THE BLOG
01/23/2015 06:24 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

I Don't Want a Promotion to Management

In my previous post with Steve Snyder, CIO/CTO of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, we discussed delegation and dealing with failure. Analyzing failure can often lead to clarity and a better understanding of career choices. One lesson is that not everyone is seeking a management role. With that in mind, I asked Steve Snyder to share his thoughts on IT career options and the role of the CIO in guiding and mentoring team members for the mutual benefit of the individual and organization. Here are Steve's thoughts:

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Steve Snyder, (Twitter: @stevengsnyder) - CIO/CTO Massachusetts Convention Center Authority

It took me a few years, and several trips over the management equivalent of a speed bump, to realize that not everyone wants to move up the management ladder. Moreover, it is a disservice to your employees to gauge performance on either the desire to move into management or the inclination to stay put. You may find valuable team members who love what they do, are driven to contribute and execute daily, but are not compelled to move up the corporate ladder.

A Perfect Blend

In a well-functioning organization there are always team members whose goal is to move up. However, the team will also include members whose steady quality work keeps your organization running smoothly. Your organization needs the right blend of both. Too many mustangs in the mix and there won't be enough workhorses to get all the tasks done. Too many workhorses, and the organization stops innovating and growing.

Asking the Important Questions

"Most of the successful people I've known are the ones who do more listening than talking." --Bernard Baruch

I once made the mistake of moving high performing employees out of their current role and up the ladder. My thinking was twofold--their performance met or exceeded expectations and it appeared they had ability to be successful in a higher-level position. However, I neglected to ask the most important question: what do you want? Surprisingly, they may have responded that they preferred not to change roles.

They may have preferred staying in their comfort zone, or they might have been queasy about managing former peers. In some cases, they can be coached to be more confident in taking on a new role. However, your employee may simply not want the new role. They may already be in their perfect position.

Are you sure taking that away is the best way to foster a fully functioning workplace?

If your employee is truly happy in their current role and does not want to move, then the decision is made for you. Forcing the change could drive a stellar employee out of the organization. At best, you would be placing a valuable contributor into a position where they are no longer successful.

Your employee may temporarily rise to the occasion --just to make their manager (you) happy. However, if her heart isn't in the role, it will be only a matter of time before the employee and her new role in the organization come apart.

(Re-)Defining Success
Just because someone is an all-star system admin, database analyst, developer or project manager does not necessarily mean they have the desire to manage a team. He may not want to acquire the skills to have difficult discussions or manage conflict.

You must develop candidates for management, still while growing and challenging team contributors who do not have a management focus. Seek out these team contributors and listen to their thoughts and insights. Good managers provide feedback on all ideas, even if not implemented. This keeps the idea spigot open.

A Well-Oiled Machine

"Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes." --Peter Drucker

Your business team is like a formula one racing team--with success measured by winning races. Every team member is critical to the outcome. There are those that finance the team, mechanics that setup the car, the pit crew that fuels, and the driver that pilots the car. One misstep and the race is lost. Each individual adds value to the outcome. Everyone is at risk if someone has an off day.

Good team dynamics key on communication. Are you sharing with all team members - top to bottom - the vision for the department, organizational unit and the overall business? Are you tying this vision to the reason they come to work? Do they understand the impact on the team when they do their jobs well and when they don't? This is one way that you can relate the importance of each and every team member to the whole team, creating a buy-in for employees to perform to their full ability every day.

In the military there are very few individual contributors. Rather, success is dependent upon the success of the team. The training, drilling, and educating of the team builds camaraderie and a sense of purpose.

While the demographics of a typical business are very different from a military unit, you can still create a strong sense of belonging. Pay attention to the well-being of your team. You never succeed or fail separately. Rather, you celebrate success or lament failure together.

As a manager, I ask myself these questions:

  • How do I reward my team's efforts?
  • How do I make my team feel appreciated for keeping the lights on?
  • How do I keep my team engaged?

The answers to these questions are as unique and varied as each employee. Team success requires engaging each employee in a frank and honest discussion about what they want out of their job. You may be surprised by the answers.

There is no magic formula for what will motivate your team. The best advice I can offer is, "Stop talking and just listen--then think about what you heard."

Hero or Zero?

"Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it's amazing what they can accomplish." --Sam Walton

By starting with those three questions, you begin to think about the health and welfare of those who keep things running on your team. It is in everyone's best interest to have open conversations with each team member, taking note of their work style and motivations, as well as their long-term goals. This is the strategy that will either make you a leadership hero or a leadership zero.

This post was co-authored by Steve Snyder, CIO/CTO of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority.