Lessons for Managers

Nov 13, 2012 business
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I’ve been a manager before. I’ve lead teams before. However, it’s important to understand the difference between the title of ‘manager’ and someone who actually manages. This time around, I’ve been putting much more effort into managing, not just being the figure head. And, I’m learning things. I think these things not only apply to technology related teams, but teams in general.

Excuse me while I brain dump. :)

People have different ways of motivation

When talking with a coworker about a wage adjustment, they said “yeah, the raise isn’t really all that important to me.” I was taken aback. I thought everyone was driven by money. (At least that’s what recent campaign commercials would have you believe: horrible, evil greed runs rampant!) I asked more about what motivated that employee. The answer was simple: “I have things to learn and ways to grow - and I get the chances here.”

This lead me to think more about the people on my team (and on previous teams.) There are some that are motivated by money, that is true. Others are motivated by convenience. That is to say, they’ve been doing the same work over and over and are comfortable. Or, perhaps the location of the job and hours required are comfortable. Others enjoy the challenge. Once the challenge goes away, they leave (I see some of that in my younger years as a programmer.) And, some are in a place to learn.

So, the take-away here is to understand your team. Perhaps a bonus or a raise is second-best to more opportunities. That’s where managers come in: identify the need, and make all inroads for it to happen. If it is money, fight for a larger budget. If it is opportunity or training, get those approved.

Some people will care, others won’t

Some people will care about their job, how well they do, if they’re evaluated successfully. Other’s won’t. To me, it seems like those who do care have a few reasons that make them care. These usually revolve around personal pride and appreciation of their direct manager. (Perhaps I haven’t been in such companies where employees want to do good because of the care they have in the company - which of course, is a bit sad.) Others just won’t care. They have been disenfranchised for some reason. They either dislike their manager, their company, or they don’t care about their career/job - that is to say, don’t have any aspirations for growth.

What I’ve learned as a manager is that whether or not someone cares, I must care - and identify the source of their excitement or apathy. For those who care, encourage them along those lines. For those who have lost that spark, try to remedy the situation for them. The ones who don’t care really need to be tended. As the saying goes, “one bad apple…”

ROI is tough

When managing people, ROI can be tough. I think of a recent example. I requisitioned a software purchase of $1k. Because I’m a budgetary based man, I like to try to determine the return on that investment. Unfortunately, I couldn’t directly point to what gain that software would have. I guess, I could put together some sort of guestimate on efficiency, but it would only be a guess.

Sometimes the ROI is the measurement of the lack of loss. I know that the software that I purchased was replacing software that had bugs in it. The loss of productivity with that software will hopefully be remedied.

One unique part of the tech world is the actual technology itself. In no other field is it as particularly expected that the participants and employees have the newest and latest hardware and software. Making small purchases like this, without much discernible ROI, can help stem talent loss. IT talent has been known to leave positions when not presented with the tools deemed to be necessary. So, this small investment can potentially reduce the chance of losing top talent due to a newest-and-greatest drought.

I’ve got more to learn

I’ve got a lot more to learn. But, I feel like this is a great start. I particularly like to blog here about these concepts on a mainly technical blog to help mix the two worlds. I also think that programmers can be too disconnected from the perils of management - and tend not to understand why their manager did what they did. Perhaps entries like these will help shine some light.

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