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Getting Personal

This need to understand what each employee or direct report wants will place a significant burden on CIOs who will have to carve up projects and set goals based on personal rather than team objectives. But rather than offering any sympathy, Tulgan says it is just the price of being a leader in today's business environment.

"Leaders at all levels must learn to connect with their direct reports," he says. "Figure out one person at a time, one day at a time, how to tune in to each person, become more knowledgeable about each person's tasks and responsibilities, projects, strengths, weaknesses, resource needs, skills gaps and so on. Spend more time talking with direct reports one person at a time, one day at a time about the work.

"My view is that there is way too much talk in the workplace about everything under the sun, and not enough talk about the work."

Micro-management then seems to be the way of the future for CIOs wanting to keep their workforce productive, happy and loyal. But there is a difference between micro-management and command and control, which in Tulgan's view does not work.

"I believe that managers in every workplace today are engaged in a tug of war," He says. "On one side, employers are demanding more work and better work out of people - often out of fewer people with fewer resources. On the other, employees are feeling pressured, overworked and in need of some relief in the form of flexible working conditions or at least some incentives for their hard work.

"Stuck in the middle trying to negotiate these competing needs is every single person with supervisory authority . . . The most successful approach to supervisory management nowadays is to be transactional rather than hierarchical. That means there is a quid pro quo for everything - if employees want rewards they simply must perform. The more employees perform the more rewards they receive and high performance is the only option.

"Equally important is the emphasis on being hands-on rather than hands-off. If managers are going to be transactional they must be extremely knowledgeable about the work their direct reports are doing, they must spend a lot of time with direct reports spelling out expectations, clarifying standards and defining goals and deadlines. And they must have the guts to hold employees accountable."

Managing at such a granular level is challenging, but Tulgan claims its rewards include higher productivity, higher quality, improved morale and better retention of high performers.

For CIOs the challenge to be across every project IT staff are working on will be diffused somewhat by employing project managers who can each supervise their own team, with the CIO then only needing direct interaction with those project managers. However, Tulgan says that ideally managers should have a daily 10-minute coaching session with all their direct reports - and the minimum expectation ought to be a brief coaching session with direct reports every week.

As part of that communication, managers need to set out their expectations in concrete. "You must clarify daily or weekly goals and deadlines. You must articulate guidelines and parameters," says Tulgan. "Your mantra in your daily or weekly meetings should be: 'Here's what I need you to do, by this day and time, and here are the guidelines. Do you understand?'"

He adds that it is important to track in writing these coaching sessions so that an employee's successes and failures are recorded so that they can in turn be rewarded or remedied. Such documentation may be required by the human resources department to underpin any decisions taken about an individual employee.

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