This article from Computerworld — Opinion: The unspoken truth about managing geeks — is specifically and explicitly talking about IT pros, but hey, I’m a geek. I like lots of people who are geeks. I work with a bunch of them, too… and I found as I read this that a lot of it resonated. I’ve never found any “management” article or book that I thought was 100% on-point, but this one has some interesting observations in it. A few:
“Few people notice this, but for IT groups respect is the currency of the realm. IT pros do not squander this currency. Those whom they do not believe are worthy of their respect might instead be treated to professional courtesy, a friendly demeanor or the acceptance of authority. Gaining respect is not a matter of being the boss and has nothing to do with being likeable or sociable; whether you talk, eat or smell right; or any measure that isn’t directly related to the work. The amount of respect an IT pro pays someone is a measure of how tolerable that person is when it comes to getting things done, including the elegance and practicality of his solutions and suggestions. IT pros always and without fail, quietly self-organize around those who make the work easier, while shunning those who make the work harder, independent of the organizational chart.”
“…if you’ve managed to hire well in the lower ranks of your IT group, the staff already know how to manage things. Unlike in many industries, the fight in most IT groups is in how to get things done, not how to avoid work. IT pros will self-organize, disrupt and subvert in the name of accomplishing work. An over-structured, micro-managing, technically deficient runt, no matter how polished, who’s thrown into the mix for the sake of management will get a response from the professional IT group that’s similar to anyone’s response to a five-year-old tugging his pants leg.
What IT pros want in a manager is a technical sounding board and a source of general direction. Leadership and technical competence are qualities to look for in every member of the team. If you need someone to keep track of where projects are, file paperwork, produce reports and do customer relations, hire some assistants for a lot less money.”
I don’t care if the author thinks he’s talking about IT professionals. Sounds like my tribe, to me. Which is probably why we’re bouncing it around the social networks at each other.
Edited to add: Interesting discussion happening here.