Tech Manager—What Should I Stop Doing?
In last month's Tech Manager article, we looked at what a new Tech Manager should Start doing. Now we move on to the Stop list. Keep in mind that some might be offended when you begin talking about stopping something. It may be their pet project. It might be someone higher up the ladder that wants this item to be on the Continue list. Go lightly, but boldly move toward stopping the things that most people agree to terminate. Some things on this list are totally in your control, but for others it may take a bit of convincing.
So here are some ideas on what you may need to stop doing.
Stop thinking “Tech only”
One of the best things in the book I mentioned in the last article—What Got you Here Won’t Get you There published in 2007 by Marshall Goldsmith—is when he writes “All other things being equal, your people skills (or lack of them) become more pronounced the higher up you go. In fact, even when all other things are not equal, your people skills often make the difference in how high you go.” This single piece of advice is worth the reading of the whole book. People skills will take you higher than tech skills. Tech skills got you here, but people skills will take you higher. Don’t jettison your tech skills, just stop thinking that tech is all it takes. People matter now more than ever.
Stop Trying to Be a Superhero
Technology heroes are making strides in every area and you may be one of those. Now that you are a manager, you need to keep your tech skills sharp, but not always swoop in and rescue the project. If all fixes must come from you, then you will be drained of energy by the avalanche of issues. You need to get problems fixed, but not always be the fixer. Invest in others who can be around when you are not. Get project teams to designate a liaison to whom you can teach the tech skill needed. Multiply the fixers and stop being the only one.
You can still continue to do the superhero stuff you used to do, but now on a grander level. You can fight the injustice of inequitable application of the standards by some. You can fight the nasty demons of personal CAD habits that tie projects into knots. And you can still maintain the courage to do CAD/BIM the right way. Stand tall, superhero, but also gather a league of heroes around you.
Stop Doing What You Used to Do
Following close on the heels of the last item, stop doing “only” what you were doing before. You need to keep the tech savvy meter high, but now you need to add new skills. Not just people skills, but also systems analyst skills and project management skills. You need to become a planner, negotiator, trainer, tester, and a corporate culture wiz. Building on strong tech skills and adding new management skills will allow you to work under, with, and over other staff. You need to work with the office politics and blaze trails around and through them.
Management Skills you Need
Delegation/division of labor
Advanced problem solving
Solid communication skills
Negotiating and deal making
Stop Saying “I” So Much
You need to move away from starting sentences with “I.” Like “I already know that” or “I already tried that and it did not work” or “I think we should…”
You can take the same tack, but morph your statements into questions or at least open-ended statements. Instead of “I already know that,” you might say “Wouldn’t you agree that…?” In place of “I already tried that,” you could say, “We have not had much success with that, but we could give it another go.” As an alternative to “I think…” you might say “What do you think about…?” The whole point is to not come off like a know-it-all or done-it-all. You can invite others to learn what you know or try what you tried without shutting them down. Help them to learn and discover—it sinks in better that way. And when there is a success, it is “WE,” or “they,” not “I.” You can and will have personal wins, but don’t brag.
Stop Talking Negatively About Management
You are now part of the management team. You really should not have been bad-mouthing those above you, but now you need to zip your lip even more. You can still disagree with some decision and tell management that, but it must be done in private, not around the water cooler (do they still make those?). You are now part of the overall management team. Even in a large organization where you may be on the lowest rung, you are now seen by those around you as management. You have a foot in both worlds, production and management, but now you need to understand that the management hat is on your head.
Stop Being So Controlling
This may sound counterintuitive, but let me explain. You got here by controlling and improving production. You streamlined, refined, customized, and narrowed the list of deviations from the standard. But now you may want to consider not being so “in control,” or at least stop acting like you are in control of everything. Some early career managers try to over-control the processes they oversee. They clamp down because they finally have the clout. But people don’t like that. They want to know that you will make things better, but not at the expense of their personal processes. When you need to make changes to processes… nudge, don’t shove. If you need to control, do it wisely and slowly. Don’t turn over every apple cart at the same time.
Next time we will dig into the Continue list. What should you continue to do and seek to improve? Until then, manage well.
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. An internally 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.