Career advice: Managers shouldn’t get buried in details

We’ve gone through some devastating rounds of layoffs , and I’ve been doffing my manager’s hat more and more to get hands-on with the technology — just because there’s no one else to do it. But my CIO says a manager should manage, not work with technology. I would agree if I weren’t facing a mountain of things that won’t get done without my help. What should I do? Early in my career I found myself in a similar situation. My CIO at the time taught me three valuable lessons that I still incorporate in my management style to this day. It started with the fact that she did not buy the “I don’t have enough head count argument” as sufficient reason to get buried in the details in order to get the work done. Instead, she challenged me with the fact that I had not created a vision and set of strategies (plans) to drive the organization toward a new model that was capable of expanding and contracting as the demand shifted. She also believed that I enjoyed operating in the details and that I found comfort in the fact that I could see the results of my work much sooner than with the leadership/management activities I was responsible for. Lastly, she suggested I do a little self-reflection regarding what I wanted to do with my career. She knew this would be tough but believed anytime you are not able to perform to expectations; you should look at yourself to see what your part in it is.

What desirable qualities do you find most lacking in recent hires?
Patience and leadership are two qualities I believe are not as valued today to the extent they were in the past. The ability to obtain anything as quickly as we can has created a perception that slowing down is not productive. However, my experience tells me that inefficiencies in work processes can be reduced with better planning and a disciplined approach to delivering results. In addition, I believe in and subscribe to the philosophy that we need collaboration in the workplace. It generates better ideas and creates a more inclusive environment. However, there is an impact on leadership skills. The opportunities to naturally lead are reduced, and we need to be more attentive to the development of our future leaders.

I’m in a midlevel IT position at my company, and I’m thinking about getting an MBA to help further my career. Do you think this is a smart move, and if so, is this the right time? I think continuous learning is what makes the future interesting. When I went back to get my MBA, I had 25 years of experience under my belt. I saw students with little to no business experience who wanted to expand their analytical capabilities. For me, it was more about confidence and gaining an understanding of the qualitative side of decision-making. We all had our reasons for being there. So when is the right time? Anytime is the right time as long as you know what you want from the experience and what benefit you will gain. I urge you to seriously look inward for the answer.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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