One thing great about being a IT Manager is that, for the most part, you can delegate things you don’t like to do, or don’t do well, to the people that work for you. I’ll give you a personal example of how I follow this concept. I’m a terrible proof reader. If I’m asked to proofread a document that has three typos in it, by the time I’m done, it has four typos. Knowing this weakness, I always make sure there is someone on my team that enjoys and is very skilled at proofreading. I truly envy people who have this ability; it’s just not in my skill set.
I’ll give you a second example that is experience-based, rather than skill-based. I started my profession as a computer programmer and over the years moved up through the software development ranks into senior Information Technology (IT) roles. My specialty was always computer software, not computer hardware. Therefore, when at an executive level and had both hardware and software reporting to me, I was always very careful to hire a very knowledgeable and competent hardware person to cover my lack of experience in that technical area.
Regarding hiring to your strengths, it’s of course, extremely important to always hire great people. However, if you only hire people that are just like you, namely with your strengths, weaknesses, experience, and perspective then you open up yourself and your department to:
- Quality issues caused by overall skill set deficiencies
- Reduced possibility of innovation due to a lack of team diversity
- Experience and knowledge gaps in potentially important functional areas
- Reduced team flexibility caused by all of the above
The question then becomes what types of people do you hire? To answer that question you should ask yourself the following questions regarding you and your department:
- What are your personal strengths and weaknesses?
- What experience do you bring to the job?
- What are the personal strengths and weaknesses of the people currently on your team?
- What skills and abilities are needed to effectively and efficiently perform your department’s required tasks?
- What are the skills and experience gaps between your department’s needs and the abilities of you and your team?
Once the above questions are answered, then you will be a position, from a general skill set perspective, to begin shaping an image of the type person you would like to hire.
Take note that it’s very hard to properly hire people that are different than you. To begin, human nature causes people to be comfortable with people like themselves. Second, it can be difficult to assess a person’s skills and abilities in an area where you do not have those abilities. For example, if you are not a computer programmer, it’s very hard to assess a person’s programming ability. Third, it can be hard to judge someone’s depth of experience in an area that you are not personally skillful. As an example, I don’t know how to vertically climb a mountain using ropes; as a result, it would be very hard for me to judge the value of an accomplished climber’s background. Lastly, it can be very hard to assess someone’s level of knowledge on a topic you do not know.
All that said, if through your own ability and the assistance of others, if you are willing and able to hire people who truly complement, rather than mimic, your strengths, weaknesses, knowledge, experience, and point of view, then you will be well positioned to meet the challenges ahead.
Until next time, lead well, always communicate, and think business first and technology second.