Tech Manager—New Manager: What Do I Do Now?
Thinking back to when I first started as a CAD Manager, I realize I made a lot of mistakes. Things I would not do now, I did then. Things I do now, I did not do then. At the beginning, thinking tech was the only area I needed to focus on and the entire point of my management. Not thinking about how people or projects suffer if I have tunnel vision about getting the technology to cooperate.
Before you seasoned veterans who are current CAD/BIM/Tech Managers decide not to read this, I suggest it might be time for a refresher. Think back to the days when you first started managing tech, people, and projects. I do this every so often to make sure that I am focused in the right direction—just to make sure that I am doing the fundamentals with excellence. Remember how you strove to learn new tricks, stop old habits, add new technology? It may be time to go back and see what you might want to build up—or throw out. So please, read on. And for those of you who are just stepping into a management position, also read on.
Some new to technology management hire into the position from outside the firm. They come into an existing environment or at the cusp of adopting new tech. They may have experience from other firms or they are just starting to step up to the new level of oversight. They have opportunities to review and change the environment and can start on day one.
Some who seem to have tech super powers migrate into the management slot. They are seen as the “go to” people and so they are asked to step up. They have the tech clout, but not much practical depth in managing people.
Now that you are the manager, you need to figure out what to do. One thing you need to know is that people have expectations (including you) about how and what you should be doing. One thing you need to keep in mind is…
What Got You Here Won’t Get You There
You should read What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, published in 2007 by Marshall Goldsmith. This book lets you know that the things you did to get you to the place you are now may not be the things you need to continue doing. You need to start doing the new job. You need to stop doing some of the old things you did. You can continue with some, but not all. The book has a wealth of information on how to jump to the next rung on the corporate ladder. For new managers, you should not rest on past successes, but look for the next thing. Reveling on the past will get you some slaps on the back, but may not get you moving toward the future.
In last months Tech Manager article, I unfolded a planning process called Start – Stop – Continue. Now I want to take the next few months to unpack some new manager “what now” issues.
Start – Stop – Continue is a tool I use for strategic planning. It is a way to gather ideas, generate some momentum, and uncover some seldom mentioned concerns. I do this in a group setting, but it can apply to a private brainstorming process on a smaller scale. It helps coalesce thoughts and prioritize your focus. So let’s apply that framework to your thought process. If you missed my Tech Manager article from last month you may want to go back and read that first.
“Start” items are things that you are not doing now but need to start doing. You are at the top of your game on tech. You would not have been offered a manager position if you were not one of the best… okay, the best at getting the most out of the software. But this is a new position and you need to start doing new things. There are so many things you could be doing, and I cannot list them all. You will think of some that I have not, but here is my short list.
Start finding out what people expect of you. You may have a good idea of what the job entails, but you may not know what others think the job entails. Many will think you just got a title hung on you and you will continue to do what you have always done. Others will think you can conquer the tech world and fix every problem that anyone has ever had. What you can accomplish is somewhere in the middle, but you need to find out what those around you expect you to do. You then need to reinforce their thinking and get things done, or adjust their thinking so you can make things happen. Getting things done and making things happen are not necessarily the same. See the next point.
Start doing what should be done—even if it is not in your job description. You now need to define what should be done. Putting your hands on when needed and letting others do the work as you agree on what needs to be done. You probably have a good idea on the pain points and an idea on how to improve operations. You are now in a place to make an impact. They handed you the reins for a reason. Grab them and start changing some things—even if they are not in your formal job description. It may be that you need to start joining more project meetings, just to find out what is coming and what the target dates are. You need this info. Others will not bring it to you—you need to go find out. Ask to join a few meetings that are beyond your influence level. Then start doing the next point.
Start listening better. You may be a good listener. You may already gather information from many places and people. If you are not that good, then work on improving. Ask more clarifying questions: “What do you mean by that statement?” or simply, “Tell me more.” Take more notes, then review those notes and define a plan to address common threads you hear from multiple people.
Start blending into the management team. You are now a manager, and there is a lot you can do to blend into the management team. You hopefully will be invited to meetings where other managers are gathering. If you are not, then work on getting invited. These can be project meetings, business planning meetings, client meetings, and so on.
When you attend, don’t share what you hear with everyone. Managers have to use discretion as to what is shared with others outside the management team. Your buddies may ask you what you hear, what is coming next, what is being talked about, but avoid sharing too much. You have to be seen by other managers as one who can hold a confidence, rather than as a leaking sieve of private info. It may be appropriate at times to ask, “Can this be shared with my team?” Just verify that it is okay to talk.
Also, you may want to start asking a few fellow managers to lunch for an extended chat. Just get to know them. Talk about projects and deadlines, but also what they did last weekend. Share your life with them. Become part of the new team, but not at the expense of alienating the folks you worked with as you made this journey to management.
Next month, we will continue to look at your new role and what activities to Stop.
Mark Kiker has more than 25 years of hands-on experience with technology. He is fully versed in every area of management from deployment planning, installation, and configuration to training and strategic planning. As an internationally known speaker and writer, he is a returning speaker at Autodesk University since 1996. Mark is currently serving as Director of IT for SIATech, a non-profit public charter high school focused on dropout recovery. He maintains two blog sites, www.caddmanager.com and www.bimmanager.com.