Say you’re casting parts in an episode of Casualty, where the big plotline is a hostage situation in an office IT department.
You need to fill three roles: Hostage negotiator, IT manager and SAS operative.
The talent agency sends you three neatly typecast actors:
Female, late 20s, mysterious, witty, slightly unhinged, driven by something in her past
Male, early 20s, muscular, nice smile, can’t even spell ‘University Challenge’
Male, mid 40s, tired-looking, broken spectacles, grinds his teeth a lot, reluctant to do anything
Now, who gets which part?
The point I’m making is that it’s too easy to pigeonhole IT people. Dangerously easy to underestimate them.
The fact is that IT managers are just as likely to be brilliant, energetic, decisive and brave, let alone female/male, young/old, black/white.
They absolutely have the potential to develop and give effect to lasting change in your business strategy. If you let them…
I’ve found that the habits of the most successful IT people contradict the stereotypes and show how much they actually have in common with their colleagues.
The big three you need to appreciate and encourage are:
An eagerness to do more than just ‘business as usual’
Business decision makers aren’t the only ones bustling to go the extra mile, and working with the broader interests of the organisation at heart. According to a recent Spiceworks survey, IT professionals in EMEA work on average 49 hours a week. 18% work more than 60 hours a week. These aren’t people content to do the bare minimum and go home on time.
Before they can innovate and add extra value, IT managers have their operational duties to fulfil first. But create an environment with enough space and time, and you can unlock this faster and more effectively, without burning all their energy up.
A desperate need for the big picture
For practical and personal reasons, IT managers crave a 360 degree understanding of the business status and its vision for the future. That innate desire to feel part of a change that transcends your own perspective not only makes individuals happier in their roles, but also delivers additional strategic value to the objective at hand.
Acknowledging this is part of good leadership. Not inclusivity for the sake of it, but rather a sincere approach to transparency and bringing views on board from IT people who might otherwise be kept at arm’s length to merely execute on decisions already taken.
Positivity about change
The classic misconceptions about IT-driven change sit poles apart, with IT managers sadly portrayed as the villains of the piece whichever end of the spectrum the stereotype demands. Either fervent techno-Bolsheviks, eager for an opportunity to launch a radical IT agenda with impossible aims that will cost the earth and be completely divorced from what the business needs, or ultra-conservative pessimists, desperate to cling on their tiny IT protectorate and suspicious of anything that threatens their cosy status quo.
In my experience, IT managers are no more negative about change than their business colleagues, and neither has a monopoly on excitement, confusion or impatience.
IT people at all levels perform best when sat around the table together with business management colleagues, not existing in a culture where they face each other from opposite ends.
Technology promises so many possibilities that - as business people - we’re bound to occasionally get disappointed when it isn’t delivered right now, fully-formed, for less than we were expecting to pay. It’s no surprise that many IT managers feel they’re on a hiding to nothing from their business colleagues, simply because they’re closer to that technology and expectations aren’t always easy to communicate.
The IT manager in your life might be wired a little differently to you, but it doesn’t take much to harness their potential and support their success. You’ve got more in common with them than you think. You could even be the same person, just playing a different role.