31 July 2014, by Zoe Cunningham
The following is an excerpt from my new book, “Galvanizing the Geeks – Tips for Managing Technical People”. You can buy the full book on my website, here.
In some businesses, workers are still viewed as drones to be perfunctorily informed of their employers’ decisions – much as they were in the days of the Industrial Revolution. Decisions were taken and instructions given. This will not work in a technical environment.
Your techies are smart. If you’ve focussed on your recruitment, they are really smart. And if you’ve perfected it, they are smarter than you. Smart people think about things. They will not only want to know the ‘why’ behind every decision; they will also formulate their own opinions. They will ferret out the complications and the special cases, and wonder why you aren’t considering them. This will happen even if you are considering them – and even if you’re communicating them, too (we’ve all switched off at company presentations before, right?).
The best way to deal with this is to include everyone directly in the decision making process. I’m not suggesting that you invite everyone to board meetings, but do consider setting up other forums for input, such as monthly meetings that everyone can attend once a year (and maybe the keenest people can attend more often), where any topic of conversation is up for debate.
This is a key belief of mine. It’s always tempting to hold back some information. This could be because you don’t want to have to spend time debating the decision (again…), or because you know that certain groups of people will be unhappy with the outcome and you’re hoping that, if you don’t discuss it, they won’t notice that the decision has been made.
The former is laziness; the latter is gutlessness.
Debating your decisions is a key part of communication and is a part of your job that you need to embrace even if you don’t relish it. Attempting to ignore the problem is sure to come back and bite you further down the line.
Sharing information and encouraging input will also bring benefits that can’t be realised in any other way. Aside from the positive effects on your team’s happiness, which it is very much in your interests to maximize, you will discover new options that you hadn’t previously considered. There are myriad ways to approach any problem, and you won’t find them all on your own. By openly explaining what you have considered and what the parameters for the decision are (and why), you’ll allow your techies to present you with other, often better options.