The 6 secret weapons of successful IT Ops Managers

ecs-admin 2nd December 2015

With so much emphasis in today’s business landscape on increased efficiency and speed, it’s easy to forget that at the end of the day, the most important part of your organisation is your people. It’s true that technology might play a big part in how work gets done in your business, none of it would be possible without the flesh-and-blood human beings that show up at your offices every morning. Managing the way your team works, therefore, is as important – if not more so – than managing the technological assets of your business. In this blog, we’ll take a brief look at some of the most effective tools that the world’s best Ops Managers use to keep their staff working like a well-oiled machine.

Different people have different learning styles, but some broad rules apply.

Human beings are complex systems of hopes, fears, emotions and thoughts. Unlike many of the other systems we rely on in business, there’s no universal best approach to dealing with your team, and no cut-and-dry way to achieve predictable results. To a large extent, the way a team works is a result of the combination of personalities existing within it, and how they respond to different situations. For anyone responsible for managing a team of people, it’s vital to understand what makes each of those people tick, how they learn, what encourages and inspires them, and what detracts from their enjoyment in the work they do.

Even though each team works very differently, there are some general pointers that apply to Ops Management in a general sense:

  1. Be empathetic.

Empathy is arguably the single most important trait of a good manager. Everyone on your team has their own struggles, their own ups and downs and their own experience of the world. Take the time to get to know the members of your team – not just with respect to their function in the organisation, but on a personal level too. If you give your team reason to believe that you truly have their best interests at heart, and interact with them on a real, human level, you’ll be surprised at how quickly everybody starts looking out for each other. If you’re looking for some good reads on increasing your Emotional Intelligence (EQ), this article mentions some of the best books out there.

  1. Learn to stop worrying and empower your staff to make their own decisions

Nobody likes to think of themselves as a micromanager, but the unfortunate reality is that the overwhelming majority of managers quite likely are. It’s difficult to resist being a micromanager, especially for those of us who place a lot of value on attention to detail. But the message this gives to your team, though, is that you don’t trust anyone enough to do the job properly – ultimately, this could result in lowered motivation from your staff and an accompanying dip in performance. Providing your staff with some measure of autonomy gives them ownership of the work they do, encourages them to be more responsible, and builds their confidence.

  1. Be generous, be kind, be fair.

Rather than micromanaging staff, good Ops Management is being available to team members who need their support – there’s nothing more disempowering than not being able to discuss an issue with your manager because he or she is never available. By the same token, look for opportunities to promote staff, and make sure that the rest of the organisation knows when someone is performing well. If you show your team that you’re willing to put in the hours for them, they’ll soon start doing the same for you.

  1. Do away with a culture that fears failure.

In the immortal words of Frank Herbert, fear is the mind-killer. Cultivating a working environment that fears failure will only result in a team that shies away from anything that looks like it might fail, no matter how innovative or unique it may be. There’s evidence of this in some of the most successful companies in the world: Dropbox’s hack week, Google’s 80:20 time, Atlassian’s ShipIt days and many more have been famously successful – 80:20 time was the incubating chamber for Gmail, Google Talk and more. Ops Management can take a leaf or two out of these books, even if it’s on a much smaller scale. Make sure your staff have enough time to experiment with new processes or technologies and encourage them to implement new ideas – some of them might result in great leaps forward for you and your organisation.

  1. Give recognition where it’s deserved.

In one of Seth Godin’s famously evocative talks, he speaks about the common traits of star performers in organisations around the world. According to him, the ‘stars’ in any organisation routinely go over and above what’s expected of them, without feeling the need to claim recognition for it. For people who want to become excellent at what they do, the result is reward enough – it’s your job as a manager not only to identify these people and make sure they are recognised, but also to be that star performer who doesn’t take or seek the credit. Nothing would be possible without your team, so make sure to show them that you know that.

  1. Know when to delegate.

As a manager of people, it’s vital that you have enough time to be there for your staff. Delegating tasks is inevitable, but going about it in a sensible way can make a world of difference. Firstly, don’t be afraid to delegate – it’s not a sign of weakness to pass work on to somebody else. If you’re pressed for time and an ad-hoc task comes up, make sure you don’t take it on at the expense of having time to manage your team. Delegation also shows your staff that you have faith in their abilities, and promotes ownership and responsibility within the ranks of your team.

Ops Management is as much about managing the people on your team as it is about the products or services you offer. ECS Digital has been implementing DevOps in a number of organisations across a wide variety of industries around the world over the last 12 years. The experience we have gained gives us a truly unique insight into what makes a DevOps work. If you’d like to know more about creating culture in your organisation, feel free to download our useful guide to implementing a DevOps culture.

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