I recently had a conversation with a group of young tech workers. They are all VERY intelligent and great technicians. They even have what I would consider very good people skills. The topic of discussion was the role of technology (consultants and managers primarily) in keeping the business up to speed on what technology workers are working on. The group seemed surprised by my assertion that it is every bit as important to report on the work as it is to do the work well.
Let me clarify with a story. Let’s imagine two technology managers (or consultants or even entry level, really). Let’s call them John and Ray. They are both excellent with technology and work very hard for their companies. They both have great experience and try to pay attention to their people skills.
John is a very reserved kind of a guy and somewhat of an introvert. He does his job well, stays weekends and nights when he needs to and really tries to do the right thing in all situations. He assumes that his hard work and diligence will be noticed by his managers and users (customers) and they will appreciate him without his having to “blow his own horn”. This mentality is his justification to ignore what he thinks of as office politics (he thinks they’re beneath him) and he focuses most of his attention on the technology itself.
Ray is a little more outgoing. (For a computer geek, he’s actually the life of the freaking party.) Someone told him years ago “Perception is reality” and it always stuck with him. As a result, Ray always sends his manager a rundown of his department’s activities when they work over a weekend and he makes sure to take an extra few minutes to explain how the business will benefit from whatever they did.
Ok, let’s throw a situation at these two guys and see how they fare. It’s the end of the year and both of these guys are naturally thinking about raises and maybe even promotions. They each have a review with their manager. This is what it might sound like:
MGR: We’re glad to have you John. I know you care about doing a good job.
John: Thank you. The team and I have been putting in a lot of nights and weekends.
MGR: Really? That’s good to hear. Keep up the good work. Do you have any other questions or concerns before we wrap up?
John: Well…is a salary increase at all in my future?
MGR: An increase, huh? Wow. That’s going to be tough to swing this year with the economy and all. We should all be glad we even have jobs.
John: I AM glad we all have jobs, but I really feel like I’ve had my nose to the grindstone and should at least be considered for a raise.
MGR: John, I will do my best to get you some consideration, but if you look at the numbers, IT is one of our biggest expenses. Also, maybe I shouldn’t tell you this, but our CEO was really ticked off about his little email outage…
John: He’s mad about that? We got him up and running as soon as we got the word he was having problems. The Exchange server punked out again and wouldn’t let him connect.
MGR: I know, it’s not really your fault. I only bring it up to let you know I have the deck stacked against me.
John: Ok, I appreciate whatever you can do.
MGR: No problem. I really mean it when I say thanks for all that you do.
MGR: We’re so glad you’re here, Ray. I don’t know what we’d do without you.
Ray: That’s great to hear. The team and I have really tried to get a lot done before the end of the year.
MGR: I know you guys have put in a ton of late nights and weekends. It really has made a difference around here too. Which is as good a lead in as any, I guess. Ray, we’re going to give you a raise, congratulations.
Ray: Wow. I can’t thank you enough.
MGR: You’ve really earned it. Not only have you put in the time and made a difference, but pretty much everyone in the company feels like you’ve brought all of us along for the ride. I can’t tell you how many people have told me how glad they are that you can explain things in a way that they can understand.
Ray: I’m glad to hear that. We try to keep our focus on the needs of the business.
MGR: Keep up the good work!
OK, I know it’s a little cheesy, but I have seen and been a part of conversations that are VERY similar to the ones above. If the business doesn’t KNOW that it’s getting good value from what you’re doing, do NOT expect it to act like it’s getting good value.
I’m not advocating walking around and spouting off how great you are or how much you know. That will be self-defeating. I’m talking about little things like sharing the metrics with your organization. How many calls did we handle last month? What was our average resolution time? What kind of growth have we experienced recently? How has technology made the work life of users better? Things like letting management know not just that you’re working overtime, but what that work will MEAN to the company and the people who work there.
Trust me, I’ve seen this one play out many times. Heed this advice and I GUARANTEE you will have a more successful career.