Tech Manager—Rude, Crude, or Shrewd

Leaders must be liked, not rub people the wrong way, and be quick to figure out the best route. So these three characteristics—rude, crude, and shrewd—contain two negatives to avoid and a positive to embrace.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines the following:

Rude: “behaving in a way that hurts other people’s feelings; not polite”

Crude: “simple and not skillfully done or made”

Shrewd: “able to judge a situation accurately and turn it to your own advantage”

Rude and crude are negatives. Rude is bad behavior or manners. It can also mean applying the right action in the wrong way.

Crude is when the information delivered might be true, but not refined. It might address the topic, but not in a kind, well-formed way. It is rough and caustic.

With shrewd, the emphasis is on the second part, “turning things to your own advantage.” This word has a positive slant, but not if taken to extremes. For example, if “advantage” is “taken” and not “turned,” then others can feel “taken advantage of.”

A more positive word would be astute, which means quickly being sensitive to and sizing up a situation. Astute is less an action word and is brain based. You can be astute and not do anything with the information or perspective you have gained. Shrewd is a dynamic word, with actions taken as needed. Being shrewd is activity based. And it rhymes with rude and crude : )

We often think of shrewd as it applies to businessmen or deal makers. Those who are shrewd have a keen awareness to opportunity and good judgment on which road to take. Tech Managers who are shrewd can see the full extent of the issues, look outside the immediate and take a longer view of events. They appear to have a jump on others. This comes from experience, practice, foresight, and sometimes just paying attention. They know that “this” causes “that” because they have been burned before or have gained an advantage from doing “this.”

Shrewd Tech Managers plan for contingencies. They don’t get caught short because they have invested in training, padded their budget a little for out-of-scope eventualities, or just set aside some old hardware as a backup for when extra PCs are needed in a pinch. They plan for failure while they prep for success.

Shrewd managers can change direction as needed. When they hit a road block, they define a detour. In fact they may even have several “just in case” scenarios in their back pocket. They don’t just draw one line from start to finish. They know that derailments happen and they are ready for them. In fact they may even force the train off the tracks if they see that the landscape has changed and they need to follow an opportunity.

The Tech Manager should not be rude or crude, but should focus on being shrewd. Here are some examples of how shrewdness can be applied to situations.

The Verbal Side

Many times, staff members grab at solutions prior to fully thinking out the action plan. When presented with an “under developed” solution, as a manager you need to refine the approach or decisions so the best outcome is achieved. You do not respond with “That stinks” or even “This is not very good.” You may want to come back to those with something like: “This is good, but it needs to expand into…” or maybe just a question: “Have you thought about this or that?” A shrewd manager gently adjusts thoughts, plans, and decisions.

The Action Side

“When you come to the fork in the road, take it.” What wisdom is wrapped up in this Yogi Berra quote—and it is funny. A shrewd Tech Manager can use a change in plans as a turn for the best (not worst). They are nimble and can work through a change quicker than most. Like the GPS app I use, Tech Managers recalculate and plan a new route. They are not afraid of trying something different or new. If it fails, take another route. No one is going to always be right the first time—just be resilient and keep moving when things go wrong.

The Planning Side

When laying out plans for any new venture, the shrewd person looks for options and even builds flexibility in the marching orders. This person knows that things change and plans for it. Shrewd people look down the road to see what might be coming. They don’t dwell on negative “what if this happens” scenarios that are out of their control, but rather look for “what might we do” avenues and plan for a move if they open up. They shake off the problem and grab the solution.

The Compromising Side

Out of the gate, there are no perfect processes, projects, programs, or any other “p” word you can come up with. They all are the result of fine tuning, compromises, and adjustments. When being shrewd, you need to be willing to compromise. Look for tradeoffs. Be willing to meet others halfway. Don’t dig in your heels.

In July 1787, the creation of The Constitution of the United States was in development and in jeopardy. How would the new nation govern itself? Large population states wanted to have the influence that came with more residence. Smaller states feared getting overlooked because of their reduced citizen count.  The two sides were at loggerheads. The Great Compromise was a proposal for the Congress to have two houses, the Senate, where each state would get equal representation, and the House of Representatives, where representation was to be based on population. By being willing to shrewdly compromise, the nation moved forward.

The Resources Side

Shrewdness can also be seen in the use of resources such as time, staff, and money. Focusing your time in the right place is proper when you see a rising tide of problems in a specific area. More time to think and plan is good. Helping staff become self-sufficient is shrewd when you see project workloads rising. Reallocating your budget money to different areas such as maintenance or new purchases as the need presents itself is shrewd. Being flexible to move things around as needed with all resources demonstrates effective management and shrewdness.

The Dark Side

Where shrewdness goes wrong is when it is accompanied by deception, dishonesty, or trickery. Not sharing the facts with folks, not providing opportunity for others to advise, or not investing the time to think through your proposals. Plowing ahead, no matter what, is not shrewd.  Limiting other people’s options in order to steer the planning is not fair and should not be done. Skullduggery has no place in shrewdness.

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