There is an old expression that says “To have a good friend you have to be a good friend.”
I believe that business loyalty follows the same paradigm. As an IT manager, if you want your staff to be loyal to you, then you have to be loyal to them. Furthermore, because you are the IT leader, your actions and attitudes will be the primary determining factor as to the cohesiveness and loyalty of your team members toward you . . . . . and with each other.
A cohesive, productive and loyal IT department can be a powerful strategic advantage and competitive differentiator for an organization in this IT and technically centric world of business today. Leading such an organization and developing the personal reputation as a manager with superior IT leadership skills can also be a powerful career differentiator for you!
That said, consider the following items as you think about how to build a loyal IT organization.
- Let your IT team members take credit for their accomplishments
- Actively protect them when problems and/or bad politics arise
- Be assertive and go to bat for them when they need it
- Work and/or take training to develop your own skills as a good mentor, good teacher and good listener
- Trust their technical and other judgments within the bounds of their knowledge and authority
- Model teamwork-type behavior with your peers
- Reward teamwork between members of your staff in IT and their teamwork with colleagues in other departments
- Help your team move toward their personal and professional goals. Work to provide technical training to keep their skills fresh and good leadership training if they aspire to IT management.
There are also things that you should not do because they can dramatically undermine your efforts toward building loyalty. They are:
- Never assume that your team will be loyal to you just because you are an IT leader; you must earn their loyalty through your attitudes and actions
- Don’t take loyalty for granted, but continue to actively and consciously foster it
- If you take advantage of your team’s loyalty for your personal gain, once found out, their feelings toward you will be substantially diminished—you may never be able to recover from this.
Loyalty and respect are hard to achieve but once lost, even more difficult to reestablish. To illustrate this concept, consider the following story. There are a very great many IT professionals here in Boston, yet it can also be a small world under certain circumstances. Two IT managers, I’ll call them Joe and Bill, who live in opposite directions found themselves passing each other in North Station daily for years as they commuted to their respective employers. They began to recognize each other and ultimately got to know each other, even had coffee together. One morning Joe was in a very bad mood and made an unguarded comment to Bill about a member of his staff. Unfortunately, this remark was overheard by a fellow passenger and then repeated directly to that IT employee. Joe and this employee mended fences but things were never quite the same and even Bill was always a little more guarded when he met Joe on future mornings.
As you would expect, the moral of this story is that as the IT manager you can’t choose when to be loyal to your staff and when not to be. Keep your own counsel. Building and maintaining a loyalty-based work environment, not only requires specific intention, but also requires ongoing consistency.