How to Manage Skilled-but Difficult-IT Workers

 
 
By Dennis McCafferty  |  Posted 07-24-2015 Email
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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    How to Manage Skilled-but Difficult-IT Workers
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    How to Manage Skilled-but Difficult-IT Workers

    There's a fine line between benign quirks of skilled IT pros and unprofessional behavior, and a new book helps CIOs navigate their management journey.
  • Previous
    Assign Tasks Thoughtfully
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    Assign Tasks Thoughtfully

    You should not only match projects according to your talented employees' strengths and interests, but you should find assignments that stretch their abilities.
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    Set Clear Expectations
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    Set Clear Expectations

    There's a fine line between relatively benign "quirks" of highly skilled IT pros and unprofessional behavior. Establish concrete guidelines and put them in writing.
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    Tell Them What You Want Done, Not How to Do It
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    Tell Them What You Want Done, Not How to Do It

    Major IT talents approach innovation like the solving of a Rubik's Cube: They want to explore possibilities, make mistakes and discover winning solutions on their own.
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    Articulate Pain Points
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    Articulate Pain Points

    Team members aren't as likely to react negatively to difficult developments if you anticipate them, and then help teams prepare in advance.
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    Give Feedback Year-Round
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    Give Feedback Year-Round

    Don't wait for six month or annual reviews. It's difficult to correct an unfortunate course of action if you don't do it in real time.
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    Don't Fear Conflict
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    Don't Fear Conflict

    You have to manage conflict, as opposed to avoiding it. Through constructive debate, disputes emerge as an opportunity to share divergent perspectives in the interest of actionable collaboration.
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    Lead With Firm Direction but a Light Touch
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    Lead With Firm Direction but a Light Touch

    If you don't give "special talents" their space, they'll feel stifled and seek outside employment. So don't get hung up on the "little things," like office hours or the neatness of an employee's desk.
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    Dial In HR
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    Dial In HR

    Valuable HR managers immerse themselves into the latest findings on engagement, talent management and more. So take advantage of their knowledge base.
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    Don't Feed Drama
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    Don't Feed Drama

    Sure, many highly talented IT pros like to provoke or "stir something up." But it's your job to help them refocus on business.
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    Don't Seek to ‘Win’ Arguments
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    Don't Seek to ‘Win’ Arguments

    It's not about "defeating" an IT team member who's on the other side of an issue. It's about resolving a situation fairly and calmly, and then moving on.
 

As a CIO, you probably have made this observation about your tech staffers: They're not like "normal" employees. Nor would you ever want them to be-because it's their combination of quirks, curiosity and talent that makes them so valuable to your organization. During the pursuit of innovation, however, there are times when some of these team members may lapse into patterns and behaviors that go beyond what could be described as "harmless idiosyncrasies," such as the inclination to create unnecessary conflict or drama, or convey an overall sense of unprofessionalism. In a section of the recent book, Type B Manager: Leading Successfully in a Type A World (Perigee Hardcover/available in August), author Victor Lipman offers best practices for supervising such employees without stifling their "good stuff." We've adapted the following takeaways-which address resolving conflict, setting expectations and keeping workers engaged, among other CIO responsibilities-from the book. Lipman is owner of the consulting firm, Howling Wolf Management Training, which provides executive training on managing employees and collaborating effectively.

 
 
 
 
 
Dennis McCafferty is a freelance writer for Baseline Magazine.

 
 
 
 
 
 

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