Photo courtesy of Flickr: Robert Couse-Baker
When it comes to hiring an IT professional, we tend to think in terms of skills, experience, and education. We ask questions about what areas of information technology they specialize in, how they would handle specific tasks, and examples of previous work. One thing we don't always take into consideration is the personality of the person we are interested in adding to our team. This is a big mistake, especially if you are looking for an IT manager. In this blog post, we are going to look at some essential personality traits every tech manager should possess.
During the hiring process, the subject of personality traits usually boils down to: "Do I like this potential employee or not?" While that is important to a degree, if it is the only way you evaluate a prospects personality, you are making a huge mistake. For starters, I like a lot of my friends, but would be hard pressed to consider them for a managerial role – or any role for that matter! Also, not everyone makes a great first impression. Coming from personal experience, being on the shy side, many people describe me as cold until they get to know me and understand it's really just a case of social awkwardness. By basing your decision on whether or not you like someone during a stressful interview, you could be missing out on a great leader.
Essential Personality Traits for IT Managers
Here is my list of the top 11 characteristics every IT leader should have, in no particular order.
#1: Ability to Listen – Even When They Ramble On
Perhaps the most important trait your IT manager needs to have in his or her pocket is the ability to listen effectively. Let's face it – those of us in the information technology field are pretty opinionated and take pride in the knowledge we possess in our respective fields. With that comes a certain level of "My way is the only way." When you get a group of IT professional together on a project, everyone will want to have their say in how a specific task should be performed – right or wrong. While your IT manager does not have to agree with all of the suggestions, he does need to be able to listen to them.
AgileZen has a great article on active listening tips for project managers.
#2: Be Well Spoken (And Well Spoken Of)
Listening is great and all, but to lead, you have to also have the ability to speak well. That and carry a big stick – you know, for those times when words just won't do! Conveying thoughts and ideas, issuing orders and commands, and explaining concepts are key to a great leader. IT projects have a lot of moving parts and can get convoluted quickly. Make sure your project leader is not part of the problem by looking for effective communication traits.
HowStuffWorks has some great advice for effective communication in the workplace.
#3: Respect – Find Out What It Means to Me (And Your Team)
The ability to earn the respect of every other IT professional on your team is crucial to keeping team morale high and avoiding break downs in the command line. A great IT manager should carry themselves in a certain manner and behave in a fashion that not only commands respect, but deserves it as well. You can't rally the troops in times of great need if they don't respect you.
#4: Easy Like a Sunday Morning
Being easy going and a push-over are two very different things. If you work in a setting such as a networking environment, you know that there are times when everything goes wrong all at once. All too often I have seen managers cave under high pressure situations and quickly lose control. You don't want your IT head honcho to make matters worse by getting stressed in difficult or not so difficult times. Make sure your go-to IT pro is level-headed even when the weather gets rough.
The DailyMuse has some calming methods for keeping your cool at work.
#5: Where Are Those TPS Reports?
Being organized is one of those tips that go without saying – but I am saying it anyway! If your manager cannot keep organized, how can you expect the rest of your team to?
Being on time is good, being early is great. An effective leader needs to understand time management, be able to divide and conquer, and know where to spend their resources in order to get projects done on time. This is a must-have personality trait not only for IT managers, but for any IT professional.
Entrepreneur has a great article on time management skills.
#7: Assess the Situation
If your IT manager can't step back and assess the situation, you have a problem. The key to this is being able to understand every aspect of a project and see how all those small parts fit together. Can they define what the problem or need is? Can they step out of the situation and view it independently? If so, you have a winner on your hands.
#8: Understand Technology
This is a another no-brainer, but you would be surprised how little some IT managers really understand information technology as a whole. Don't look for a specialist, but someone who understands a lot of different tech. If you are hiring a project lead for a programming company, make sure they understand multiple languages and not just one or two – sometimes a square just won't fit in a circle, no matter how hard you pound it in. A good leader will recognize that one form of technology might not work, while another will. But he won't recognize that unless he has a broad knowledge base.
#9: Stick with the Plan - After You Create It
Being able to create a plan (and stick with it) is also another key personality trait. If your manager doesn't have a plan, things will fall apart quickly, even on the simplest of projects. A great leader in any industry should always have a vision and be able to plan a roadmap to get to that vision. If not, your IT department will be lost (literally).
#10: Measuring Success
There is getting the job done, and then there is knocking it out of the park. Your IT head-honcho will know the difference. They must be able to clearly define what success is and be able to benchmark the difference between success and failure.
#11: Ability to Lead
One of the most important traits you should look for in an IT manager is the ability to lead. Some people are born leaders and some have to work for it. Of course, ascertaining if someone will make a great leader or not is no simple task. Forbes has some good information on the subject, including 8 ways to spot a great leader.