IT Manager Authority: When To Use It And When Not To Use It
By Jim Anderson
Doesn’t it feel good to be an IT manager? The people who are running your company have determined that you have the correct IT manager skills and have put you in charge of an IT team and your word is now law. How cool is that? However, before you start cracking the whip and throwing your authority around, you might want to hold off for a bit. There are some good reasons why the best IT managers don’t overdo the authority thing.
The Most Common New IT Manager Mistake
Ah, the excitement of taking over a new IT manager position! The thrill of responsibility and the rush of power. Oh, wait – are you doing this correctly? If your company has just handed over the reins of power to you with little or no IT manager training, then there is a very good chance that you’re about to make a mistake.
IT managers who find themselves in a new position all too often make the same mistake: you use the authority that you’ve been given. Hey, I think that we can all understand why you do this. It’s like suddenly finding yourself the owner of a fancy new sports car – you want to take it out onto the highway and see just how fast it can go. Take it from me, you don’t want to do this.
Because you are the new manager, yes – you can tell your IT team what to do and they’ll have to do it. However, by starting things off this way you are setting a bad precedence for your longer term relationship with them. As you exert your authority your team is going to start to talk about you behind your back and they are not going to be saying nice things. All of the IT team building in the world won’t be enough for you to fix this situation.
The Right Way To View IT Manager Authority
So if we can agree that showing up at the table and starting to boss your team around from the first day is not the correct thing for an IT manager to do, then what is? It turns out that there is a much, much better way to use the authority that the company has given to you.
The right way to think about the authority that the company has given you is to view it as being very similar to a precious natural resource. It’s great stuff, but once you’ve used it up, it’s all gone. The key is that you’re going to want to limit how much of it you use so that when a situation or an event occurs where you truly do need to use your authority, there will be plenty of it there waiting for you.
This can be a key issue if a business emergency situation comes up at work. In an emergency situation (angry customer, product recall, hacker attack, etc.) the people on your team are going to have to move quickly and do what you tell them to do. This is the time to use your authority and because you have been so sparing in using in everyday life, your team will respond quickly to your requests.
It’s All About The Understatement
Yes, the company has given you authority over your IT team. However, in order to get things accomplished sometimes it’s how you DON’T do things that really matters. This is all about the understatement.
Everyone on your IT team knows that you can tell them what to do and that they would then have to do it. However, if you don’t tell them what to do and instead ask them to do something, this is an understated way of communicating to them what you’d like them to be doing without actually bossing them around.
If for whatever reason, your request for a member of your team to do something is not accepted, then you always have your authority to turn back to. However, the one thing that you want to avoid doing is using too much of your managerial authority when it’s not really called for – you can’t undo something like this when it’s been done.
What All Of This Means For You
In order to accomplish the job of being an IT manager, your company gives you the authority to tell the people on your team what to do. This is a great deal of power and how you use it may determine how successful of an IT manager you are going to be.
New IT managers often make the mistake of starting to assert their authority from the very start. This ends up alienating their team and can place them in a position that may be very hard to recover from. The correct way to look at authority is to view it as a limited resource that you need to carefully manage so that you don’t run out of it. Your team knows that you have the authority so even when you don’t use it you’ll still be able to get them to do what you need to have done.
Bad IT managers spend their time throwing their authority around and angering their team. They end up creating a gap between them and their team that they can’t undo. Keep your authority in check and only use it when it’s truly needed and you’ll be an effective IT manager.
Jim Anderson has been a product manger at small start-ups as well as at some of the world’s largest IT shops. Dr. Anderson realizes that for a product to be successful, it takes an entire company working together. You can learn more about Dr. Anderson on his website, http://www.TheAccidentalPM.com. You can subscribe to his newsletter here.