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Managing Super IT Talent

One of the best problems you can have as an IT manager is figuring out how to manage your most talented team members. The most capable and reliable team members may require little supervisory attention, but in order to make sure they feel valued, it’s wise to keep connected with them. Figuring out how to achieve that balance can challenge even the best managers. We explore some management strategies for working with the superest IT superheroes.

 

Stroke Your Team’s Egos

An experienced IT person knows that they are an invaluable cog in the company’s works; no one else around knows how to do what they do. They know without their work, things would come to a screeching halt, and that when things “just work” their efforts are hardly noticed. Until things do break and they are brought under the highest scrutiny and criticism from anyone and everyone.

This combination of indispensability, invisibility, and responsibility can make for some weird dynamics of self-worth and ego. Let’s be honest, we technical folk aren’t the most humble. We’re objectively awesome and we know it, and either no one notices or it’s all our fault. While there is a fine line between arrogant diva and humble expert, everyone loves positive attention and rewards.

Your team pulled off that massive project consuming months of planning and an entire holiday weekend of work? Your responsibility, manager, is first to attribute all the glory and credit to your team. You worked hard, too, of course, but if you aren’t making them out to be absolute superheroes and wizards, then you don’t have their backs and they’ll feel it. Bonuses, gift cards, or team lunches also communicate praise a hundredfold.

 

Invest in What’s Important

The first item up on the IT budget chopping block is usually training. Whether that’s paying for classes, certifications, or on-demand training like CBT Nuggets, you can’t afford not to keep your team’s skills sharp. A rally cry of managers everywhere is, “We’ll train them then they’ll update their resumes and leave.” Nothing says clearer that you may have little motivation to retain us anyway, training or not.

Another budget pain point is infrastructure. Aging servers, switches from a past millennium, and software that only runs on Windows 95 are signs that you expect your team to build a mighty fortress from sticks and mud. No top-tier sysadmin wants to spin their wheels keeping a crumbling infrastructure from collapsing.

Apart from the infrastructure, your team needs the tools to get their jobs done efficiently. We’re not asking for a top-of-the-line Surface or MacBook Pro here (we won’t turn it down though), just maybe something less than five years old.

We’re asking for lots of spending obviously. “We don’t have the budget.” Fine, but just don’t be surprised to get those resignations from your top talent seeking greener pastures.

 

Listen When We Wave a Red Flag

An IT pro who is burning out will often adopt the habit of giving up on trying to influence the higher-ups for positive change. They research, document, and present on a particular system, the pain points it’s causing for users or the security issues that aren’t being remediated, and a proposal to fix the mess. All the due diligence and passion is there to make things as great for the company as possible. And management shuts them down. Again. And again. And again. “No money.” “No time.” “Don’t get it, don’t care.”

Burn out silences and dulls our passion. No more due diligence or red flag raising, because we know it’s falling on deaf ears. We’ll send a CYA email to protect ourselves from when it hits the fan and look elsewhere for a position where management gets it, that IT issues become company-wide issues quickly. Think of expensive outages on business critical systems, data breaches, or any possible disaster that we’re trying to avoid.

 

Play Defense in Crises

All the due diligence, however, can’t foresee every issue. Despite all your prep, all your spending on infrastructure and redundant systems, Murphy’s Law will still strike. Emergencies are stressful enough on their own. If you hover and ask for constant updates, you could be making things worse. You cannot micromanage this situation. Give us the info we ask for and complete isolation from everything and everyone else to concentrate and work.

 

Hopefully, we have given management some insight into what makes your team tick, what makes them feel valued, and what will drive them off. In a typical business culture of dispensable and disposable talent, retaining your IT rockstars will pay its dividends year after year.

 

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