How CIOs Can Motivate IT Staff

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By: Larry Loeb|

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CIOs have a number of tasks and duties that fall to them, but none as pervasive and ongoing as talking to IT staff.

Motivating that staff to perform projects doesn’t mean officiously reciting job responsibilities to them. This sort of top-down management style is hierarchical, with “the troops” at the bottom that actually have to perform the tasks with little or no input into how they’re done.

And although it may be what some organizations are used to, it won’t build teams that can work with one another effectively toward a common purpose. IT personnel often concentrate on the tasks they’ve been assigned and leave it at that, neglecting the additional effort and interplay that can lead to better results in the long term.

Involving the Group

So, how can a CIO motivate the troops to do a more complete effort? There are some simple techniques CIOs can use that have ripple effects in the performance pool.

Meetings called by the CIO may apply generally to the entire business, but they still need things to ring true with certain teams. This kind of effort means providing IT personnel with specifics that affect the work they may be doing as a result of a new activity you’re meeting about. By giving the group this experience, the team will be more likely to concentrate on the goals the CIO has in mind for the enterprise at large. If you’re launching a pilot project with a portion of your company’s data, for example, ask IT if have the right tools to carry it out. Does this project pose security risks or even licensing issues that fall on the services IT deploys to make this happen? Always know how company innovations affect support, and loop them in.

Make the effort to approach the group on its own terms, not yours. This is what will show the group that your respect them enough to validate their choices. In return, it’s more likely that they will try to help make your choices come true.

Letting IT Communicate

When IT notices you respect their operations in this way, make sure they’re able to communicate back to the company as needed, too. Give them avenues to explain what they do every day to the rest of the company; this may mean allotting similar time for IT to run a meeting on the same new pilot project. Letting IT teach, rather than simply fix, makes collaboration more efficient in environments like higher education, according to Campus Technology — and this principle can apply across several industries. It also counteracts the tendency for IT staff to think the user is simply overlooking an obvious solution. The “user=loser” construct needs to be eradicated from the interactions between users and IT staff.

It’s incumbent on IT staff to do more than just repair something. They should teach a user how to avoid having the problem again, and how to correct it if they do. The user is part of the solution, not just the recipient of received knowledge from IT.

Don’t Underestimate the Food Run

This may seem silly on the surface, but it can have unexpected resonances within morale when tasks and projects get more complex.

Make a food offering to the team at a meeting. Not just a box of stale donuts or local fast food; rather, the offering should cater to the tastes of the group, whatever they may be. This can be something positive and unexpected, but the CIO’s effort to find out what group members enjoy is what sysadmins will remember.

The offering will be appreciated, sure, but the benefit here is how it makes IT staff feel coming into work. Knowing that the CIO went to the effort to find something they will want doesn’t disappear as fast as the food might. The effort becomes a token of the respect the troops deserve, demonstrating that the CIO is invested in the department’s happiness. Keep this going on a regular basis: What do its members enjoy? Where do they collectively go to lunch? What shows up at break time in the coffee room?

IT faces their own challenges when the business makes a move that affects the entire organization. When the CIO makes the extra effort to show them respect with opportunities for leadership (and enjoyment), you can help motivate them to do their duties in a much more positive manner.

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