Managing people can be a struggle, and it’s especially challenging if you’re new to a leadership position. This holds true in every industry — but as IT professionals know, there’s no job like a tech job. Being a first-time IT manager, you can face a double hurdle of being new leader, and not having much experience with the skills managers need to successfully lead a team.
Where do IT managers come from?
Working in IT requires a high degree of technical skill. And since IT promotions often happen from within, many first-time IT managers are senior IT staff with enough knowledge and skills to understand all the roles of the people they’ll be leading. But extensive technical experience doesn’t always translate to solid soft skills.
Soft skills — the ability to relate to people, nurture struggling employees, and coordinate a diverse workforce to shape a performing team — are just as essential as hard skills for any IT manager looking to succeed in the role.
Advantages and disadvantages for new IT managers
There are several characteristics common to most IT professionals, and newly promoted tech managers typically have them. These include drive and dedication, creativity, intelligence, decision making, and creative vision. But problems often surface when newly minted IT managers expect the rest of their team to execute the decisions they make — without filling in the steps required to achieve their vision of results.
New technical managers often struggle with leveraging their resources. They may fail to understand the different strengths various team members bring to the table, and may not be sure how to place disparate resources together in order to arrive at a whole, functioning team. Disconnect and confusion results when IT managers fail to communicate who should be doing what, when.
Specific issues faced by first-time IT managers
Many new managers are unprepared to work in a leadership position for the first time, simply because most companies don’t train employees to be leaders. It’s generally a learn-as-you-go function. But new IT managers often have a lot to learn — and if they don’t figure it out quickly, they risk watching the team fall apart.
Some of the most common challenges for new IT leaders include:
- Building alignment: IT professionals are often promoted for their analytical nature and the ability to work independently, which means they lack experience in working closely with people to get things done.
- Keeping the team informed: Typically intelligent and independent, new IT managers have a tendency to try moving directly from vision to execution based on their own judgment — which results in a failure to solicit input from the rest of the team, and leads to anxiety, confusion, and tension.
- Delegating tasks or authority: Many IT managers are fairly inflexible when it comes to getting things done and have a tendency to micromanage, stemming from a belief that they know what’s best for the team and the organization without taking anyone else’s ideas into account.
- Coaching poor performers: IT leaders often struggle with introversion and have difficulty managing conflict. They may also believe that everyone on the team should be independent and self starting, and therefore shouldn’t need help in knowing what needs to be done.
If you’re a new IT manager and struggling with these common challenges, the best strategy is to put aside reliance on your experience and independent accomplishment, and focus on improving your soft skills. Building strong relationships with the people on your team is the key to successful leadership.
Take the time to define your role as an IT leader, and then focus on improving communication for your team. Solicit input from your employees, both individually and collectively, and make decisions on how everyone can best work together to accomplish team goals and objectives. Relationship building becomes easier with practice — and once you’ve created a trusting environment, your team’s technical performance will automatically improve. Talk to the expert team at Strategic IT Staffing today to learn more about being a great first-time it manager.