As your IT career evolves, there are three essential non-technical skills you must develop to advance from a pure technologist role to a senior member of your organization: team development, relationship management, and financial management. Although they are not the only necessary skills for career advancement, these three skills are often overlooked and underappreciated by technologists trying to move into leadership roles.
Responsibility for developing a team is not limited to supervisors, managers, or directors. Whether you are a contributor at a staff level or have a traditional management role, consider how you can help with team development. The foundation for any successful, high-performing team is ensuring that information and ideas are exchanged freely, efficiently, and effectively.
Constructive discussion should be encouraged; team members should feel their voices are heard, not ignored. Too often, the best ideas are overlooked because an individual holds back, due to fear or dysfunctional team dynamics. By holding back ideas, you artificially handicap the team by limiting input needed for constructive discussion.
Present your thoughts in a timely manner delaying can cost valuable time when course corrections could have easily been made earlier. As the saying goes, "No one appreciates a Monday morning quarterback" especially someone who hedges his or her bets (i.e., insights and opinions) waiting on the ultimate outcome before weighing in.
Be concise and constructive when contributing, and present both problems and solutions. Depending on team personalities, ground rules may be necessary so that team members are not intimidated by more aggressive personalities.
Rules can include not allowing interruptions until the person speaking has completed his or her thoughts, limiting distracting side conversations, and directly discouraging mean-spirited or unproductive behaviors. This does not contrain lively, intense debate constructive conflict is actually good.
Rather, be sure the team understands the rules and process so that all creditable information, data, ideas, opinions, etc. are processed and properly vetted to arrive at an optimal plan. A team cannot succeed in the long term if it does not interact in a professional manner and encourage timely information exchange among all members.
Good relationship management is critical, and it starts within your department team. Directors, managers, and individual staff members need solid relationships with peers within their own department. It is tempting to passively participate in your own departmental meetings and believe that you and your peers are on the same page (just because you are within the same department or meet regularly), but this is a false sense of cooperation. Reach out individually to your peers, whether new or longtime colleagues, and actively engage them, through formal or informal channels, in discussions about each person's departmental projects, goals, challenges, etc. This will lead to a better understanding of potential issues, synergies, and opportunities.
Equally critical is your relationship with your peers across departments and with the customers you support (or that support you) outside of your department. This helps assure successful results for projects that involve multiple departments, as well as the ability to identify potential synergies across departments.
It is very easy for IT professionals to become isolated within their own department when managing projects and developing technology. When this happens, projects that started with clear business objectives can slowly run off the track.