Do you know your IT staff? Do you regularly communicate with them?
If you do, good for you. If not, you’re missing out on a wonderful opportunity to build morale, inform and just generally build a cohesive, efficient and engaged team.
As you know, I like stories and storytelling…so here’s a real-world example using two different people / organizations. Both organizations are medium sized businesses. Both people work in the IT Operations teams and have been in their current role for 3+ years.
Terri’s been a systems administrator for her current company for roughly 3.5 years. She’s disappointed with her current job and is looking to jump ship as soon as the job market picks back up.
Amit has worked as a database administrator for his company for 5 years. He’s happy, likes his job and actually enjoys going to work.
On the surface, it may seem as if Terri’s just one of those people who’s never happy and always complains. Perhaps Amit appears to be the opposite…a happy go-lucky person who’s happy with what they have.
While there are folks out there like that, Amit and Terri don’t really fit those molds.
Both Terri and Amit have similar backgrounds and work histories. Both came to their current organization from similar organizations and similar roles. Amit tells me that his previous job ‘sucked’ while Terri felt OK about her previous job but didn’t really love it.
I asked Amit if he could pinpoint what the difference was between his previous job that ‘sucked’ and this job that he loved.
The only real difference that he could point to was a simple one:
The CIO communicated with the IT team on a regular basis.
According to Amit, the CIO made himself available to everyone within the IT group daily. He joined the team for lunches and he would join in on the conversations around the coffee maker. During the time the CIO spent with team members, he’d share information with the team. He talked about the company. He talked about things that were important to him. He shared the good and the bad with his team.
What it boiled down to, according to Amit, was that the CIO was available and was personable. Amit could sense from his interactions with the CIO that his role as database administrator was important. He felt that the CIO knew what he did and what it would mean to the organization if Amit wasn’t there to his job.
After hearing this from Amit, I talked to Terri and asked for her general perceptions of the CIO. Her response?
I’ve never met the CIO.
The CIO has a team of 30 people all within one building in Dallas. And he’s never made his way around the team to meet Terri? Unbelievable (and unacceptable – at least to me).
Terri tells me that she’s seen the CIO but never actually met him nor been in any meetings with him. She also tells me that the majority of her coworkers on the IT Operations team report that they’ve not had much interaction with the CIO either.
Another surprising comment from Terri? Every person within that IT team that she has befriended is unhappy. All want to move on to another organization.
Let’s think about what Terri and Amit have said.
Amit’s CIO know’s Amit by his first name. He also knows his family and has had lunch with him multiple times. More importantly, Amit’s CIO shares information with the team regularly. He tells them they’re doing a great job and also tells them when they screw up. Amit’s CIO shares as much information with his team as possible.
Contrast that with Terri. She’s never met the CIO in 3.5 years of working there. She has no idea what her CIO does, what he’s thinking or what he thinks of her. She also has no idea how her position fits into the organization’s strategy nor does she have a clue about the direction in which the organization is going.
What can we learn from Amit & Terri’s situation? While these are anecdotes and not any type of scientific proof, one thing to take away from Terri & Amit’s situation is that, as CIO or other IT manager, you’ve got to continuously communicate. Communication with your team allows for you and them to better understand each other.
After all that wordiness…the basic take away of this post is a simple one.
Talk to your team. Share your thoughts with them and listen to theirs. Make sure they know their value to the organization.
If you can’t perform the simple act of talking to your team, how can you expect them to carry out your plans when they don’t know what your plans are?
Now…if you’re the CIO of a multi-billion dollar organization, you may not be able to communicate with all the IT staff but your direct reports (and theirs) should be able to.