed. When you do not take a seat when someone wants to talk to you. When you do not RSVP to calendar invites. When you never take notes as others talk. When others can rightly say, “You are always talking to someone, but it is never me.” Slow it down and pay attention. Interact in such a way that others know that they have been heard. You know you have fallen into the message when others open their conversations with you by saying, “I know your busy, but…”

“I am in charge.” This is a big one. No one like to be told what to do. Even if they are doing things wrong. Yes, someone needs to be ‘in charge’ but not in a dictatorial way. This can also come across via another statement no one actually says – “My way or the highway”.  When someone sends a heavy -handed message, it almost challenges others to not follow their lead. This might be a combination of all the prior messages I mentioned above. It could be the pinnacle of what a leader should not be saying. Leading others takes time, patience, courage, negotiation skills and more. What it does not take is just telling others what to do with no input at all. Leadership is not just pulling rank.

Take some time and think through this short list. See if you are guilty of any of these and see which ones you may need to work on. No one is perfect, but we all can make progress. I fall into some of these negative messages before I catch myself and you might also.

Next time, we will look at messages you DO want to be sending and how that can impact others in a positive way. Until then, remember to pass on to others what you have learned.

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