A hell-of-a-guy (or girl) approach for IT managers

If you think it’s hard as an IT manager to win people over, imagine what it must be like to be Stephen Harper.

Over the weekend the Globe and Mail’s “Ottawa Notebook,” a politicalgossip column, referenced a rumoured attempt by the Prime Minister’sOffice to recast the sometimes-surly politician as a man of the people.This is, as Jane Taber put it, a sort of HOAG strategy.

Harper chief of staff Guy Giorno was famous at Queen’s Park forhis “Hell of a guy” (HOAG) strategy in which he would schedule eventsto try to portray former premier Mike Harris as an ordinary, good guy.For example, he would have the premier fish with his son. Theheartwarming picture would then end up in newspapers across theprovince.
That, according to a former Harris official, was part of the HOAGstrategy. “HOAG is pulling the wool over everybody’s eyes and it’s oneof Giorno’s favourite ways of communicating,” he said.
Now Mr. Giorno is taking his strategy across the country. With whispersof a possible fall election, watch for HOAG pictures with StephenHarper – more of Mr. Harper with a drill, playing handyman, or an“impromptu” walk with his kids.

I hope that most technology professionals aren’t weighted down withthe kind of reputation Prime Minister Harper has, but the HOAG strategyis a good reminder of how poor communication can sometimes lead todesperate measures. Whether IT departments are staffed with people wholack “soft skills,” or whether they are unfairly characterized as the“no people” (a description I’ve heard more than once), you couldunderstand why IT managers might sometimes feel ready for a similarimage makeover.

In the Mike Harris/Stephen Harper case, the HOAG strategy backfiresamong all but the most credulous voters because it’s so patentlyfabricated. The same usually holds true for companies that try toorganize “getting to know each other” pizza lunches or who have seniormanagement serve food at the company pot-luck.

Real HOAGs are people in positions of power or authority who dothings they don’t have to do for the benefit of those around them.These are not so much random acts of kindness as consistent acts ofcourtesy and consideration. For IT managers, examples could includeproactively identifying an application that could help a user with aspecific part of their job, or pitching in on a project before they’reasked to do so. It could mean going above and beyond to explain inlayman’s terms how a certain piece of technology works rather thanhiding behind their expertise. Or it could simply mean sitting down inthe lunchroom with someone in another department instead of waitinguntil you’re thrown together on a project.

Maybe some technology executives don’t bother with the HOAG strategybecause they feel they’re not considered important enough by coworkersto finesse their relationships. That’s the thing, though: real HOAGsdon’t wait until they’ve reached the top. They use the HOAG strategyall the way up.

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