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4 strategies for managing junior IT professionals

Jonathan Hassell | Aug. 29, 2012
Spring and summer school sessions have ended, and, if you're like a number of organizations around the globe, you have a giant pile of resumes and just a handful of openings for some fresh faces to join your firm at the bottom rungs of the corporate ladder. Hiring the right person is a difficult process, but managing the new employees--or, let's be honest, managing any employee--is even more challenging. Nobody sets out to be a bad manager, but that transformation can happen over time if your policies and your behavior are left unchecked.

Good decisions come from enrolling all affected users and administrators. Others may have valuable input or bring to light issues you haven't yet considered. Plus, it's rare to find supervisors who actively seek input from their subordinates and engage in discussions about key policies. Make it clear you'll make the final call, but make it equally clear that you solicit the conversation and value the results that come from it. (Frankly, this is good advice for any manager, not just for IT pros managing other IT pros.)

Direct reports learn what concepts and ideas you value and what concerns you. From seeing such conversations and witnessing your transparent decision-making process, they begin to pick up on your steps, the questions you ask, the angles you consider and, in short, they grow as leaders and decision-makers, too. As you well know, the higher you go in the corporate food chain, the more emphasis is placed on your ability to make good decisions quickly. That's an acquired skill&mash;and one you can properly demonstrate to your direct reports.

It's easy for someone just out of school to think he has all the answers and knows best. We've all been that cocky, upstart 22-year-old right out of school who considers entrenched wisdom and process dumb. Teach your subordinates that "Why don't we just..." is never a good way to start a sentence and perhaps "What is the preferred way..." is a better icebreaker.

Don't Be Afraid to Invest in Training.

Training is perhaps the most important part of professional development, yet in almost all organizations its value is substantially overlooked.

This is understandable on the surface. The common reason training isn't a big part of career development and human resources is a concept I call "fake intellectual theft"--managers are afraid they'll spend their scarce budgets on very expensive and often quite specialized training for their direct reports, only to watch them carry all that knowledge directly to another organization, probably for more money. The natural reaction to the learn-and-leave effect--which honestly does happen, but not to the extent that is feared by most managers--is to stop investing in training.

This is shortsighted. It tells your good employees you don't care about their development and don't trust their career ambitions, which all but pushes them out the door at their first realistic opportunity. Your less-good (to put it politely) employees are the ones who end up staying, and of course they'll be at that same mediocre level of proficiency because, well, you've already decided not to train them. You've doomed yourself to an average team, at least until you decide to shake things up.

Don't Promote People Beyond Their Competence.


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