Don Spencer (Waterloo, ON, IT Professional)
What makes for a productive IT environment? What can a manager do to keep staff fully engaged in their respective projects, collaborating with one another at an optimal level, efficient and effective most of the time?
Well, many things, actually. The IT manager has at his or her disposal a toolkit of soft skills to help the IT crew sail the seas at top speed. But there are also many ways in which a manager can unintentionally sabotage the working environment. The trouble in both cases, of course, is that you don't know what you don't know.
Which is why we turn to one another for guidance and lessons learned about this business of management. We all know that IT management isn't just about bits and bytes, or even reports and reviews. It's about those soft skills too.
One thing I've learned is that one of the most effective ways in which to trim the sails of any IT ship is to create a culture of respect. Doing so isn't just about being nice to one another. It isn't just about avoiding stereotypes, racism, bigotry, and bad behaviour. It is, partially at least, about setting an example, something which anyone can, with just a modicum of effort, do independently of policies and procedures.
But creating a culture of respect can be facilitated by clearly and consistently articulating the need for - the demand for - respect for one another. One of the ways I've seen this done is by regular staff meetings in which news and corporate strategies are shared as openly as possible. Doing so demonstrates respect for those being managed.
A clearly articulated and regularly updated performance review process also helps. That too demonstrates respect for everyone, whether C-level managers, mid-level managers, or those who just get the job done.
Getting rid of under-achievers is also important because it demonstrates not only that we respect the work we do but that some people are better suited for other jobs in other environments. Doing this admittedly unpleasant task with skill and respect for all involved reinforces what respect for the job implies.
Encouraging appropriate use of communications technology helps promote respect. Using email, when interrupting someone on the phone or visiting them in person might be an unnecessary interruption, conveys an underlying message about respecting individual work loads and priorities.
Keeping meetings brief and on target does the same.
Providing the right tools for the right job while acknowledging budgetary constraints conveys an underlying message of respect.
Open doors, courtesies, appropriate pay scales and benefits packages, training incentives - there are so many ways to say "I respect those who work here."
No rocket science here, just common sense and a consistent message. Respect is magical. You know when you're in an environment which values respect. And you want to stay there.