The ability to identify and train IT managers is a key factor in establishing productive IT teams. Here’s what to look for and how to hone leadership talent when promoting from within.
Newly forged IT managers face a daunting challenge: They need deep technical knowledge to oversee a technology team — along with a mix of specific soft skills that help them motivate their former peers.
With this in mind, how should you go about identifying IT staff who are ready to make the jump into their first management jobs? And what should their managers be prepared for, in terms of training them to lead, and providing what they need to be successful?
Read on for 13 tips from IT professionals who’ve successfully groomed employees from the ranks to leadership positions and have some thoughts on how to make it work. They explain how to successfully zero in on the most important traits in tech pros who are ready to take the next step.
Identify candidates early
Planning ahead can help you create an ongoing succession plan, by identifying internal candidates before the need arises, says Giancarlo Di Vece, president of Unosquare.
“You should have a clear idea of the job requirements and begin identifying staff with the aptitude and technical know-how to move up the ladder,” Di Vece says. “Mentoring and training prepare the candidate or — in some cases — reveal weaknesses that rule out a management position. The advantage of an internal hire is that you can see potential leaders in action every day. The same candidates have a grasp of company culture and client needs, and they reduce the onboarding time most new hires require.”
Consider mentoring opportunities
Di Vece once made a leap of faith by promoting a former intern, and he considers it one of his best hiring calls.
“When he started, he expressed appreciation of our company’s concept and our culture,” he says. “I mentored him during his internship, and he helped us develop plans to help train project leads and manage additional team members. It was surprisingly fulfilling to have the energy and vision from someone without prior experience. He was able to build upon his experience within the company and created value in his role which benefited our company in the process.”
Seek out those with an eye for the bigger picture
When scoping out possible staff for a promotion, consider how the person handles their own business before letting them manage others, advises Evan Callender, director in West Monroe Partners' performance services practice.
“Do they follow through on their commitments?” Callender says. “If not, they’re not ready. Second, it’s important to consider if they'll be able to delegate tasks within the team. Natural managers become leaders by understanding the bigger picture of what the group can accomplish, not just what they can get done.”
Look for teachers
Rajiv Kohli, professor of business at William & Mary and senior editor of Information Systems Research, recommends promoting big-picture thinkers who are willing to mentor.
“The most important aspect of training was to delegate and stop the urge to do it yourself,” Kohli says. “This is difficult, because they know the task well and can do it faster than the new person. But by doing it themselves, they’re not taking on the manager’s role. And they’re stopping others from practicing the skill.”
“The new manager needs to identify what’s working and what’s not, and it’s critical for their staff to have confidence the new manager understands their skills and process.”