Skip to main content

Dealing with Geeks

A computer dictionary defines geeks in many ways like, ‘An individual who enjoys computers and technology, someone who is always immersed with computers, a computer expert or enthusiasts, and so on.’ As a tech manager of any designation like CTO, CIO, etc., it’s important to be able to effectively lead a team of geeks or IT support staff in your company. However, leading such geeks require some special types of leadership skills that are different from the usual leadership fodder preached by traditional management consultants or books. So, what is that unique difference required in leading geeks? This chapter describes five important tips IT leaders must learn to lead geeks, whether they are within their own organizations or from outside.
1. Accept: Unless you are a megalomaniac you must acknowledge and accept that many of the techies you are supposed to lead are usually smarter and more talented than you. Also, many of the techies you lead, whether you like it or not, are themselves technical leaders irrespective of the title or salary they get. Hence, first switch off all intimidating components of a boss-subordinate behavior, however irresistible it’s. They are turn-offs in relationships. For example, do not use popular irritating statements like, ‘Don’t come to me with problems, come to me with solutions,’ or ‘I know the solution, but I want to hear it from you’ or ‘Show me the business value,’ etc.
2. Knowledge: You can earn the respect of your team members only if you able to converse with them in the language they use. That is, you must be able to talk and understand technical stuff. You may be a good and kind person, but that is not enough to be a good technical manager or leader. If managers lack the required knowledge and advisory skills to coach, mentor and supervise their department they can agitate their team members to death. In addition to stressing their team members daily, managers will stress themselves more as they will be unable to lead effectively. This lack of knowledge can often lead to conflicts as you may make unrealistic demands on your techies, commit to impractical requests by customers, overload your techies, etc. Soon, it will become an ego conflict between the, ‘Knowledgeable and the Clueless.’
3. Constant learning: It is understandable that a manager cannot be expected to have an accurate knowledge from day one. To gain knowledge one must get into the deep water to understand the nitty-gritty of a new department’s work, irrespective of their earlier experience. And no matter which department you manage there will be some amount of new learning every day to keep abreast of latest trends and happenings related to that particular industry. And you should be able to roll up your sleeves and pitch in if necessary.
4. Don’t switch topics: Many managers have the habit of switching to some other topic just for the sake of disagreeing or proving a point. For example, if techies talk technical stuff many managers switch the topic to finance like ROI, business justification, etc. Or if techies talk costs then they drop a smarty like, ‘Cost is not a concern when it comes to customer satisfaction,’ to throw them off guard. In other words, they just disagree for the sake of disagreeing to introduce a different viewpoint. However, if you believe your angle is more important then learn to steer the topic smoothly without expecting them to read your mind and tell things that you like to hear.
5. Written communication: This is an extremely important skill that all techies must learn. The palest ink is better than the most retentive memory. Learn to put everything in writing in a clear simple language. Instead of giving speeches, talking or advising for an hour just summarize what you want and how you want in a concise email. Reduce formal talkative meetings to an absolute minimum. Instead, have quick informal meetings with your techies at their usual haunts like data centers, cabling rooms, server rooms, etc. That way you will get to know their ground realities, practical difficulties, limitations, workloads, etc., rather than have vague ideas of what they do by reading status reports.
Of course, there are heaps of other best practices that an IT manager must learn. However, the above five are a good beginning in case you are not practicing them already. Finally, we can summarize this chapter with a quote from Thomas Watson who said, ‘A manager is an assistant to his men.’


Popular posts from this blog

How to Ask Beautiful Questions

Sometime back I was watching a TV program on a business channel where a bunch of reputed CEOs, CFOs, COOs, etc., were the judges for a young business entrepreneur program. Each young participant was expected to present a business case for the winning entry. However, the program was going nowhere as the judges weren’t allowing any participant to complete their presentation or go beyond a couple of sentences, and would constantly bombard them with questions after questions. The judges were even firing questions at each other, and answering every question with another question. Every young participant, half their age, were being ripped to pieces with their incessant and often cynical questions. Finally, one of the participants was awarded a ceramic pot of un-definable shape with something inscribed on it, while the others walked out dazed and gasping for breath.  Mercifully, the program ended soon. What the above incident teaches you is the world today is full …

Workaholics are Not Role Models

A CEO of a reputed organization once said he has been working more than 90 to 100 hours a week for many years, and jokingly adds he should have done more. And in another reputed car manufacturing company dozens of employees and managers get cash rewards and appreciation certificates for not taking a single day leave during the last two or three years. In yet another case, a jet-set CEO was proudly patting his own back stating that he loves his work so much that he often does not see his family or kids for several weeks, and cannot remember when he took a couple of days leave or a vacation. Nowadays, the number of such morons is increasing at an exponential rate. And you can very easily spot such people as they will be constantly talking on their mobiles, checking their handheld devices for text messages or always connected to their office via their laptops for never-ending emails and so on. Such people have their hands and minds loaded with projects, countless…

History - Telescopes to the Future

Nowadays, if you read interviews of any top business people in any news media you will invariably see a question that asks which book they have recently read or are currently reading. And their obvious answers will be the names of some newfangled management book like why the moon is still round while the earth is going flat, or the fifteenth leadership habit of a maverick, or some new cutting-edge book about managing people, or even some fancy novel. But you will never hear any businessman say they are reading an ordinary book like a medieval or ancient history textbook. Now, you may argue how a boring textbook on history help a businessperson can run his or her business. Besides, who has the time to read history, and who cares if some Attila the Hun plundered a village in the fourth century or some king was beheaded by his courtiers? And why bother with what has been over and forgotten, and what is the justification to study something that is unconnected wi…