Avoidable middle management errors in the IT industry

Writing this article was a tough challenge. It’s a touchy subject, highly debatable and most of all, very subjective topic. Please take it with a grain of salt and most of all, don’t take it as an absolute truth.


Decouple from the technical side

Many managers believe that once you’ve climbed the ladder in the organization, other can do the “dirty work”. Let me explain why I believe that this is a common mistake.

First of all, you need to understand your team. Their preferences and their choices. Chances are that your team does more R&D than you can imagine. You have technical leaders, always more up to date than you are. You need to be capable of challenging their choices, to guide them during their career or to simply reject choices that are too risky for your projects. For all those reasons, stay up to date.

Secondly, you need to convince your customer. You need to be able to inspire trust. Building up trust means understanding what you will deliver, what the solution means for you and going beyond repeating the “official story”. You can’t delegate this part. The customer needs reassuring. If you’re half-convinced yourself, it simply won’t work.

Third, and most of all, it’s a question of vision. You need to be able to guide your company’s efforts towards a technology. Having such a large pool of potential technologies to investigate (marketing, R&D, lobby, etc.) requires you to make a choice. No one but you will make this choice. And you can’t afford to lose time, especially today when technologies are getting more and more short-lived, by balancing, hearing and benchmarking carefully all of the arguments.


Forgetting that an IT company is nothing more than the sum of its talents

Managing talents is a difficult task. Often people with talent are difficult characters: rebels, insubordinate or having difficulties expressing themselves, those talents often get in the way of a “simple”, “effective” or “predictable” way of managing people. Yes, they require way more time & effort each day. But they are the real gems of a company. Those that, once set on the right track (and constantly reset if necessary), are capable of generating incredible amount of ideas, tackling a tremendous amount of work in a record time or simply inspiring others in taking a stance.

It’s our role as managers to identify, coach and put to good use those talents.


Becoming a salesperson

Selling a project is an incredible adrenalin generator. It becomes a drug in itself. The sweet taste of winning over the competition, of seeing that your company is chosen over a dozen competitors is a remarkable thing. Winning becomes a real need. Often, compromises are made in order to get that win. You are taking more and more risks, jeopardizing planning, feasibility and ultimately endangering the whole company.

Stop following your adrenaline flow, your serotonin need and double check your projects. Don’t forget that selling is the visible part of the iceberg. Delivering the project is the more consistent part.


Becoming a clerk

Often, especially after decoupling from the technical side or not succeeding in the commercial part, managers simply become clerks. Excel is your preferred tool. You could as well sell plumbers or gardeners.

But don’t forget that we are in the merciless IT Industry. New ideas and reinventing yourself is the key to survival. So you only have three choices:

  • either you have your ideas of your own
  • or you are capable of channeling and promoting the team’s ideas
  • or both (ideally)

Having no idea and not reinventing yourself is not an option!


Being overwhelmed

If your working schedule has become more and more substantial, your company will miss opportunities. In order to be competitive you need to take the necessary time to promote new ideas. Being overwhelmed by the daily routine activities means that you either need to delegate some of your tasks or to really challenge the entire process as a whole.

There’s nothing more terrible for a brilliant guy than having a boss that never has a moment to listen to him. Or for a client that has a real project but not the skills to describe it in detail and use the “classic” bid channel. All those are missed opportunities. And life does not always give things for free. But when it does, be sure to be in the right mindset. Being overwhelmed is the absolute contrary.


Not keeping your promises

Small general advice : don’t make promises you can’t keep. When you do make a promise (do it rarely), be sure to keep your word. You are judged by those promises. By the top management, by the team, by the clients. Never ever not keep a promise!

Perhaps the most important point of the entire list.


Last but not least: not understanding the human in front of you

You will need a lot of empathy. You need to understand motivation, burnout, solitude, ego, sadness, willingness and every other infinite shade of human feeling.

That doesn’t necessarily mean condone that behavior or feeling, but to be able to feel it. You are, before all other things, working with a human person. Emotional intelligence is your ally. Don’t overlook things or they will bite back one day.


I’m Alexandru RADU, born in Romania in 1979. I’m currently managing a not so large, motivated team of .Net consultants at Ai3. If you adhere to those ideas, feel free to join us as a team. We’re hiring motivated people. Thanks for reading

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