CIO tips: How to manage multiple teams

CIOs are tasked with many responsibilities, which increasingly include managing multiple teams across various departments and sites.

According to a 2019 Harvey Nash report, 51% of IT leaders expect to see a headcount increase next year, meaning CIOs are likely to be managing bigger teams than ever before.

Here, we examine how CIOs can manage these growing teams with ease.

Embrace inclusion and diversity
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Embrace inclusion and diversity

If you don’t already know that the more diverse your organisation is, the better it is for your bottom line, you probably shouldn’t be in business any more. Building diverse and inclusive teams is vital to fostering new and innovative ways of thinking and bringing about a fresh way of approaching existing challenges.

Simply put: a diverse team is a happy team and a happy team is much easier to manage.

If you're lucky enough to be a manager of multiple diverse teams, then you are in a great position to foster that inclusion to create stronger teams that need less hands-on management. If you're not, then it’s important to talk to those responsible for recruitment, look at what’s going wrong and ultimately overhaul the hiring practices in your company.

However, just because you have a diverse team, if your organisation isn’t inclusive, they won’t stick around long and will end up joining organisations where they feel respected and valued.

Take the time to find out what’s important to each individual and what motivates them. This understanding will provide better insight into how they operate and will enable you to tailor your management style to a way that is most beneficial to them.

Example – Radius Payment Solutions CIO Dave Roberts

Example – Radius Payment Solutions CIO Dave Roberts

With more than 1,000 employees, Dave Roberts has a team of around 135, split into functions covering innovation, operational development, operations overseeing the service desk, a separate facilities operations team, and an IT security risk and compliance capability.

When building up the team, Roberts wanted to improve diversity within the technology function. He went from an IT capability that was two percent female to one that is "18 percent and growing, probably more towards 20 percent". Roberts said that the way the team works and interacts has significantly improved.

Fostering links with universities and introducing a student placement programme has also been a success for Radius, broadening the diversity of the talent pipeline with a number going to take on full-time roles at the company. Fundamentally, however, Roberts said the company was making diversity a focus through a combination of factors, from flexible working arrangements to organising meetups and community events, which had helped make the shift.

"It's been really positive on how the team work together and how they are able to bring different ideas and suggestions to the table," he said. "That's what diversity brings; it gives you a more rounded team."

Technology supports management

Technology supports management

There is a vast array of work management tools available to CIOs on the market, however, there are also many people management tools as well. CIOs should embrace these tools in order to ensure that teams are on track with work projects.

Having the right tools can lead to a more effective and productive work culture, with 22 percent of organisations suffering from insufficient digital resources, according to a Gartner survey.

The use of technology can help take pressure off the CIO, because it means they don't have to be available to staff members at all times. CIO 100 organisations including Raymond Brown Construction, Home Office and Metapack have all introduced digital tools to help monitor team workflows, leading to a positive impact on task delivery.

These digital tools could include management apps such as Trello, which affords shared group tracking of the progress on various different projects and group to-do lists. You can create checklists, add in due dates and select which employees are shared for different projects or Basecamp, a similar tool.

For delegating tasks and managing teams in dispersed locations, task management apps such as Kanban Flow, Todoist and OmniFocus are useful.

Read next: Best open-source project management tools 2017

Example – National Theatre Head of IT Operations George Tunnicliffe

Example – National Theatre Head of IT Operations George Tunnicliffe

George Tunnicliffe'sIT department services around 1,200 people. However, the challenge doesn't lie in the numbers but in the amount of activity generated. In addition to the regular performances held in the three theatres housed in the building, the NT also has touring productions across the UK, live screenings nationally and internationally, learning and outreach programmes, and other activities.

This translates into a wide mix of different users with diverse requirements and disparate ways of working, which again emphasises the need of a closely-knit collaborative approach among the different business units.  

In 2018, Tunnicliffe decided to deploy Freshservice - an IT service desk which manages support and service across the organisation. Prior to Freshservice, the NT used a software which presented multiple challenges. One such example was the ticketing system, which was binary and relied on emails, creating a disjointed experience.

Tunnicliffe told CIO UK the system was so problematic that even after logging a ticket, staff would nevertheless come around to talk to Tunnicliffe about the issue as they had no faith in the system to do its job properly.

The introduction of Freshservice allowed staff to have a more conversational approach to problems. This discussion element allows his team to work together on a ticket and achieve a faster and more effective resolution. Not only are his staff happier, Tunnicliffe can now spend less time dealing with problems which should never have existed and instead better support his team in other, more meaningful ways.

Build effective channels of communication

Build effective channels of communication

Managing multiple teams effectively involves building and maintaining well-functioning channels of communication. Systems should be in place that are designed to facilitate clear communication through activities such as regular check-ins and meetings.

Having said that, meetings are one of the activities that employees enjoy the least out of all their workplace activities. A recent survey found that meetings were the most hated task, with 24% of UK employees rating it as such. To counter these attitudes, try to ensure that any meetings are useful, well-structured and effect meaningful outcomes.

Maintaining open channels of communication and encouraging team members to speak up if they are encountering any issues or simply about their general satisfaction in the role lets your team know you are there to support them and will encourage them to communicate openly with you in turn. This means that any issues that come up are likely to be dealt with immediately rather than continuing until there is a formal appraisal.

In fact, you may want to consider dispensing with the annual appraisal altogether - 40% of employers find that they do not accurately reflect an employee's work. From the employee perspective, 36% say they rarely or never receive feedback about their work, while 67% wish that they did. This implies that a more 'continuous feedback' approach may be more effective than infrequent appraisals.

Given CIOs have many responsibilities, it's sometimes difficult to schedule one-on-one time with various employees. But regular feedback can have a very strong effect on the performance of staff members. This will give teams insight into how they are performing and solve any problems they may be having to increase the overall efficiency and productivity of employees.

Example - former Manchester City Council CIO, Bob Brown

Example - former Manchester City Council CIO, Bob Brown

Taking action and giving regular feedback to employees can have an impact not only on the team and individual roles but also the business. The former CIO ofManchester City Council, Bob Brown would regularly bring his team together.

"I have weekly team stand-ups, brown-bag lunchtime conversations and one-to-ones," he said. "This has helped to fundamentally change the way we are perceived by others."

Brownhad seen his leadership skills secure the best people for his team as well as gain clarity about the journey they are on as a council.

Regular engagement with council staff has ensured members understand their role in the development of ICT and beyond.

"We focus on the basics and doing those things well, one-to-ones, team meetings, objective setting, vision, strategy, etc. By launching a colleague feedback survey this can help to see how the changes are being made and how they are impacting frontline staff," he said.

Read next: 7 easy ways to improve your IT team's productivity

Create a positive work culture

Create a positive work culture

A workplace culture is a very important factor in whether employees feel motivated and productive at work. Given that globally, a woeful 15% of employees feel engaged at work, this is definitely something to consider.

Some ways to improve workplace culture can be through encouraging employees to engage with one another. CIOs can encourage teams to work collaboratively to solve business problems that come up, opening the floor for more innovative solutions and also strengthening relationships between members of staff which may not ordinarily work close together.

Trying to understand the goals and motivations of individual employees can also help to foster a warm workplace culture. A 2018 survey found that while 28% of employees never discussed future goals or projects with their employer, 70% wish they did. Connecting meaningfully with employees on future aspirations can help to motivate them further on their current project.

Adopting an internal chat platform such as Slack or Google Hangouts can encourage staff to share in a more informal, horizontal way, and avoids the formality of emails. Go on, throw some smileys in there to make younger staff feel at home!

To gain an understanding of employee satisfaction in the office you could adopt a feedback tool such as Celpax, which lets employees enter either a sad or happy face each day to indicate their wellbeing. This could provide a useful temperature check of office morale and can be particularly important after new changes are introduced. Regular, written surveys of employee satisfaction can also be effective.

Real life example - former Royal Mail CIO, Catherine Doran

Real life example - former Royal Mail CIO, Catherine Doran

Former Royal Mail CIO and current Non Executive Director at Coventry Building Society, Catherine Doran developed a system which created new ways to interact with her team during her time at Royal Mail.

"Two years ago I set up a group called the 'Culture Crew', which varied in seniority and tenure with Royal Mail, to work on the task of defining our desired culture, in helping to determine what actions we could take to help make that a reality," she said.

She admitted that in the first year the organisation struggled to gain real traction and engagement from staff.

"As a CIO I had to go back to the drawing board," she said. "We set up a series of workshops to which all staff were invited, including contract staff and staff from third parties who work in our buildings, and invited people to enumerate what they like about the culture, what they would like to change and how they would measure success, in which we used RMG values and the umbrella - there are three: be positive, be part of it, be brilliant - around which to organise our thinking."

The umbrella approach saw Doran change the way she communicated with and managed her teams as well as supporting a wider cultural change.

Build meaningful employee relationships

Build meaningful employee relationships

Sometimes CIOs have to prioritise their relationships with other executives within the enterprise, as well as external vendors. This can lead to relationships with employees being neglected and a resulting lack of rapport within teams.

Stronger relationships between managers and employees can increase employees' sense of engagement and productivity. A Gallup survey found that 70% of the variance in employee satisfaction scores is accounted for by their managers. This is not surprising given other research indicating that 69% of managers do not feel comfortable communicating with their employees.

Efforts should be made to cultivate relationships with all employees, not just the ones from a similar demographic background to you. Take an interest in staff, ask about their personal lives and organise social events outside of work so you can interact in a more relaxed, informal environment.

This will bring the CIO closer to the workforce and increase how approachable they are seen by the rest of the employees. You don't have to be everyone's best friend, but it will improve team relationships if staff members are comfortable speaking to you and see you as an individual as well as a boss.

Different types of employees will require different management approaches - for example, one person may thrive on competitive goal-focused strategy, while another may prefer a more collaborative approach. Getting to know personalities can help CIOs adopt more appropriately tailored interpersonal approaches with different staff members.

Real life example - Premium Credit CIO Duncan Gray

Real life example - Premium Credit CIO Duncan Gray

Premium Credit CIO, formerly CIO at British Car Auctions, Duncan Gray regularly engaged with his team and the business by putting in the time and effort to ensure he could manage multiple divisions at British Car Auctions.

"I operate at the coalface... and I dislike being in my office," he said. "I like listening to people to learn what is really going, whether they are the CEO, the developer or in the support team. That might be on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis in all areas of the business in any one of our countries."

"Engaging with the business and people is why I come to work. I believe IT is 50% and 50% people."

Make all staff members feel respected

Make all staff members feel respected

Teams comprise people with different strengths and weaknesses who are working together towards a shared business goal.

According to a Harvey Nash survey, almost 15% of employees feel undervalued in their roles today. Forty-nine percent of employees note that increased recognition of their work efforts is the behaviour that would most positively affect their relationship with their manager. Having their voices heard and their work appreciated can make staff feel respected and valued.

A great way to include team members is through inviting individuals to board and supplier meetings, which can help demonstrate they are acknowledged by the business and make them feel valued in their roles. A CIO should recognise team member contributions and recent accomplishments, which can help identify their capability for future projects while also ensuring they stay loyal to the organisation.

Read next: How a CIO can avoid a digital team burnout

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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