Tech Manager—Secrets about People
Continuing my series on the Secrets that Tech Managers Keep, I move on to some that might be tough to think about and are seldom mentioned out loud. These are people focused.
Some People Really Need to Improve
This secret is only related to tech improvements, not personality, attitude, or trade skills. Some of the staff just don’t know how to use technology. This may seem harsh, but if I asked you to think of the top three people you would NOT want on your team for the next project, you would not have much trouble defining who they are. Or maybe it can be worded like this… Think of your worst users. “Users” may not be a complimentary term, but you get the point. You know who they are. Some folks consistently make tech mistakes, bad choices, use old methods, take too long to do simple tasks, use the tech tools the wrong way, or flat out just do not know how to use them well. They may be great designers, or managers or licensed professionals in their trade, but they just don’t seem to use technology very well. They have been trained. They have been taught. That is not the issue. They just can’t seem to get it right.
What to do about it – It is not your job to demean the worse users. It is your job to not let them think that misuse is okay. Everyone needs to improve, and everyone can improve. They improve at different rates, but there should be advances in their development. Help them along. Keep explaining how things are done, why they are better done in a uniform way and how it helps others and themselves to be productive. When they continue to stagnate, and some will, then keep it to yourself, but work to minimize the impact by teaming them up with great tech users.
This is a secret you may want to keep… I almost did not write about it. These people probably do not work for you, so this can be a touchy topic. Never tell anyone about their lack of tech skills unless it is really damaging to your firm or the project. Then only tell their boss. And do it in such a way as to not attack the person or their dignity. Keep it narrowly focused on their use of the technology. Use very respectful terms. But it may be the secret you want to not bring up… Some folks should not be in critical positions that demand higher tech skills.
No one Cares
Well, let’s just say that a lot of folks don’t care about the things you are passionate about. There are those that don’t use tech the best way possible and then there are those who just don’t care. No one really cares about your issues and the focus you put on getting things structured, secure and effective. They just want to get their job done and they don’t want tech to get in the way. Maybe not everyone. But the ones that don’t care can become an annoyance and even a liability. When those that do not care come in contact with technology, things can go awry. Some don’t care about standards. Some don’t care about procedures. Some care, but they set aside the proper way of doing things because they think it will get their project done sooner. The processes that you think are locked in, may not be. The guidelines are in place, people should follow them… right? But they don’t do that all the time.
What to do about it – Keep emphasizing the need to “do it right”. Do not say “you did it wrong” but remind them of a better way (which is the right way). Tell people why you care about getting it right. Not just because you want to dictate what everyone does, but because the most productive environments have guidelines so that everyone knows what to expect. Remind them how much they do not like it when others deviate from the proper path, and they must clean it up. Let them know that you take pride in a good product and the client is watching the quality of work also. You should also review what they are doing that does not match the guidelines. Maybe they have a better way. Don’t just write it off. Some guidelines may not be achieving the impact you thought they would and are just burdensome. Maybe they need to be changed.
No One Supports Me
Akin to the “no one cares” is the feeling that no one supports you. This is a secret that may carry the most emotion with it. It is because this concept is pointed at you. Unlike the “no one cares”, which is pointed at things and not people. This one is pointed right at you. Feeling like you get little to no support can frustrate and deflate you quickly. This feeling may come when you have new ideas, suggest corrective measures, or just remind people of what the guidelines say. You feel like you “don’t get no respect”.
What to do about it – It may seem like there is not much you can do about it. Sometimes it is true. Some firms just have a culture that does not reinforce authority in your area of oversight. Some think that the Tech Manager is a service-oriented position that just does whatever they are told and can be ignored whenever it suits people. But there is hope. You can remind folks what it was like before you brought control to the chaos.
Keep going and don’t give up. You can command respect, without being demanding. You need to have the fortitude to point out (gently) the things that are not working and explain why they happen and how to fix it. Be willing to go the extra mile to get things back the way they should be even if you are the one who must do the work that others are not willing to support you on. Gather support before you need it. Help others and support them in their efforts. Pay it forward and help them get things done.
If it is your new ideas that are not supported, and others don’t seem like they support your efforts, you may be able to get them to neutrality and not oppose your progress. None support can take the form of stalling, avoiding, delaying or saying they want to rethink your initiatives. Try to get them to agree to just give you some time and space to get things going. Agree on some timeframe that they will not push back, or stand in the way and then remind them if you see them slipping. Agree when to get together and review progress. Be nice, smile a lot, but just keep moving forward.