Tag Archives: managing people

IT managers may need to change their work behavior

changePeople who work in IT have very consistent work behavior tendencies. In fact, 90 percent or more have similar tendencies in three of four major personality categories. The bottom line is that IT attracts a certain type of personality.

These work behavior tendencies help us become successful as technology experts, but they can present major challenges when you move into a management role.

It’s important for any IT manager to be aware of these tendencies and “what makes IT people tick.” Understanding them can help you achieve more success in multiple ways:

  • Being aware of your own personal work behavior tendencies can help you identify areas that need adjusting in order to succeed in a manager position.
  • Awareness of IT employee work behavior tendencies who report to you can help you manage and lead them better.
  • Understanding the dynamics of work behavior can even help you resolve employee problems.


I’ve used several personality evaluation tools in my career. Early on, I didn’t put a lot of credence in their value; I thought they were bogus. I was wrong.

For over 10 years I used these tools in my CIO role and discovered they are accurate in describing an employee’s work behavior tendencies and helpful in many ways. I learned first hand that understanding the work behavior tendencies of a person is powerful insight.

In one company I was the CIO of we acquired 35 other companies. I obtained the work behavior profile of all the IT employees that came with these companies. Their profiles were consistently similar.

Initially, I thought it was just a coincidence. After seeing the same profile over and over again, I finally concluded that a certain type of personality type is attracted to IT. In a similar way, consistent personality types are attracted to sales professions.

I also measured over 100 IT managers who attended my IT Manager Institute for four years. Again, their work behavior profiles were predictably similar.

It doesn’t matter what your role is in IT. Whether you are an IT manager, programmer, systems or network engineer, project manager, work on the Help Desk or even run IT support as the CIO. If you are in IT, your work behavior tendencies are highly likely going to be similar to everyone else in IT.

What’s the point?

It’s simple. The work behavior traits that help you become an excellent technician can prevent you from achieving success in an IT manager role.

Let’s take a look at each trait.

There are four work behavior areas in many of the personality evaluation tools like Myers Briggs and others I’ve used, and here is what I have discovered:

Trait #1:  90 percent of all IT employees are independent, self starters and technically oriented. No problem so far; these work behavior traits can probably help you as much in a manager role as in a technical role.

Trait #2:  85-90 percent of all IT employees have a high sense of urgency. To say we are impatient is an understatement for most of us in IT. High sense of urgency is a good thing for IT managers as long as you approach major problem situations like a system outage in a way that has a calming and stabilizing effect.

Trait #3:  Over 90 percent are high detail and like to do the work themselves. This is great for a technical employee. Programmers and other tech employees achieve success pretty much on their individual performance; they are in more control of their own success. In a manager role, you depend on your employees to get things done. This is a big transition challenge for most young IT managers. Letting go of the detail and depending upon others can be a major obstacle.

Trait #4:  Just over 70 percent are shy and introverted. This is a big challenge for IT managers. As a programmer or systems engineer, strong communication skills are not so essential, especially communicating outside their inner circle. In an IT manager role, strong communication skills are required. The problem with shy people is that they usually don’t develop their communication skills because they don’t deem them to be needed. In addition, shy people have a lower desire to communicate. All of these issues are major stumbling blocks to success for IT managers and must be overcome.

When you think of the first three work behavior traits being at 90 percent or more, it’s pretty much everyone in your IT organization.

One more thing

If you put all of these traits together to make a work behavior profile, it sums up to be an individual who looks at work this way:

  • Let’s do it (self starter),
  • Do it now (high sense of urgency),
  • Do it my way (high detail),
  • and I don’t want to talk about it (shy and introverted)

marineThis is the makeup of an authoritative management style that works well in the military but not so well in a professional business environment.

Modify the last trait by communicating more and you have a persuasive management style. This style is much more effective for IT managers in a corporate environment.

Technical experts who become IT managers need to do two things if they have the four traits discussed above:

  1. Let go of the detail they are so used to being in. Have you heard the phrase, “You need to get out of the weeds!”? Managers must depend on their employees to take care of the detail. It won’t be easy but it’s necessary for your success.
  2. Learn how to communicate effectively. Strong communication must become a core competency so learn what and how to communicate effectively plus put processes in place that force you to communicate.

The good news is that if we need to adjust a couple of our work behavior traits, it is a straightforward thing to do and more success is in your grasp.

This article first appeared in my CIO.com Blog, Practical Management Tips for IT Leaders.

How significant is positive attitude?

phoneI was in a non-business setting with several people I know not long ago. It was during the holidays and a young man who was in the group started commenting about a phone call he had with his manager that morning.

What I heard bothered me.

What he described was that his manager called him to ask some questions about a client situation they had. It was a normal work day but the young man was on vacation following a major holiday.

He then proceeds to almost boast to our little informal group that he made absolutely sure his manager understood, “he was on vacation”. The assumption seemed to be, “I don’t do company work when I’m on vacation.”

I don’t know what you think about this, but my thought was, , ,

WOW !!!

I immediately put myself in this young fellow’s manager’s shoes and thought about what he must be thinking if this kid actually made these statements and in the tone he stated he did.

Again, , , ,   WOW !!!

I want to see this young man succeed, but he is going to struggle with this kind of attitude. His whole demeanor came across as sarcastic and negative, , , arrogant even. That’s what I heard and I’m sure it’s what his manager heard, , , again if he used the same bravado tone and words that he expressed in our group.

Maybe he was trying to boast to us a bit that, “he is in charge” and didn’t actually have the conversation the way it sounded. Hopefully that’s what it was because I can assure you his manager made a note in the back of his mind about the young man “not being a team player” if he did.

Let me put in some context to all of this:

  • I know the young man but don’t really know much about what he does other than it has to do with technology.
  • I don’t know the manager nor do I have any idea as to whether he is a good manager or a weak one.
  • I know nothing about the situation that precipitated the call.

So, I don’t know very much about the situation, , , but what I do know a little bit about is managing people and how managers tend to view things.

My reaction is simple. The young man in question is making a big mistake.

I’ll give the manager the benefit of the doubt and assume he is a reasonably decent manager. If so, here are some thoughts from a management perspective:

  • We don’t call our employees when they are on vacation unless we have an emergency or maybe the employee is the only person who has information we truly need before he gets back.
  • Managers are looking for team players who “step up” when the opportunity presents itself.
  • None of us want to abuse our employees. We want them to take vacation and time off so they can recharge the batteries.
  • Calling someone on vacation is usually a last resort to an important situation.
  • We look for people with “can do” attitudes, not people who complain and make life difficult.
  • “Can do” people get ahead; difficult people do not.

I’m concerned that this young guy won’t advance as much as he could if he maintains this negative attitude. He seems to be capable technically, but the best technical people are not always the people who get ahead.

Positive attitude, teamwork and people skills are just as important, if not more so, than strong technical skills.

Part of what I heard in the discussion was that our young man knows the technology and feels empowered by it, , , even so much as thinking he can put his manager in his place and almost chastising him for daring to call him while on vacation.

This is a false assumption, , , eventually the employee loses if that’s the case. The reason is simple, , , we have a job to do and at times very challenging work that can be stressful. Managers are looking for positive contributors and team players. Ultimately, this manager will not be held captive by his employee no matter how capable he is with the technology.

I can tell you that I would do two things with an employee who responded the way this young man stated he did:

  1. Coach him on a few things:
    1. How this comes across, , , i.e., negatively
    2. There are business reasons why a call to him while on vacation might be necessary
    3. Explain what the business implications are if he can’t be reached
    4. Talk about how we get him out of being a “silo of information” so we don’t need to call him on vacation
  2. Start identifying my backup plan so we aren’t at risk if we lose him

Managers want their employees to be successful, , , but we won’t be held hostage by a great technical person who can’t be a positive force on the team. Teamwork rules because without it the entire organization fails.

In summary, positive attitude and teamwork are key, , , maybe two of the most important aspects of what helps you get ahead. It doesn’t mean you can be technically incompetent, but given the choice of two people who are technically competent and one that is positive and the other is negative and difficult to work with, , , who do you think gets further ahead?

Yep, , , the positive force and the person who understands the importance of teamwork.

Positive attitude can make all the difference.

IT people must be aware of something. Our personalities are often skeptical of others and we prefer to do things ourselves, , , not necessarily teamwork traits. It’s important for career success to be a positive contributor and avoid confrontation when possible.

When challenges occur, , , look for positives in the situation, , , not the negatives. It will reward you in the long run because people around you will notice the upbeat, consistently positive attitude you have even under duress.

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 people are very analytical

Your IT employees are analytical by nature, , , in fact, over 90% are high detail oriented people  and high detail people are analytical.

There is nothing wrong in being analytical. It’s actually a good trait for an IT employee, especially when troubleshooting a problem.

However, it can also be a dangerous thing for your organization if you do not understand the dynamics that take place.

Here is the issue, , , when high detail people are faced with change and they don’t fully understand the change, they analyze the issues they are being confronted with. It could be a reorganization, adding a new employee, changing priorities, cancelling a project, , , any of the things that happen in our day to day work.

Analyzing the situation is not the problem. The problem comes when the analysis results are arrived at by the person, , , ,and in almost all cases, the results high detail people come up with are negative.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say we plan to add a senior programmer to our programming support team so we hire this new employee. If we don’t explain why we are doing this to our other programmers, they start analyzing and come up with their own results as to why the manager is doing this.

They come up with things like:

  • “I should have been promoted.”
  • “They don’t think I’m doing a good job.”
  • “I might lose my job.”

They do not arrive at, “This is going to be a good thing for me.”

What this means is that when you introduce change into your IT organization, it is important to know that over 90% of your employees are high detail people who analyze change. It is critical that you explain what’s going on and why we are making these changes, , , and why this will be helpful to each and every programmer on your team.

If they can’t get to why this will be helpful to them, you will meet resistance, possible morale issues, loss of productivity,  etc.

Head all of this off by communicating with your team so they better understand change and why the change is important.