The course of business is changing
In the changing landscape of business, it’s imperative to have the best tech people on your team, but not every project manager or director has a tech background – so how do you play your part managing your developers and digital whiz kids without tech experience? James Fields, owner and president of Concept Technology and IT staffing company Scout Staffing, has some ideas in his own words below.
Growing your technical team
The Department of Labor projects that by 2020 the number of tech positions will increase by 22 percent. Whether your company is technology-focused or you are adding an internal IT department, now is the time to consider how to effectively lead growing technical teams.
In many cases, a project manager or leader of a tech team may not be technical themselves. Great managers tend to know how to delegate, communicate and motivate—not necessarily code or troubleshoot IT problems.
When developing a team, it’s necessary to play into strengths and find ways for communication to flow seamlessly in both directions. Here are some tips to harmonize relationships and improve productivity as a leader on a technical team:
1. Come to terms with the fact that you will rarely be the smartest person in the room
Directing a room filled with people who are more knowledgeable in an area of expertise than you are can be uncomfortable. Realize that the secret to success in leadership is not knowledge, but access to knowledge.
Even highly trained technical people have limitations, and oftentimes the more talented they are, the quicker they are to admit their boundaries. You should do the same. Your technical team will forgive you for acknowledging if something is outside of your area of expertise. What they won’t forgive is if you pretend to know something you don’t, then use assumptions to make a decision. Admitting your limitations encourages your team members to follow suit, ultimately supporting a culture that is honest in self-assessments and leverages collective knowledge.
2. Find an interpreter
Publically admitting your technical limitations doesn’t remove you from having to function within a technical environment. A working understanding of technical jargon and systems will make your job much easier. You can’t lead well unless you understand what’s going on, at least at a high level. Identify someone on your team who can translate for you. This person should, ideally, be an ally and a leader.
3. Learn something new everyday
You may be able to convince a group of technical people to trust you, despite your lack of technical knowledge, but you won’t be able to retain that trust unless you show a real interest in what they do. Learning a little bit each day about what your team members do and why they do it allows you to demonstrate that their work is important to you, thus important to the company.
4. Be the Phil Jackson to their Michael Jordan
To be successful at managing highly technical, well-educated talent, you must provide them with the best tools to do their job, offer your best guidance when they need it, and then step back and let them take the shot.
In addition to supplying first-rate resources, offer access to ongoing education so that your team continues to grow. Look for opportunities for team members to step up and lead others and find group activities that promote learning and development.
5. Slow your roll.
Highly technical people are generally detail-oriented, and can be more resistant to change. So grab yourself a desktop Zen garden or stress ball and find peace in the extended journey, because changes – like new processes, guidelines or expectations – can take longer to implement than you may anticipate. The benefit of this extra time is that the added attention to detail means things like your new system for reporting software issues will likely be handled right the first time.
James Fields is owner and president of IT service provider Concept Technology and IT staffing company Scout Staffing. Visit Concept Technology at www.concepttechnologyinc.com and Scout at www.scoutstaffing.com.