As the holiday season approaches, many managers look for ways to express their appreciation to their IT team. However, if you want your employees to genuinely feel valued, you have to look beyond the acknowledgements that you typically dole out this time of year.
Often, to show your staff that you value them, you need to make an effort to ensure they feel heard, and this can’t be accomplished if you only focus on it during the holidays. If you want to make sure your IT team knows they are valued, here’s what you need to do.
Say “Thank You” Often
Managers are typically overtasked. This means it is easy to forget how your team keeps projects and daily activities moving forward, as it’s just part of the day-to-day. However, by actively trying to remember to thank them for their contributions, you demonstrate that you value what they have to offer. Plus, it shows that their efforts aren’t going unnoticed and that they are appreciated.
It also helps to extend your thanks beyond yourself. Let your team know when stakeholders appreciate the results of their efforts as well, especially if they don’t have an opportunity to interact directly with other leaders or customers.
Be an Active Listener
You can’t make your IT team feel heard if you spend the entire conversation merely waiting for your chance to speak. While you plan your response, you miss critical details in the discussion, and this can cause your employees to become frustrated if their input was ignored, even if it was unintentional.
When your employees speak, make sure to focus solely on listening. Take in every word and wait for a natural pause before you even begin to formulate a response. That way, you won’t miss a vital part of the conversation and your reply can be more meaningful.
Give Them Challenges
While every IT role comes with a certain level of monotony, giving your employees a chance to stretch outside of their comfort zones or take on a challenge can actually show that you value them. By allowing them to use their unique talents to take on something new, you demonstrate your trust in their abilities and interest in helping them grow.
See Them as Individuals
In IT, functioning as part of a team is the norm. This makes praising the group more common when a job is well done since multiple people were critical to the overall success of the project.
While recognizing the team’s efforts is wise, you also want to see them as individuals. Highlight each person’s achievements to make them feel seen and single them out if they truly went above and beyond. This ensures that every employee understands that they are valued for what they bring to the table and not just what they can accomplish together.
If you would like to know about how you can show your IT team you value them this season and beyond, the professionals at The Armada Group can help. Contact us with your questions or thoughts today and see how our workplace expertise can benefit you.
A manager's job isn't the same as a worker's job, so it's no surprise they don't need to know the same things. In many occupations, that difference in knowledge bases isn’t a big deal, but technology projects and technical decisions require specialized knowledge. Managers who don't come from a technical background sometimes have a hard time understanding all the factors that affect a team's ability to meet project deadlines, and to deliver successfully. Here's how you can work effectively with a non-technical manager.
Recognize That Your Boss Isn't Stupid, Just Uninformed
Your boss got to their position because they're successful at making management decisions. That means they're smart. But making smart decisions means understanding problems and all the details that impact them. Help your boss make smarter decisions by helping them understand the technology and the choices you want to make. You'll need to support your opinions and proposals by providing lots of background information about the way the technology really works, where the problems come from, and why they can't be solved in a different, faster, cheaper way.
Keep Your Boss Out of the Code
At the same time that you're explaining details of the technology to your boss, you don't want to get so low-level that they're looking over your shoulder at the code. Encourage them to focus on managing the end users, budgets, and administrative issues – while you focus on solving the technical problems.
Document Your Discussions
For some technical problems, you may have to accept a non-technical manager's decision that it's not worth spending more time addressing issues before shipping; a report that lacks bolded headers may not look pretty, but isn't harmful. Other problems are more serious and can leave a company open to compliance problems or even cause real injury to users. In those cases, be sure you document your discussions with your manager to make it clear they were responsible for the decision.
Sometimes the frustrations of dealing with a non-technical manager are simply too much to put up with any longer. If you've reached that point of frustration and need to find a manager you'll be more compatible with, The Armada Group can help match you with a position where you'll thrive. Contact us to start your job search now.
Managers are busy. It's tempting to communicate with your team via email blasts and team meetings, where you can talk to everyone at once. Fitting one-on-one meetings into your schedule is important, though, because email doesn't convey tone and people may say things in private they wouldn't say in a group. So once you've managed to squeeze a one-on-one meeting onto your calendar, be sure you make the most of the opportunity.
The best one-to-one meetings take place in person, in a quiet location where you won't be distracted. If you can't meet in person, like with remote staff, that doesn't mean you're limited to email; make use of the other communication methods the Internet supports, like Skype. As with in-person meetings, make sure you're in a quiet place. Before making any Internet calls, make sure you have all the software you need installed. Test it out before the first time. If you can't complete an Internet call because of technical glitches, it's frustrating for the other person; they may feel their time was wasted and you don't value their time.
Put aside your cellphone and stop checking emails for the duration of the meeting. Have a plan for the discussion; this time is too valuable for a rambling conversation. Because these meetings should be about what the employee needs, you may want to have your employee prepare an agenda of the points they'd like to discuss.
At the same time, don't be all business. One-on-ones give you a chance to connect on a personal level with the people on your team. Without stooping to gossip, make sure you're aware of their personal situation so you can interact with them as a person, not just as an employee.
Listen closely to what the employee tells you. Keep it confidential when appropriate, but also be sure to take action where needed. It's worse to have a meeting and ignore acting on an employee's requests than not to have the meeting at all.
These meetings should be regular, but you can also schedule a follow-up meeting to touch base on progress. And even though one-on-one conversations should be routine, don't let them become routine. Make them interesting and valuable for your employees, so they want to keep talking with, and working for, you.
Delivering a year-end review isn't the same as an end-of-semester report card. Report cards only grade the work that was done. Good year-end reviews assess the work that was done and also give guidance on how the work could be done better.
Report Cards are One-Way, Reviews are Two-Way
Report cards carry the teacher's assessment, and are sent home for signatures – students don't get to explain their side. But reviews shouldn't be based solely on the manager's feedback. Review conversations should be a discussion, with the employee offering their insights as well. Both the manager and the employee should come to the review prepared. If the manager has to make negative comments, they should be able to identify specific instances where the employee's contribution was weak, and be able to suggest methods of improvement.
Report Cards Look at the Past, Reviews Look to the Future
Report cards assess performance over the past year; they aren't intended to help students do better the next year. Reviews need to evaluate the past year's performance, but it's more important to plan for the next year. This requires identifying both areas where the employee needs to improve and areas where the employee wants to advance. Both the employer and employee should leave the review discussion with an understanding of what the employee hopes to achieve and how they will work towards that accomplishment.
Report Cards are One Person's Opinion, Reviews Take a Broader View
Report cards are written by a single teacher. An employee's review shouldn't be just the manager's opinion. Even in companies where a formal 360-degree evaluation process doesn't exist, it's important for managers to solicit input from the other people who see the employee's work. This can mean the other technical team members or the other internal departments the employee works with. Opinions from employees' peers should be solicited informally; other department's opinions can be solicited more formally through the management chain. Because managers often don't work closely enough with employees to know their work firsthand, getting opinions from other staff offers a clearer understanding of their work. It also lets the employee understand how their work is affecting the organization, which is what work is really all about.
It's common these days for IT teams to have team members in multiple locations around the world, whether to take advantage of specialized talent or cost factors. Technology helps these scattered teams communicate, but there are still challenges that come when co-workers aren't co-located. Here are four tips for managers to help their remote teams work effectively.
Projects always work more efficiently when there's a plan, and planning is even more critical with remote staff. There are fewer opportunities for casual interactions and questions to clarify assignments, and if confusion crosses time zones, delays can extend for days. Make sure you have a plan, so everyone knows what they're expected to do and when it needs to be done.
Schedule time to communicate
Because team members don't see you in person on a regular basis, they don't often get a lot of feedback. Don't rely on email; it's not dynamic enough, and meaning doesn't always come through. Plan a regular virtual meeting, perhaps once a month, to meet with your remote staff and give development guidance and other feedback. When possible, use videoconferencing, not just audio, so facial expressions and other non-verbal feedback are part of the communication process.
Build processes and systems to support the team
When people are in the same place, you may not need formal processes to address issues that arise; casual communication and spur-of-the-moment working sessions help sort things out. When people are around the world, a formally defined process ensures that everyone knows how to raise concerns, and that everyone is able to contribute input to solutions.
Build team spirit
Remote teams still want to feel like part of the team. Make sure remote staff are included in team celebrations. If possible, have managers visit the remote site periodically, and bring senior members of the remote staff for working visits to the home office. Besides providing an opportunity to build a shared work culture, these out-of-office experiences allow you to get to know remote staff as individuals and treat them as the unique people they are.
Moving from a hands-on role to a manager's role means a big change in what you do on a daily basis. It also means a big change in how you relate to co-workers, especially if you now manage former peers. Here are three tips to help you adapt and succeed in this new role.
Draw on Your Experience, but Continue to Learn
The most important thing to recognize as a new manager is that you don't actually know how to do everything the job requires. Your technical skills will help with some aspects of the job, like developing project schedules and deciding if an application is ready to release, but the management role requires other skills, like budgeting and conducting performance reviews, that may not have been needed previously. Plan to take the necessary training and find mentors to help you continue to develop.
As an individual contributor, your success was evaluated solely based on your own performance. As a manager, your success depends on the success of your team. It's important to get team members to buy in to project priorities and deadlines, which means setting goals clearly and being open to feedback. Make sure the team knows you're open to their opinions by having an open-door policy. Some team members may hesitate to speak out in a group setting, so seek them out for one-to-one discussions.
When things aren't going well, get the team's perception of the problem and their input on ways to improve it, rather than dictating a solution or imposing a new process on them. Be sure to celebrate the team's success, too; you don't want them conditioned to expect bad news when you walk into the room.
Support Other's Development
Your success as a manager may inspire others to aspire to management roles. Encourage team members to grow and develop skills, technical and other. Take the annual goal-setting process seriously, and help team members set goals that are achievable, and will benefit them as well as the company. Create an environment that supports learning, by encouraging training. Mentor team members to help them develop. Helping your team develop their skills will make them stronger contributors, increase your team's success, and help you climb the management ladder.