Employee engagement surveys have become increasingly common. In most cases, companies include questions that allow them to gauge how workers feel about their positions, managers, or the organization. They may ask if the employee thinks they are receiving enough recognition or if they have a best friend at work.
Every professional has to deal with stress on occasion. Unexpected obstacles, surprise problems, or mistakes can all happen. Plus, nearly every workplace has to contend with frequent change, shaking up the existing paradigm, and requiring employees to take on something new.
Stress is just part of the working world; it’s essentially unavoidable. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t explore options to mitigate it.
By keeping your team’s stress low, they will be more productive and satisfied in their positions. With the addition or enhancement of specific problem-solving skills, your employees can become more capable, something that generally leads to diminishing stress levels. If you want to alleviate your team’s stress, here are three components of problem-solving that are worth your attention.
As a manager, you are responsible for your team’s success. You need to take active steps to keep your employees engaged and help them thrive, and that requires more than just delegating tasks.
While there are many ways to enhance engagement, certain points are more critical than others. If you want to make sure you succeed as a manager, here are four areas that deserve your attention.
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.
You earned your promotion because you successfully applied your skills in your previous role, but the management role is very different from a hands-on technical role. Cranking out bug-free code isn't your job anymore; motivating your team to crank out code, making sure they have the resources they need, and negotiating time, budget, and requirements with business users will fill your day. Here's what you need to do to help your team (and you) succeed.
Recognize That Things Have Changed
Sometimes the promotion comes with a new job or a new project, and it's obvious things are different. Other times, you're asked to step into the lead role on the same project you've been working on. That can create a tendency to keep doing what you were doing, and to interact with the team the same way you used to. Don't allow that to happen! Make a conscious decision to refocus your time on business problems, rather than technical problems. You may also need to change how you interact with work buddies who are no longer your peers; you need to create a relationship where they accept, respect, and work towards the direction you give.
Management gets things done less by sheer technical, analytical, or business skill than by building relationships that allow them to collaborate with others and persuade others to do things a certain way. Don't isolate yourself behind your desk with spreadsheets; attend meetings in person when possible and always introduce yourself to other attendees. If you're a typical techie, your interpersonal skills could use some work, so take classes that help build your ability to communicate on paper and in person.
Focus on Business Needs
You've probably got a specific project you need to deliver, but the way to make the biggest impact on the business is to focus on the business's long-term strategic goals. Be prepared to suggest ways your technical team can contribute to meeting those goals beyond the current deliverable. Business management lacks the understanding of changes in technology that can support different ways of doing business, so take on the responsibility of envisioning and selling the role of technology.
Whether you're looking for your first management position or have mastered the skills needed to work as a senior executive, The Armada Group can help match you to an opportunity that will stretch your capabilities. Contact us to discuss your career goals and learn how our recruiters can help you achieve them.
Teams that are well-managed have a better chance of succeeding at their projects. Take advantage of these four ways to change the way you guide your tech team and improve the performance of your team.
Make yourself unnecessary.
The more independently your team can work, the more time you can spend working on strategy and achieving your own professional goals. Don't stint on training. Bring on strong leads. Develop a project management process that staff can look at to see their goals, deadlines, and next priorities. Empower your team to interact with your end users; not only do they know the application best, these interactions will help them understand the users better and lead to a better application.
Most managers are buried under a deluge of emails, but often the most important information is hidden between the lines. Be aware that you may not get honest answers in meetings, so seek out private conversations where people can speak freely. Make sure meetings remain focused on the agenda rather than sidetracked by other issues; schedule another meeting if you need to follow up on another matter. Have an open door policy so your team feels free to come to you with their concerns.
Many technical managers come from the development role; they were promoted based on their technical skill rather than their management ability. Take an honest look at your capabilities and knowledge; managers succeed more on business knowledge and interpersonal skills than their programming ability. The better you are at your own job, the more effectively your team will perform.
Focus on the positive.
Projects fall behind schedule; production problems bring the wrath of senior management down on you. It's easy to focus on negativity and the problems you're experiencing, but it's important that your team experiences and celebrates success. Make sure everyone on your team understands the goals for the current week or quarter and what your vision of success is. Then, make sure you acknowledge and celebrate it when your team makes progress in achieving it. Your team will develop positive morale that helps them get the job done.
Managing your team well starts with building a strong team. The Armada Group has spent 20 years connecting employers with talented employees. Contact us to learn how we can help you build a strong team that practically manages itself.
If the members of your development team came off an assembly line, with identical skills and personalities, managing them would be so much simpler! The team would automatically be compatible, and the same rewards would motivate everyone to do their best. But team members don't come off an assembly line, they each have differing skills and personalities, and one of the biggest challenges for managers is figuring out the right way of interacting with each unique team member to achieve a successful result.
The Tech Geek
Some team members are all about the technology. They'll argue the reasons you must adopt the dot-19 version of a library instead of continuing with the dot-16 version you're currently using. They'll swear the latest technology that's barely made it out of the lab is the only thing that will let the business beat out its competitors.
Get the most out of these geeky team members by giving them the chance to show off their technical chops and prove the benefits of those new technologies through small pilot projects. These developers are also the folks you should ask to build the most technically complex, critical components of your application. Make sure they know you appreciate the value of new technology and of their skills, within the context and confines of the project needs and schedules.
The Independent Thinker
Even though agile development teams define their own processes, not every team member buys in completely. When you have a developer who goes their own way, it becomes much more challenging to track project activities and ensure a high level of quality.
To bring these independent thinkers into line, make sure their voices get heard in the meetings where team processes are discussed. If they deviate later, remind them that they participated in the definition of the process, and that it's important they adhere to the procedures they agreed to at the time.
The Deadline Misser
Getting code working right is tough, and some developers consistently struggle to meet their deadlines. In some cases, this is because they just don't have the skills for the job, and you may have to take corrective action. In other cases, it's just that – like most developers – they're overly optimistic when giving estimates of how long work will be. If there's a pattern of missed deadlines, have a talk with the developer to see whether they need training in programming or in estimating, and be sure to add buffer into their estimates, so future projects more closely match to reality.
Development teams need all kinds of skills and personalities. If there's a gap on your team, The Armada Group's boutique staffing services can help you find the right new hire to make your project succeed. Contact us to learn more about our staffing services.
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.
Code is an artifact. Despite what you may think, the job of an IT employee isn't to write code. The job of an IT employee is to come up with the ideas behind the code. The brainwork is the most valuable part of their job; actually typing the code is mostly mechanical.
Encourage Productivity and Improve Morale
Developers need a quiet environment to write the best code; these days, it's unlikely you'll be able to give them real offices with doors, but at least give them partitions high enough to block out a lot of noise.
It's not just about noise, though. For developers to do their best work, they need minimal distractions so they can focus and concentrate. That means reduce unnecessary interruptions. Reduce the number of meetings, and make sure they have a purpose. Don't send emails to the entire distribution list if only one person needs to respond. Encourage your team to get out of the habit of checking emails constantly. Give workers flexibility to adapt their jobs to their lives by allowing them to work from home occasionally. Don't micromanage. Basically, just leave your employees alone to get the job done.
The benefits of leaving IT employees with time to think go beyond getting code done faster and with higher quality. IT employees are intellectual workers who enjoy thinking and solving problems. Leaving them alone gives them time to focus on these mental tasks they enjoy, meaning they're happier at work. It gives them autonomy and demonstrates your trust in them, which feels good. Making your IT team happy and improving morale means they're likelier to stay with your company; considering how difficult it can be to replace a highly skilled technical employee, that's a big value to you.
New Thoughts, New Ideas, New Products
Plus, giving employees time to think means giving them time for new ideas. New ideas can mean new, better ways of performing business processes or translate into new products and new profits for your business. The information technology industry depends on innovation, and most innovations come from the employees, not the managers. Which isn't to say that managers don't come up with useful ideas, also. If you reduce unnecessary meetings with your team and reduce your involvement in issues your staff can handle, you free up your own time for thinking as well. What value will you create for your company with that extra time?
Performance reviews are a key part of the management job, but they're not something all managers enjoy. Even a positive review is stressful for an employee, and negative reviews … well, not every employee appreciates constructive criticism. Sometimes employees get defensive, or even hostile, when they receive negative comments. How you respond to that reaction can make a big difference in your working relationship with that employee going forward.
First, make sure the employee understands the goal of the feedback. Unless the performance has been so bad the employee is at risk of being fired – and you should have a first conversation long before it reaches that point – the goal is to help them succeed. State this upfront, and establish that you will work with them and support them to make their success possible.
… and then get their opinion. It's possible there's something about the situation that you weren't aware of that might change your perception. Even if it doesn't, you need to understand how they see it. You may not be able to argue the employee out of their point of view, but you'll be able to tailor your approach more effectively.
Make sure you don't interrupt the employee during their response. Cutting them off can be seen as disrespectful. Pay attention to their body language and facial expressions, as well as their words.
You don't want to argue with the employee, but if they disagree or deny the accuracy of your evaluation, be prepared with examples that support your opinion. Also, be ready to present suggestions to help the employee address those problems.
If the employee continues to deny the problems, it may be better to continue the discussion another time. Suggest the employee take time to think over your feedback and schedule a continuation of the discussion for a day or so later.
When you have that second discussion, make sure the employee understands the consequences of not taking action to correct the issue. If possible, speak about the positive benefits of achieving the change, as well as the potential negative consequences if performance doesn't improve.
Lastly, make sure the employee knows it's not their responsibility alone to fix the problem. Some problems can only be corrected with help from outside resources like an Employee Assistance Program or training in specific skills. Offer your employee these options, as well as your support, in order to help them improve and succeed at work.