Today's IT manager needs to be a social animal

Today's IT manager needs to be a social animal

12 November 2020
Gerrit Sarens
Gerrit Sarens
  • 2020 is the year in which digital transformation and remote working became the norm. It is a no-brainer that Covid has had a huge accelerating effect on both.

    2020 should also be the year in which the IT manager (finally) became a social animal. For those who were not convinced yet: communication between IT and the business is an essential key to success.

    In the previous video, we have learned that new ways of approaching the client and selling products and services have put a lot of pressure on IT as it plays a critical role in the implementation of these new strategies. Digital transformation means the business needs more than ever insight and knowledge about the technical feasibility of new strategies. In the previous blog, our Business Mentors advised IT managers to work more bottom-up towards their C-level by giving input and feedback. This requires different skills of IT managers such as presentation skills and speaking convincingly.

    In this blog, we want to add the importance of empathy. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, empathy is the ability to share someone else’s feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in that person’s situation.

  • Ronald Hermans ITV still
  • Empathy towards the business

  • Before giving input and feedback, IT managers must understand the ‘why’ of the new strategies and understand the pressure the business feels. IT managers are reputed for blocking or slowing down the implementation of new strategies by raising a lot of technical constraints which frustrates the business. This frustration often comes from a lack of empathy on behalf of the IT managers.

    Our Business Mentors recommend IT managers to ask a different kind of questions before replying to the business to show that you understand their perspective as well:

    1. What is our competitive landscape?
    2. Why does the business want to do this?
    3. What would happen if we don’t do this?
    4. What is at stake for the decision-makers?
  • Empathy towards IT

  • Empathy should go in both directions. Decision-makers in the business also must be empathic towards their IT colleagues. Today’s reality is that IT is crucial in implementing new strategies but at the same time, also having to provide a lot of operational support to keep the daily operations running. When remote working becomes the norm, IT is often the only one in the front line who can make this happen. No doubt that this creates additional pressure.

    Balancing their operational support role and their strategic implementation role is a complicated exercise for IT managers because both are often considered important and urgent in the Eisenhower decision matrix.

  • Some tips from our Business Mentors

  • Our mind tends to give more importance to urgencies and contingencies that arise than to things we might have at hand and that may be more important. Do not fall into the trap of considering everything as equally urgent. As an IT manager, you are an important gatekeeper for your team.

    Know that besides real urgencies, quite some other urgencies are negotiable or not urgent at all. So, ask yourself the following questions:

    1. What is the task’s goal? If necessary, have a dialogue with your management on the goal and purpose of the request. Thanks to this kind of dialogue, management might realize that the deadline is not reasonable or that the pressure is unnecessary.
    2. What is the real deadline? Ready for 5 PM the same day or ready before the end of the week can make a huge difference for your team.
    3. Who in my team is in the best position to do this task? Delegating the right task to the right person is essential. Make sure you know the strengths of each team member and stay alert for signals of team members they need help or lack the capabilities to execute the task successfully.
    4. Most importantly, how can we anticipate urgencies in the future? Quite some urgencies are due to a lack of foresight and planning. Again, a regular dialogue with your management can prevent and expect this kind or urgencies in the future
  • How to start? An Ambits Business Mentor is always a good first step

  • You recognize this description and you want to put these tips into practice… That’s easier said than done. How to start? How to make sure you don’t fall back into old habits? How to make sure you stay fully in control? Ambits Business Mentors have experience in the technology sector and therefore, understand very well your working context. They all have proven that they are empathic leaders. They are available to become your sounding board, your guide to become a strong leader.

    Contact us to discuss this further.

Struggles of a manager

Managers are

  • new in this role

    and

    • lack self-confidence
    • don’t know how to go from being a colleague to being a boss
    • need to loosen up on the command & control leadership style
    • must let go of the (technical) expert status
    • cannot give or accept constructive feedback
    • feel pressure to perform as manager
    • have difficulty building relationships
    • want to be liked by everyone or want to be the ‘bad boss’
    • play the hero
  • are struggling

    and

    • stay too involved in operations
    • have trouble prioritizing
    • cannot delegate
    • fear conflict situations
    • disconnect from the team
    • deal with flawed strategic thinking
    • do not relate to higher management
    • lack clear communication skills
    • remain not self-aware
    • avoid difficult conversations
    • miss political antennas
    • ...
  • capable of more

    and

    • need mental preparation as successor
    • need to be able to lead big changes ahead
    • need to learn to be emotionally resilient and in control
    • need to learn to make big decisions fast without all the information
    • must become persuasive presenters
    • need to learn how to cultivate their own personal brand
    • need to learn how to lead by example
    • manage by trust, not by fear
    • need to overly develop empathy
    • ...
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