By: Alicia Hernandez, Think Technical Writer
Everyone agrees, yes even you, that management is a tough job. All of the clichés apply, and I’ve heard them all repeatedly! “Better you than me” seems to be the one I hear most when I tell people that I’m an IT Manager. But the fact is, I love a good challenge – I am a technologist at heart after all – and therefore, I love being a manager.
Similar to the technology field, management practices must constantly be on the “adapt and change” train to be effective. If you are still running Windows XP (you need to call 970-247-1885 IMMEDIATELY), you are missing out on so many great opportunities with the new technology that is available now. Management is the same way. If you think “Because I told you to” will still get people to do what you want them to do, you probably hate your job and your team because they don’t respect you.
You must adapt and change with the times! And my own personal secret to being a good (or at least decent) manager: Understand your generations! This became most apparent to me when I was managing a Network Operations Center and had individuals reporting to me (a 26-year old at the time) who ranged between the ages of 24 and 57. I struggled in my first few months managing this team. At first, I thought it was because I did not have the technical knowledge of Network Operations. But as time went on and I attended some additional management training as well as started researching for what was going to be my dissertation, I realized it had nothing to do with the technology and everything to do with my approach to managing them.
Generation Y (born 1980-2000) was not nicknamed Generation Why? because they weren’t sure if they were a vowel or a consonant. This is the generation of lifelong learning and a need to understand. They have been exposed to instant information and gratification from early on in their lives, and got to experience the introduction of the Internet as teenagers or from birth. This is the generation most of us are managing (or trying to manage) today with serious difficulty. If you are managing a Gen Y’er, also referred to as a Millennial, you will get the best production out of them if you share with them the reasoning behind your request rather than trying the militant approach. They also want to be included in the decision making when possible and recognized for the work they did. These three things will help you gain loyalty from your Gen Y’ers.
Ah, the militant approach…every manager has a little bit of this style in them – that is why we were turned into managers after all, right! Because we are good at telling people what to do! This comes in handy when managing the generations that came before the Gen Y’ers. The Baby Boomers, and even the Generation X population, were raised with the “do as your told” parenting style and to “respect your elders and those in an authoritative position.” Sometimes, a manager has to be that commanding figure and it will be those employees between the ages of 35 and 50 who will respond best to this approach.
This information saved me and my career back in that Network Operations Center. I changed my approach based on each individual I was working with at the time. There was hesitancy from those that were older than me, wondering how such a young kid was going to lead them when they had so much more experience than me. So, I started taking a stronger, more confident, and almost forceful approach when working with them, and things changed almost immediately! I was not shy about my knowledge or my ability to do the job, and that gained their respect. The younger individuals needed more inclusion in the decisions, wanted to be heard, and required the extra level of information that I hadn’t been giving before. With them, I humbled myself and acknowledged that I did not know everything and needed their help. Over the next two years, I built a bond with this team that I never imagined possible in those first few months. The trick was understanding Generation Management and adapting on an individual level opposed to trying to manage everyone with the same approach.
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