Daily Archives: June 7, 2011

IT employee work behavior – part 3 of 4

Part 3  –  Challenges in who we are

Let’s review our last two posts. In Part-1, I asked you to identify the traits of what you would want to have in an IT manager. You could do the same exercise for any IT position.

In Part-2, I identified the traits that characterize most IT employees, , , whether they are managers, programmers, work on the Help Desk, or are heavy technical system administrators. If you are in IT, my research of more than ten years with thousands of employees and hundreds of IT managers from all over the world identifies these key work behavior traits in IT employees:

A.   90% are independent, self-starting decision makers who are technically oriented

B.   70% are shy and introverted

C.   85-90% have a high sense of urgency

D.   90% are high detail

What this says about an IT manager is this, , , we approach work as:
“Let’s do it, do it right now, and do it my way, , , and I don’t want to talk about it.” 

More on this in Part-4.

For now, let’s talk about what it means to have the attributes that so many of us in IT have. There are some good things and there are some challenges. We should take advantage of the positives and work on the challenges to be as successful as we can possibly be.

Before I start, let me emphasize something. There is nothing wrong with what anyone’s personality traits or work behavior tendencies are. What’s important to understand is that some of these tendencies can hinder your success. Knowing what they are and learning how to adjust to offset them will help you be much more successful.

What it means to be independent
Being independent works well as a programmer, , , your success is often based upon what you personally can accomplish. Being independent in an IT manager role is not a bad thing, but it causes us a real challenge. Depending upon others to do things to achieve success is tough, , , especially when your past experience has been pretty much based upon what you can do yourself.

Managers depend upon their employees to succeed at virtually anything. It’s a tough transition to go from the technical hero many of us were to the manager who is now dependent upon others to get things done.

Independent, self starters who are goal oriented like being the hero. As the manager, your job is to make your employees the hero, , , much easier said than done.

What it means to be introverted
Nothing wrong with being shy and introverted. As a Systems Administrator or programmer, you can focus on the technology and not worry about having to communicate a lot. In an IT manager role, effective communication is absolutely essential for success.

The challenge we have as IT managers who are more introverted, , , (I’m a perfect example of this), , , is that we typically don’t develop our communication skills unless someone has invested in this for us. This was my case, , , it’s not an area I would have developed but my senior managers fortunately knew the importance of communication and invested in developing my communication skills.

The second challenging part of being shy and  introverted is that our desire to communicate is lower. Our attitude is simply, “Why bother?”

Introverted managers (over 70% of IT managers are introverted) have to create processes that will force them to communicate. Otherwise, they just won’t get around to it.

What it means to have a high sense of urgency
85-90% of us in IT have a high sense of urgency. This means we don’t like to work on repetitive things. We would make terrible assembly line factory workers.

People with high sense of urgency are impatient and not so tolerant of others who might be slower or who make mistakes. This can cause internal conflicts.

Having a high sense of urgency is a good thing for an IT manager, but “in the storm”, you have to become a calming effect, , , not someone who is viewed as pouring gasoline on the fire.

What it means to be high detail
This is one of the tougher issues for IT managers. As technicians, we pride ourselves for knowing the technology inside and out and being able to control the technology. It takes precision and knowledge to do this, , , requires high detail focus so we excel in it.

As managers, we can no longer work at this level of detail. What’s important now is what we can get accomplished through our people, , , not what we can do ourselves.

Letting go of the detail and being able to work at a higher level is one big challenge, , , VERY BIG.

Transitioning from technical expert to business manager is one of the toughest challenges you will face. Far too many don’t succeed in it. This high detail issue is one to become very aware of and to realize how much of an obstacle it can be in becoming a successful IT manager.

IT employee work behavior – part 2 of 4

Part 2 – Who we are

If you have not read the first post in this 4-part series and completed the exercise, now is a good time to do it.  Click here to read the post.

Do you have the color combination selected of the traits you would like to have in an IT manager?

Most people who take this exercise pick one of two color combinations:

If you look closely, they are exactly the same except for the second color. In the first series, the second color is Red, , , and in the second series it is Green. The other three color options are the same in both series.

There are four personality areas I want to discuss with you. With what I’ve just laid out, you can already see that the majority of opinions select the same color combination in three of the four areas. The reason is because we are all quite a bit alike when it comes to how we approach work as IT employees, , , especially in three of the four areas.

Here are the keys that make it this way.

Traits Set #1, , , Technically oriented or social?
We want decision makers who are technically oriented managing our IT organizations. We do not want people who prefer to follow and are indecisive as managers. Therefore, RED gets the vote almost all the time.

Ninety percent of IT employees have RED tendencies in this area.

Traits Set #2 – Introverted or extroverted?
We would like our IT managers to be excellent communicators and comfortable in communicating with others. That’s what we would like but seventy percent have GREEN traits. This means most IT managers are shy and introverted.

It does not mean they can’t communicate well, but communication with people outside their immediate network like department managers and senior managers is definitely a challenge that must be overcome.  GREEN traits are where most IT people are in this one.

Traits Set #3 – High or low sense of urgency?
We would like an IT manager to have a high sense of urgency, , , not someone who is happy if we resolve a problem three days later. If a system is down, the IT manager needs to be in a hurry to get it fixed. At the same time, the manager needs to be a calming effect, , , not Chicken Little running around shouting, “The sky is falling!”.

Eighty-five to ninety percent of IT managers have a high sense of urgency, , , so GREEN traits get this vote.

Traits Set #4  –  High or low detail?
This is a tough one. As a programmer or a Systems Administrator, we need to be high detail to do a good job. Fortunately, ninety percent of us are high detail in IT. The challenge comes when we become IT managers. As a manager, you don’t want to be so detail oriented. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of detail when working as a manager, , , but now we have to delegate and let others take care of the technology detail.

Many of us have a difficult time letting go of the detail, and I can tell you this will impede your progress as a manager if you can’t make the transition from technical expert to business manager. It’s a whole different ball game when you become the manager.

So, RED includes the traits that are found in 90% of the IT staff.

Basically, you can say that 90% of all IT people are:
Self starters
Decision makers
Technically oriented
Have a high sense of urgency
Do not like repetitive tasks
High detail and knowledgeable about the job
Like to have things done accurately and their way

That’s essentially everyone in IT if it is 90%.

70% are shy and introverted. That’s also quite a majority of your people or of the IT manager community. If you are shy and introverted, it means two things:
1. You probably have weak communication skills.
2. Your desire to communicate is lower.

Not a problem too much as a programmer, , , but for an IT manager this one becomes a real issue.

In the next post, I’ll share some insights and challenges about the four personality areas that drive most of your IT staff:
– Independent and technically oriented (90%)
– Shy and introverted  (70%)
– High sense of urgency  (85%)
– High detail  (90%)