Ten Pitfalls to Avoid in IT Management
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Are you looking to achieve success without experiencing the hardships and difficulties that often accompany it? This article aims to guide you towards reaching new heights by providing valuable insights to help you avoid career-damaging mistakes.
As someone who frequently interacts with IT Managers, I have the opportunity to observe both exceptional and inadequate management styles. Through my observations, I have identified ten significant mistakes that IT Managers commonly make, some of which have even resulted in job losses for certain individuals. Although there are certainly more than ten mistakes, if you're interested in avoiding the most commonly made errors, I encourage you to read and embrace the following top ten recommendations.
Focusing on the Technology and not the Business
Devoting attention solely to technology rather than the business is a comprehensive topic on its own. Numerous IT Managers often prioritize the wrong aspects, including technology. Typically, IT Managers originate from technical backgrounds in either infrastructure or development. Due to their technical origins, they tend to concentrate their efforts on their specific areas of expertise, disregarding the need to support, empower, and enhance the overall business. To achieve success, it is crucial for IT Managers to evolve into business leaders, redirecting their focus and expertise towards addressing and resolving business-related challenges and concerns as their primary objective.
Thinking "Out of Sight is Out of Mind"
IT Managers face a constant stream of priorities and are always occupied with numerous tasks. However, the absence of a scorecard or checklist poses a problem, as it often leads IT Managers to keep pushing forward without pausing to assess their progress. Conducting an evaluation is an incredibly powerful task that an IT Manager can undertake. There are several approaches to accomplish this. Firstly, one can perform a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis. Alternatively, a comprehensive formal IT Assessment can be conducted, or a scorecard system can be employed to monitor the department's progress. Failing to regularly assess one's position can result in significant troubles, akin to neglecting to check the gauges on a car's dashboard. In the realm of IT, no news is not necessarily good news. Therefore, the IT Manager's mantra should be "even if it's not broken, fix it anyway."
Thinking that your Team has it Covered
The inspiration for this concept comes from the insightful lessons learned on the popular TV show "The Apprentice.1". Many teams found themselves in challenging situations during boardroom discussions because their leaders delegated tasks without ensuring proper follow-up and execution. IT Managers are susceptible to making the same mistake. The primary reason behind this occurrence is the contrast between the word "team" (which lacks the letter "I") and "IT" (where "I" is present). Most IT employees tend to be individual performers who thrive in solitary work environments. This inclination is often attributed to their introverted nature, although there are exceptions to this generalization. Unfortunately, this inclination can have adverse effects on various management, leadership, and social skills necessary for effective delegation. The most crucial skill in delegation lies in the follow-up or checkup process. It's important to emphasize that this does not equate to micromanagement. As a leader, it is your responsibility to ensure that tasks are carried out correctly. To avoid this mistake, diligent follow-up is essential.
Not Inspecting what you Expect
This mistake finds its origins in the third mistake mentioned, but its impact extends to other areas within IT. For example, while you may anticipate excellent performance from your servers, there might not be a system in place to ensure they consistently operate at their optimal capacity. Consequently, this lack of oversight leads to inadequate planning, budgeting, staffing, and other related issues. To steer clear of this common pitfall, it is advisable to create a comprehensive list encompassing your expectations for the entire department. This list could cover critical projects, network and server performance, client satisfaction, and various other aspects. It is crucial to regularly review and assess all the expectations outlined in the list. Consider maintaining a checklist or developing a daily disciplines worksheet to systematically address each item that requires daily inspection. As Joe DiMaggio famously said, "It is the punch that you didn't see coming that knocks you out."
Not Creating a Partnership with Business Management
There exists a distinction between the first and fifth mistakes. This difference revolves around people and politics. It is quite common to find numerous IT Managers reporting to operations and finance personnel rather than to presidents and CEOs. This is a significant mistake that should be addressed as a top priority if you find yourself in this situation. For IT to truly become an effective and strategic component of a business, it must establish a partnership with the executive leadership. The role of an IT Manager requires a comprehensive focus on leadership from all angles. You must not only lead and influence your subordinates but also collaborate with your peers and earn the trust and support of top-level leaders to have a maximum impact on the organization. The sooner you become part of the leadership team, the sooner you will gain the ability to execute the first mistake effectively.
Burning Yourself Out
It's astonishing how many IT Managers I encounter in my coaching who haven't taken a vacation in a year or more, and consistently work over 70 hours per week. This is not just a mistake; it's a recipe for disaster. Some may believe that their business is dependent on their constant presence, but I must burst that bubble if you share this perspective. You are gravely mistaken. Your business cannot thrive if you exhaust yourself to the point of burnout. This only leads to decreased productivity and, ultimately, the risk of you quitting, giving up, or becoming disgruntled. It is crucial for your own well-being, the success of your business, the satisfaction of your employees, and the happiness of your family to prioritize and take some time off. Recharging your batteries is of utmost importance for achieving peak performance. Always remember to pause and appreciate the little joys in life. If you neglect this, a catastrophe is looming on the horizon. It's not a matter of "if," but "when."
Not Testing Your Backup Solution
I always emphasize to newly appointed IT Managers that ensuring a reliable backup is one of the most crucial aspects of their role. Technology hardware failures are bound to happen—it's just a matter of time. While fault tolerance is a valuable strategy, I have witnessed even that system fail. In such circumstances, you can either emerge as the hero or find yourself among the unemployed. Don't assume that everything is fine simply because you have backup tapes and everything appears to be in order within your system. It is essential to regularly test your backups. Simulate disaster scenarios and verify your ability to recover from them. I refer to this practice as "IT Manager calisthenics." Just as athletes train rigorously before competing, you need to do the same with backups. If you haven't conducted a recent test of your backup solution, I urge you to do so without delay.
Not Asking for Help
I have witnessed managers and technicians make costly mistakes far too often when attempting to tackle an issue on their own, without informing anyone or even consulting the manual. This approach not only wastes time and money but also opens the door to potential disasters. If you find yourself in over your head, it is crucial to do the right thing and seek assistance. The essence of successful IT Management lies not in having all the right answers, but in the ability to find them swiftly and implement cost-effective solutions. Don't hesitate to bring in experts when necessary. Seeking help does not reflect poorly on you. There is no shame in admitting that you don't know how to fix a problem. Rather than wasting time, it is far more productive to engage an expert and transform the situation into a valuable learning experience. Knowledge transfer is the key here. By incorporating training into every external collaboration, you enhance both your own and your team's expertise and depth. Finally, it is important to emphasize that there is nothing wrong with consulting the manual.
Not Devoting Time to Personal Development
Mistake number 9 leaves no room for excuses. Personal development is not solely the responsibility of your company; it is unequivocally your own responsibility. Your success, attitude, and achievements are determined solely by you. One's potential for success can be discerned by examining the last five books they have read and the seminars they have attended. Every IT Manager should dedicate a minimum of 30 minutes each day to personal development. The truly accomplished individuals who belong to the top ten percent of their field invest even more time, often exceeding two hours per day. The most common excuse I encounter is the lack of time or financial resources. However, I firmly believe two undeniable truths. Firstly, money is never the actual obstacle, and secondly, neither is time. Both factors are under the control of the manager. The key lies in effectively managing both money and time. The most valuable investment you can make in your career is in personal development. It is an investment that yields exponential growth, paying dividends repeatedly throughout your life.
Not Finding a Mentor or Coach
The most expedient path to success lies in finding a mentor who has already achieved what you aspire to accomplish and following their example. Conversely, embarking on the journey alone leads to pain, hardships, and ultimately failure, making it the most significant mistake an IT Manager can make. Regardless of your managerial status, it is essential to have a mentor or coach, while also taking on the role of a mentor or coach for someone else. A coach helps you surpass your individual capabilities by offering wisdom, holding you accountable, and providing crucial advice when needed. When you mentor or coach others, you not only reinforce your own understanding but also solidify your concepts by imparting them to others. If you currently lack a coach, it is crucial to acquire one as soon as possible. Just as Olympic Gold Medalists rely on their coaches, extraordinary results require going beyond the ordinary. To achieve IT Gold, having a coach or mentor is imperative.
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