Working with IT managers on a regular basis allows me to see some
great management styles and some really poor ones. On the lower end of
the scale, I see IT managers make 10 major mistakes fairly often. Some
of these errors have even cost some managers their jobs.
1: Focusing on technology and not the business
The typical IT manager comes from a technical background in either
infrastructure or development. Based on their technical roots, they
tend to focus their efforts in their expertise when in fact they should
be looking for ways to support, enable, and improve the business. To be
successful, IT managers must become business leaders and turn their
focus and expertise to business issues and problems first.
2: Thinking “out of sight is out of mind”
It’s important to remember that in IT, no news is not good
news. IT managers tend to trudge along without ever looking at their
progress. The most powerful task you could ever do is an assessment.
There are several ways to do this. You can do a SWOT (Strengths,
Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis or you can do a
full-blown formal IT assessment. You might even use a scorecard system
to track where you are as a department. You can download a free scorecard developed specifically for this purpose.
3: Thinking that your team has it covered
In the TV show The Apprentice, so many teams ended up in
the boardroom because the leader delegated a job but didn’t follow up
to make sure it was done right. Following up is not micromanagement.
It’s your job as a leader to ensure that the task gets done correctly.
4: Not inspecting what you expect
This mistake has its roots in mistake number 3 but can be carried
forward into other aspects of IT. For instance, you could possibly
expect great performance out of your servers but may not have a system
to make sure they’re running at peak capacity. This ultimately leads to
poor planning, budgeting, staffing, etc. If you want to avoid this
common pitfall, make a comprehensive list of expectations for your
entire department. This could include critical projects, network and
server performance, client satisfaction, etc. Double-check the list to
make sure you are inspecting all expectations on a regular basis. Keep
a checklist or develop a daily disciplines worksheet to follow
everything that needs daily inspection.
5: Not creating a partnership with business management
I find a great deal of IT managers reporting to operations and
finance personnel instead of presidents and CEOs. The only way IT can
be an effective and strategic element to business is through
partnership with business executives. You must lead and influence your
reports, peers, and leaders to have a maximum impact on the
organization. The quicker you can get on the leadership team, the
quicker you will have the ability to execute on number 1.
6: Burning yourself out
I can’t tell you how many IT managers I coach who have not had
vacations in a year or longer and routinely work more than 70 hours per
week. This is not only a mistake, but it’s a formula for disaster.
Sometimes the thinking is that your business can’t live without you.
The truth is, your business cannot live with you burning
yourself out. It only leads to lowered productivity and, eventually,
your giving up or getting disgruntled. Do yourself, your business, your
employees, and your family a favor and take some time off.
7: Not testing your backup solution
I always tell my new IT managers that one of the most important
aspects of their jobs is ensuring a reliable backup. Breakdowns in
technology hardware are inevitable. The next best thing is fault
tolerance, but I have even seen that fail. Don’t think for a minute
that if you have tapes and if everything looks okay in your system that
everything is okay. Make sure you test backups regularly. Do test
disasters and make sure you can recover.
8: Not asking for help
Too often, I’ve seen costly mistakes made by managers and
technicians who try to solve an issue alone without informing anyone or
even reading the manual. This is a costly mistake. If you get in over
your head, do the right thing and seek help. The key to successful IT
management is not knowing the right answers; it’s being able to find
them and execute a solution as quickly and cost effectively as
possible. Don’t hesitate to bring in the experts where necessary.
9: Not devoting time to personal development
There’s no excuse for this mistake. Personal development is not your
company’s responsibility — it’s yours. I can always tell a person’s
success potential by the last five books they’ve read and by the
seminars they attend. Every IT manager should be devoting at least 30
minutes a day to personal development. The truly successful devote even
more — in some cases, upwards of two hours or more per day. The most
common excuse I hear is the lack of time or money. The answer lies in
the successful management of money and time.
10: Not finding a mentor or coach
The quickest route to success is to find someone who has been there
and then emulate that person. The quickest road to pain, hardship, and
failure is to go the journey alone. Whether you’re in management or
not, you should always have a mentor or coach and you should always be
mentoring or coaching someone else. A coach will help you achieve more
than you could by yourself by imparting wisdom, accountability, and
crucial advice where necessary. By coaching or mentoring someone else,
you’re doing the same, but you’re also solidifying your own concepts by
teaching them to others.