Tech Manager—Pitfalls, Part II
Last month we started looking at pitfalls that you might get caught in. Some can be avoided, and others may snare you before you see them coming. I have stepped into many of these over the years and probably will continue to be caught by them in the future.
Pitfall One was “Not doing Research and Testing”, Two was “Over Monitoring” and the third one I covered was “Creating Artificial Deadlines”. I suggest you go back and read those before you start on this continuation to my list.
PITFALL FOUR: BEING INCONSISTENT
I am a very consistent kind of guy – most of the time. Sometimes I veer off the road that I construct. I leave the beaten path that I have created and forget a step or two. I am human. If you read my writings, I am a list maker, rule follower, structure builder and guideline creator. But I sometimes take shortcuts, deviate f rom the plan, get lazy, or react out of f rustration. When I do, it sometimes comes back to bite me.
People need to know you are dependable and consistent. They should be able to know how you would react in any given situation. One way to prove that they do know your approach and responses, is to deviate f rom them and see how quickly you are called out. People will complain that you have broken the rule or have not measured up.
Consistency is needed so that people can focus on other things and not worry about your mood or how much sleep you got last night. They need to know what personality you are going to have when you show up for work each day, the happy helper, or the grumbling Grinch. They need to know that you will protect them and their time by planning your efforts around their deadlines. They need to know that you will provide the needed info or training at the right time on a project. They need to know that you will see flaws in a workflow and suggest corrective measures. They do not want you to wait around for a project to go off track before you step in. Or complain about oversights when you could have prevented them.
Consistency allows people to f rame their expectations because they know how you will react and work. If you are the one that fine tunes documents, then they expect you to fine tune them. If you are the one that remains calm and thinks quickly in a crisis, they will expect you to do that. If you are the one who always spots a deviation f rom standard, they expect that (even if they are annoyed by it). If you always speak up when you have a concern, then when you do not speak up, they will take your silence as approval. Being consistent lets other just do their work.
PITFALL FIVE: NOT LISTENING
When you are the answer provider, it gets hard not to provide an answer when you think you have it. You will jump in with a solution, but it may not match the problem. You need to listen to the entire explanation and not come to a conclusion prior to knowing all the issues. Listening is not that easy. Some people tell you way too much and take forever to get to the point. Others do not tell you enough and leave out key details. Troubleshooting and listening go hand-in-hand. You need to hear what the problem is before you start thinking of remedies.
You also need to listen to find out what has already been done. You do not want to just dash off some solution thinking it is the fix, only to hear that they already tried it. Telling someone what to do is different than asking them what they have done. Ask what has been tried already. If you have done a good job of training and including others in solution finding, then they may have already done a lot to seek results. Ask them what they have done and then listen to the answer.
PITFALL SIX: UNCLEAR ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
People need to know where your roles and responsibilities start and end. And they need to know about theirs also. Usually, Tech Managers operate beyond their formal job description, but most all jobs do that to some extent. Knowing the boundaries of your role is key to making sure things run smooth. You need to know, and so do others.
Roles may get confused when they overlap with other departments and project work. Others may assume that you are doing something when you are not. You may think that some task was your job, and others may step in before you. It all needs to be talked out. Not a formal talk, but just constantly mentioned as you work with people.
Let’s take Standards as an example. Some folks will think that standards compliance is your job. You wrote the guidelines, and you have to make sure that they are followed. That is true, but it really falls to all staffers to make sure the guidelines are followed. Each team member has a responsibility in knowing the standards and verifying that they are followed. Reinforce a culture that does not just accept or pass on shoddy workmanship. Encourage everyone to create rock solid files and models.
PITFALL SEVEN: FAILING TO GROW
I talk about this a lot and it bears repeating. No one may be more important to tech progress at your firm than you. Sure, others have great ideas and know more than you in some areas. I am not talking about you being the only person that can research, plan, and promote new tech. Others have great insight and skills that you must tap into. But you may be the pivot point for tech and if you are not growing in skills, talents, knowledge and wisdom, your firm will feel the negative impact.
You need to expand your tech savvy and people skills all the time. You need to learn more about new tech and gain insight into the next thing that is coming down the pipe. You need to refine the existing process and find new ways of improving your firm’s production. Stop doing things the old way if it is not the best way. Start new projects with ref reshed procedures. Train yourself and others as you go. Extending your reach can be done at any time.
Start now with some online research or talking to others outside your firm to see what they are doing. Tap into others as you see them gain knowledge in an area that you have not checked out yet. Understand that others will supplant your knowledge of some long-standing tools as you move forward. That is okay. Stay close to the f ront-line design staff as they learn more. You have an advantage as you work with multiple people, offices, projects, and clients. You will learn more as others keep you informed. Do not let your skills stand still.
By being aware of the pitfalls that you may stumble over, you may be able to avoid some. You stand a better chance of staying sharp and moving forward when you are sensitive to your own foibles. Your firm will gain as you become better at your job and you will extend your career too.