It is your first day in your new IT Leadership position. You have all the HR admin stuff out of the way. You may have met with a few people, maybe even had a group meeting with the IT Team.
Learning about the people in the IT department is an important part of coming up to speed in your new job. Let’s talk about how to do this.
Portions of this article are excerpted from my book, The I.T. Leader’s First Days, available from bookstores everywhere.
If you didn’t already do it during the interview process, get an organization chart for the department. Remember this is the paper version of how the department works, not reality. Use it as a guide in your learning but be careful about assumptions you make.
One on one conversations are the best way to get to know the people. And to learn about the real organization chart.
Goal number one is to learn who they are personally. I’m not talking about grilling them about their personal life. That is none of your business. I’m talking about how they view work, their job, the department, and the organization. Learn what they know. Learn how they work. Learn what is important to them. Learn how they like to be recognized. Learn what annoys them. Learn what their job goals are. Learn who they connect with in the department.
You won’t get all of this in one conversation. You will tailor these questions to each person. For example, you may ask for prior experience if they have been at the organization for a short time. e.
Getting to know each other is a two-way street. Plan on telling them a bit about yourself. A few minutes about your history and what is important to you at the beginning can help. Spend the bulk of the meeting asking them questions.
Besides getting to know them as individuals, getting their view of the department and organization is important. Here are some questions that may be useful:
- Tell me about your history at the organization.
- What is your experience with other companies?
- What does a typical day look like?
- What does this department do well?
- How would you describe the team’s personality?
- Tell me one or two things that you think that I, as a new leader, should know about the department and the organization.
- How does the rest of the organization view IT?
If you have these meetings in the first week, as I strongly suggest you do, the team may be hesitant around you. You are, after all, a stranger to them and you haven’t built up trust yet. Don’t push it. Listen. Echo back what you hear on points that seem the most important to them. Trust will come over time as they learn who you are and how you work.
I want to say a few words about the situation where you are promoted from being a member of the team to being the leader of the team. This is a difficult position to be in. You are now supervising your peers. Some of them may have also wanted the position you now hold. Some of them may think they know you well but hadn’t previously noticed your leadership qualities.
Even if everyone on the team feels you will make an excellent leader, they (and you) are used to having a certain relationship. That relationship must change. I’m not talking about being friendly, respectful, or helpful. I’m talking about the fact that your words should (must!) carry more weight than they did when you were a peer. Be clear about suggestions and expectations.
You will want them to keep you in the loop as their manager more than they needed to when you were a peer. Make this part of the conversation so everyone is clear.
Be intentional about how that relationship will change.
The faster you come up to speed on the IT team, the faster you will be able to start leading effectively.