IT managers may need to change their work behavior to succeed

IT attracts a certain type of personality, or work behavior. What helps us become successful technical experts can be major roadblocks to IT manager success.

employees leaving

People who work in IT have very consistent work behavior tendencies. In fact, 90 percent or more have similar tendencies in three of four major personality categories. The bottom line is that IT attracts a certain type of personality.

These work behavior tendencies help us become successful as technology experts, but they can present major challenges when you move into a management role.

It's important for any IT manager to be aware of these tendencies and "what makes IT people tick." Understanding them can help you achieve more success in multiple ways:

  • Being aware of your own personal work behavior tendencies can help you identify areas that need adjusting in order to succeed in a manager position.
  • Awareness of IT employee work behavior tendencies who report to you can help you manage and lead them better.
  • Understanding the dynamics of work behavior can even help you resolve employee problems.

Background

I've used several personality evaluation tools in my career. Early on, I didn't put a lot of credence in their value; I thought they were bogus. I was wrong.

For over 10 years I used these tools in my CIO role and discovered they are accurate in describing an employee's work behavior tendencies and helpful in many ways. I learned first hand that understanding the work behavior tendencies of a person is powerful insight.

In one company I was the CIO of we acquired 35 other companies. I obtained the work behavior profile of all the IT employees that came with these companies. Their profiles were consistently similar.

Initially, I thought it was just a coincidence. After seeing the same profile over and over again, I finally concluded that a certain type of personality type is attracted to IT. In a similar way, consistent personality types are attracted to sales professions.

I also measured over 100 IT managers who attended my IT Manager Institute for four years. Again, their work behavior profiles were predictably similar.

It doesn't matter what your role is in IT. Whether you are an IT manager, programmer, systems or network engineer, project manager, work on the Help Desk or even run IT support as the CIO. If you are in IT, your work behavior tendencies are highly likely going to be similar to everyone else in IT.

What's the point?

It's simple. The work behavior traits that help you become an excellent technician can prevent you from achieving success in an IT manager role.

Let's take a look at each trait.

There are four work behavior areas in many of the personality evaluation tools like Myers Briggs and others I've used, and here is what I have discovered:

Trait #1: 90 percent of all IT employees are independent, self starters and technically oriented. No problem so far; these work behavior traits can probably help you as much in a manager role as in a technical role.

Trait #2: 85-90 percent of all IT employees have a high sense of urgency. To say we are impatient is an understatement for most of us in IT. High sense of urgency is a good thing for IT managers as long as you approach major problem situations like a system outage in a way that has a calming and stabilizing effect.

Trait #3: Over 90 percent are high detail and like to do the work themselves. This is great for a technical employee. Programmers and other tech employees achieve success pretty much on their individual performance; they are in more control of their own success. In a manager role, you depend on your employees to get things done. This is a big transition challenge for most young IT managers. Letting go of the detail and depending upon others can be a major obstacle. 

Trait #4: Just over 70 percent are shy and introverted. This is a big challenge for IT managers. As a programmer or systems engineer, strong communication skills are not so essential, especially communicating outside their inner circle. In an IT manager role, strong communication skills are required. The problem with shy people is that they usually don't develop their communication skills because they don't deem them to be needed. In addition, shy people have a lower desire to communicate. All of these issues are major stumbling blocks to success for IT managers and must be overcome.

When you think of the first three categories being at 90 percent or more, it's pretty much everyone in your IT organization.

One more thing

If you put all of these traits together to make a work behavior profile, it sums up to be an individual who says,"Let's do it (self starter), do it now (high sense of urgency), and do it my way (high detail) ... and I don't want to talk about it (shy and introverted)." This is the makeup of an authoritative management style that works well in the military but not so well in a professional business environment.

Keep the first three traits and modify the last one by communicating more and you have a persuasive management style and this style is much more effective in an IT corporate environment.

Technical experts who become IT managers need to do two things if they have the traits discussed above:

  1. Let go of the detail they are so used to being in. Have you heard the phrase, "You need to get out of the weeds!"? Managers must depend on their employees to take care of the detail. It won't be easy but it's necessary for your success.
  2. Learn how to communicate effectively. Strong communication must become a core competency so learn what and how to communicate effectively plus put processes in place that force you to communicate.

The good news is that with awareness that we need to adjust a couple of our work behavior traits, it is a straightforward thing to do and more success is in your grasp.

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