Introvert management by introvert or experience in managing technical teams

To begin with, about the author - I worked in IT at three companies for more than 20 years: EMC, IBM, Sun (in alphabetical order). He started as a systems engineer right after the university, then he was a senior engineer, technical consultant, head of technical consultants and, finally, technical director who led a team of presales and architects with more than 70 people in total. In addition, for a year I was a leader in sales through channel partners (Channel Sales Leader), distributed across Central and Eastern Europe. Below I will try to share my experience precisely as a leader and so that there are no incorrect or unnecessary associations, I will give examples from practice while working for ABC (also three letters). Perhaps the presentation is somewhat one-sided, since all my employers are large international companies, and I worked in their regional offices. Well, then I can not do anything about this specificity and what the reader considers to be unacceptable and not right, even if it remains so personally for him.

Firstly, why the heading is the word "introvert." Without going into the depths of psychology, where I am not at all oriented, many, I think, have heard the words introvert and extrovert, especially recently. There are several comics on that characterize the differences between these two types of people (in fact, I first learned these terms from there), and those who are interested can delve into Wikipedia and the original sources - the works of Jung and Hans Eysenck. For myself, I draw a dividing line between extroverts and introverts in relation to public speaking: if a person likes to speak in front of an audience, he is charged with it, enjoys it and is ready to work with renewed energy after speaking, then you are most likely an extrovert. If a person needs to prepare for a long and painful performance, tune himself, and after the performance - to leave, then this is the one whom I consider an introvert. Moreover, it is important that this absolutely does not mean that some people do something better or worse than others - we are talking exclusively about the internal attitude to the act of public speaking.

Secondly, where does it all mean, what is the relationship between introverts / extroverts and technical teams. The thing is that it is the techies, for the most part, introverts. This does not mean that an extrovert cannot be a techie or a very good techie, but, as my experience shows, extroverts do not linger on technical positions and, at the first opportunity, go to sellers or other roles that focus specifically on communicating with others by people. Also among sellers, even the most excellent sellers, there are introverts who, for their self-discipline, force themselves to perform not the most comfortable duties - honor and praise to such people. It’s just that for someone it goes naturally and gives pleasure only, for another it requires maximum concentration, tension and a subsequent recovery period.

Having dealt with the terminology, let us pass, in fact, to the subject of the story. I will immediately make a reservation that what I am writing about is not the result of any training and attempt to express someone’s clever thoughts, but only a statement of my own experience, in connection with which I do not pretend to be academic in definitions and I will be glad to hear objections and wishes in any form, especially, indicating my wrong conclusions and actions. So, under the actual leadership , I will understand the change in the behavior of the team representatives, which leads to the improvement of any quantitative indicators. So, for example, at ABC, I was faced with the task of transforming tech-techies into tech-sellers, which, of course, should ultimately be reflected in an exponential increase in sales. Here it is impossible not to make a reservation that often in such a clear form the task is either not formulated, or even exists exclusively in the head of one of the managers and for its solution it is necessary to work not with the team, but with this manager. Looking ahead, I’ll say that I believe that this problem has been solved to a large extent, although I admit that alternative points of view are also possible.

By technician-technician I mean a technical specialist who is well versed in equipment, understands how it works, what tasks and how it solves. At the same time, an attempt to explain to the customer why he needs this equipment does not always succeed. Why? I will focus on one, as it seems to me, the main reason: the customer and the techie (and even the seller too) often speak completely different languages . And so much so that sometimes a translator is required (most often the seller is forced to play this role). Imagine a customer, sometimes even from the IT department, who thinks about how he can help increase steel production, improve the quality of cars produced or conduct a marketing company to attract new subscribers and a techie who talks about the processor clock speeds, the number of drives, hyperconverged and three-tier architecture ...
Now about who is to blame and what to do. My position is that customers are given to us from above and not for us to educate them. Although, they can (and should) be formed, which I will write about below. But the techie’s behavior model needs to be analyzed in detail:

  1. It is more convenient for a specialist to speak the language that he speaks daily in his circle. Exaggerating, the notorious bits and bytes - this is the subject in which techies are oriented and where they feel like fish in water.
  2. The customer’s tasks in the form of the above examples are generally perceived as insignificant excuses (bla-bla-bla or bullshit, if you use English terminology). Let him say how many processors he needs, and I will answer which server model he needs.
  3. The specialist (and, most often, the introvert), generally did a favor to the seller, breaking away from his important affairs, allocated time for a meeting and already once explained everything. Not his problem if he remained misunderstood.

Of course, this is a greatly exaggerated picture, but, believe me, to one degree or another, it corresponds to real life. There was one engineer at ABC at our company who answered the customer verbatim: I came to change the drive to you, and not explain what happened to you. Restoring relations with the leader who listened to it was worth the significant effort.

First, let’s analyze, let’s say, surface tools that can correct the described picture. Firstly, it is a development of what's in English called softskills - training in the art of presentations, sales techniques (for example, SPIN), psychological techniques and the like. I, at one time, was greatly helped by the teaching of oratory - I learned some techniques from there how to not be afraid of public speaking. I try, whenever possible, to be the first to come to the room where you will need to speak, go around it, feel it, go into all corners and feel like the owner of the room where the guests will come, but this is my personal reception. There are many similar methods, and everyone probably chooses something of their own. Secondly, in order to understand not only the language, but also the problems facing the customer, the techie should spend as much time with the customer as possible - get used to it, feel its problems and then the solutions it proposes will become much more relevant and realistic, and, most importantly, understandable to the customer. For example, At one time, I set a task for two of my subordinates at least once a week to feed the customer with lunch and monitored the mandatory nature of this event. It’s not even so important what the conversation will be about at such dinners - the main thing is that my technicians and their colleagues on the customer’s side learned to understand each other and speak the same language. Of course, there are always more customers than the resources available to you, and here I am guided by the 80/20 principle - 20 percent of customers bring you 80 percent of the money and it is on them that you should concentrate your efforts. And finally, thirdly, it is necessary to find a pain point - a question that is interesting and / or important and understandable to the customer. Then the discussion will be mutual, and both sides will make efforts to understand each other. I will give one example from my practice when I was still a techie. Приехав впервые в одну организацию в другом городе, я был встречен, мягко говоря, прохладно, вопросом: а зачем собственно приехал ? Your equipment does not suit us (the claims were essentially fair) and we have already decided to buy your competitors. Having hardly persuaded the customer to listen to my presentation, I talked about technology, feeling that everything was wasted into milk and that wasted time. I said, until the customer casually objected to one small technical, as it seemed to him, inaccuracy. I will say without exaggeration that the debate about this inaccuracy lasted more than an hour, and with the transition to almost screaming ... The former seller with me, having lost the essence of the conversation, almost fell asleep. And we, having quarreled, came to a common point of view, then the customer asked for another presentation, prices and remained our client, at least for 10 years. I continue to be friends with this customer for more than 15 years, changing the company (to another ABC) and not conducting any business with him. We just became friends.

Returning to the topic, the leader’s task is to develop the techies mentioned communication skills, presentations and the like (softskills). It is important to note that it is not enough just to organize training, it is necessary to ensure the involvement of employees, their interest, participation. By the way, the most important task of the joint activity of techies, teamwork, their recognition of each other, and the organization of interaction are simultaneously being solved. And do not think that there is no such task, even if everyone is sitting in the same room (open space) - introverts are self-sufficient. They do not need and are not interested in communication for the sake of communication - if there is a task that he is working on alone, then for years he may not even know the name of his neighbor.

But, as accurately stated above, these methods and tools can only slightly adjust the behavior of techies. Because the main thing that underlies their actions and desires is motivation. Hundreds of articles and books have been written about motivation, and dissertations can be defended on this topic. There are self-motivated people who are always ready to go further and deeper. If you have any in your team, you are in luck, appreciate them. For the rest, external factors and conditions are needed. In order not to be unfounded I will describe what motivates me and what I motivated my teams with. Firstly, it belongs to the organization, to community. This coin has two sides. The organization must have a goal. and a noble goal, for example, providing mobile communications to all people, providing a platform for storing any information and the like. This goal should be formulated in the form of slogans, slogans, be simple, understandable and known to all. If the stated goal of the company is, for example, increasing dividends on shares from $ 18 to $ 21, then you should not expect that people who do not have shares will give all their best. ... And on the other hand, techies should share this goal. For myself, I divide all companies into “religious” and “non-religious”. Companies that believe in them may or may not love them, such as Apple, but whose goals are understandable. And companies that "also have" or that once believed in the past ...

It is clear that the previous paragraph refers to the reality given to us from above and it is most likely not possible to change the situation. However, the atmosphere in the local office is no less important . When the entire office clearly understands the tasks and shares the general goals of the company, it works as one organism. And everyone, from the general manager to the secretaries, is trying to do everything possible for the good of the company. Moreover, in such a situation, there is no rejection of the understanding of the fact that any commercial organization should be profitable and everyone, including techies, is focused on the fact of making a profit.

At the very beginning of my career at ABC, we pushed each other with the question: How much money did you bring to the company today? ? And if at first this question, in any case, from me, provoked a negative reaction: what money, if I studied today, for example, how to write scripts for automatic installation of software on the server, then gradually, it became a guide to action.

Creating such a constructive atmosphere is the task of all, without exception, leaders. And the atmosphere is not only and not so much about money. This is the accessibility of all managers for subordinates, friendliness, mutual assistance and mutual assistance. There are such companies and the results that they show always exceed all expectations.

And, returning to the topic of various languages ​​spoken by customers and techies, with the right atmosphere in the company, there is no longer a question of translation. Techies do not lock themselves in the sink of technical terms - they want to be understood and try to explain complex technical things themselves in simple and understandable words. And training softskills, which was discussed above, will not give superficial results, but will equip techies with methods and tools that will be constantly used precisely because of the desire to convey their thoughts and be understood.

The last comment on the topic of interaction with customers is the behavior of the leader, who creates an atmosphere precisely at his level, supports and cultivates the desire of techies to be understood and explains to them that it is necessary to chew and pronounce to customers even those things that the techies themselves seem obvious.

One of the pillars of a constructive atmosphere is trust . Techies should trust their leader, and the leader should always be on the side of his subordinates and trust them.

We will analyze two really typical situations. In the first case, I grew up within the team and became the leader of my own colleagues. These are the most hothouse conditions under which you already have a priori authority, you are “your own” and trust you (I do not take into account extreme cases when you become a leader, let's say, not quite deservedly - this most likely refers to the second situation) . Of course, it is important to maintain relations with colleagues who are now subordinate to you. I had no doubt that it was relationships that were the most valuable thing that a team that could be could be a team regardless of any external factors. External factors here mean various transformations, changes in goals and objectives, additional responsibilities, changes in working conditions and much much more ...

Probably, the mistakes of the new manager are typical: at first, remaining a technician in the soul and guided by the principle “if you want it to be done well, do it yourself”, he tries to independently drag the increasing load. Then, if there is no disappointment, the novice manager learns to delegate responsibilities and, succeeding in this direction, delegates absolutely everything, turning out to be useless to anyone. Anyway, this is my way. These issues require detailed consideration.

It is clear that the path of a techie leader who cannot cope with an ever-increasing load is unpromising. And here, probably, everyone should decide for himself either to truly become a leader and inevitably lose the level of expertise and technical knowledge that he had before the appointment, or to abandon the leadership functions and remain an expert. Sitting on two chairs may be possible, but in reality it doesn’t work.

But the question of delegation already deeper and closely related to the topic of trust. The most disgusting thing that a leader can do is to engage in micro-management - to try to delve into every action of his employee, to control his every step. I will not say for everyone, but such petty custody is categorically contraindicated to introverts - there is a task, there are deadlines - we will discuss the result closer to the end of the term. Of course, this is a risk for everyone, but this risk, in my opinion, is an integral element of trust. Moreover, you need to understand that if your subordinates are introverts, then asking for help in a situation where something does not work out is completely untypical for them. This means that the leader, on the one hand, trusting his subordinate and awaiting the result by the deadline, on the other, worrying about this result, a balance must be struck between petty tutelage and control of each step and general benevolent questions about the progress of work and offers of help. It is an unobtrusive proposal, since, we note again, an introvert will most often suffer, but will not ask for help himself. In a healthy, friendly atmosphere, problems with finding such a balance do not arise.

The second situation, when the leader becomes an invited “Varangian” - is appointed to lead the existing team from the outside. In this case, there is no initial trust of the parties to each other and cannot be, and relations must be built from scratch. It takes time and effort, but if there is a desire, it is a completely solvable task. My experience, I’ll immediately make a reservation, as I think it’s positive, suggests that, again, trust is one of the key factors. Initially, I completely trusted the team that had formed before me - after all, they worked somehow before I arrived, and solved all the tasks they faced. Moreover, a team in which the leader is a Varangian has significantly more knowledge than a new person who initially has no authority and here, besides just trust, the second most important factor comes into play - respect .

Respect is the second pillar of the atmosphere in the office. Изначальное respect . другим, к их мнению, признание правоты других, обращение к своим подчиненным за советом, на мой взгляд, создает созидательную доверительную атмосферу, необходимую для продуктивной работы. It doesn’t work with a strong-willed effort - from tomorrow I will respect Vasya Pupkin, and next week I will also trust him. These are organic things and I do not agree with the famous dictum that a good person is not a profession. Maybe this is not a profession, but I would like it to be just a good person as my leader. And the rest of the leader can be taught if he listens to his subordinates.

Конечно, авторитет завоевывается не только доверием и respect . – важны еще и поступки. But here I will not even give any examples - I sincerely try to do what I want to do with me, as I think is right based on the fact that I respect my subordinates and completely trust them.

Limiting the graphomaniac impulse, I will cover several points, the understanding of which came gradually and which were not initially obvious.

Reduction, transformation and dismissal . If I were asked about the darkest, most nasty and vile side of the work of a leader, then this is it.
I will offer classification:

  • employee-initiated dismissal
  • dismissal at the initiative of the head
  • employer-initiated dismissal

Employee Initiative. Yes, it happens that people leave. In most cases, I perceive this as my mistake - I could not create an atmosphere in which the employee would be comfortable, could not provide sufficient funding for him, could not give him interesting tasks. Sometimes it happens that to fulfill all this was not possible, but nonetheless. Perhaps the only situation that is unacceptable is blackmail by an executive officer. However, when it comes to salary, an invitation to an employee to work from another company with a higher salary amount can help to increase salaries in the current place, as one of the arguments. Of course, this is a fine line, but with normal relations between the leader and the employee, if they both understand and accept the problem and have developed a joint plan to eliminate it, where such an invitation is one of the points in the plan, then this is a working option to correct the situation. Similarly, if an employee leaves for career growth. Of course, I will do my best to keep him, as far as possible I will try to analyze with him the pros and cons of such a decision and the risks that are possible during the transition. But in any case, if it is not possible (and often it really isn’t) to provide him with similar growth in his career and / or salary in the company where you are now, then it’s more correct to swallow his own emotions, let him go and sincerely wish him success.

The decision of the head. I honestly admit that I was not in situations where I myself, without external factors, decided that there was no place for any person in my team. If I saw that there was a problem, I always tried to solve it and rectify the situation, without resorting to such drastic measures.

Employer initiative. As mentioned above, resource accounting in companies, especially commercial ones, is carried out according to the number of employees (head). Simplifying the picture, it turns out that the amount of money earned is divided by the total number of employees. If the result of the output per employee is less than the indicator required by the company, a decision is made to reduce the number of employees. Of course, reality is more complex and multifaceted, but the article is not about that. Of course, if the decision on the need to reduce staff is taken somewhere upstairs, the decision on who exactly will fall under the reduction cannot be made without the participation of the head. In my opinion, any leader understands or must understand that the requirements for him will not decrease himself because that he will have fewer resources and therefore there is no place for emotions when making a decision - it is primarily business factors that are evaluated from the point of view of the company’s business in general, and its departments in particular. I will describe the actions that I took while in the described situation:

  1. An attempt (sometimes successful) to deflect a blow. This includes everything that happens before the decision is made that the sword will fall specifically on your unit. Starting from the banal pulling of the result and increasing the company’s turnover (it can be ridiculous, but this is what everyone actually works for) and ending with explanations at all levels of the negative impact of reducing department resources on the overall business, building business cases that prove this negative impact , the presentation of promising projects, analysis of employee employment and the impact on the timing of projects and everything that can be done ...
  2. Making a decision about which team will have to part with. And the protection of their decision is with other leaders, including their superiors, who have, perhaps their own, not necessarily your opinion. To accept their opinion or not is up to the leader.
  3. Transferring a hit employee to another department. The larger the organization, the more opportunities to keep a person in the company, even if not your department. Running through all the colleagues, promoting the employee, and agreeing on a transfer at all levels is the responsibility, as I think, of the leader. I will say right away that often this path has been successful.
  4. Compensation. As a rule, various options for the output package are possible and usually the manager can to some extent affect the choice of the best option.
  5. Conversation with an employee. No matter how hard it is, but it is very, very hard, it is the responsibility of the leader to announce and explain his decision. I consider it low and vile to shift this share to the human resources department, other managers, and anyone else.
  6. Search for subsequent employment options for the employee. Usually, after all, the leader is better known in the market, has a larger circle of contacts and is more famous. Give your recommendations, call friends in search of a place, write in social networks - the minimum that can be done for the subsequent employment of a person from your team.

At ABC, I had to part with many, and I note that the measures described help in the vast majority of cases not to leave a person on the street. I managed to maintain normal relations with everyone I had to part with and, nevertheless, this is an experience that I would rather not have.

Salary and bonuses as a motivation. According to my observations, salary in itself is not a motivating factor for introverts at all. BUT it should be sufficient for a comfortable life for each individual. Otherwise, the salary will become a powerful demotivating factor and will inevitably lead to parting with this employee. At the same time, increasing salaries and bonuses are considered as recognition by the company and the manager of the merits of the employee and motivate him to work even better. Moreover, the size of the increase and the size of the bonus is not a fundamental factor, but we should not average everything for all employees. It is clear that there are always budget constraints, and instead of raising everyone’s salary by 0.05% or 200 rubles a year, give the whole gain to one or two, but really the best.

The second point related to salaries is the hiring of new employees. First, in any case, in international companies, accounting is carried out by head (head), and not by salary. It follows that no one, in my experience, will ever let you hire two students, even for less money, than one experienced expert if one position is provided. Secondly, if you have a budget for hiring a new employee, do not try to save him. Nobody ever said thank you if you hired an expert for a salary of 100 rubles when 200 was planned. But, if it really costs 200 rubles, then very quickly you will encounter his displeasure and demotivation when it turns out that there is not enough money. Initially, this may not be obvious to him either - I met wonderful specialists who did not know exactly how much they were getting now. But raising the salary of an already hired employee is a task that can be solved with enormous difficulty. As a rule, corporations have norms that limit a one-time salary increase of 10-20 percent. So imagine a team in which everyone gets 200 rubles each, and here you hire a new person, comparable in level of expertise with existing employees, but for 100 rubles. Either he will leave you quickly or you will fight like a fish on ice, trying to bring his salary to the level of the rest. And believe me, it is naive to believe that none of the employees even suspects how much his colleagues get.

Regular performance assessment employees for a certain period (Performance Appraisal, Performance review - different companies have different names). This is a really delicate moment, especially because the result, as a rule, affects the subsequent increase in salary. I can understand the desire of some, especially new managers, to give everyone the maximum score, because “I have a great team,” but, unfortunately, this does not work at all. Firstly, the number of positive ratings is limited by the subsequent budget for salary increases. Secondly, the task of the leader is to choose the really best and tell them about it. I have never had an obvious potential problem that the same people become the best employees in every period - if a person became the best, then the requirements for him in the next period are higher. Besides, the leader should keep in mind the consistency of the salaries of the whole team - if you have one person earns 1000 rubles a month, and the other 100, then there must be a real reason for this. I do not consider the case of an expert and a student and, God forbid, I do not mean the equalization of salaries for everyone - I write here only about reasonable coherence. And do not forget that if you have an employee who is developing rapidly and shows excellent results, it is very difficult to raise his salary significantly, except letting him go to another department or, God forbid, to another company.

In general, such a regular assessment of employees, in my opinion, is a direct responsibility of the head and it doesn’t matter in a formal "corporate" form or only at the level of feelings. In one ABC company, I generally came across a hypertrophied, even humiliating form of this process, when the ratings of all subordinates were discussed at the general meeting of all managers and, since there were strict quotas for the number of good and bad ratings, everyone tried to single out their subordinates and denigrate the rest. It seems to me that this was done to erode personal responsibility for their decisions and, fortunately, this form was quickly canceled and replaced with another, more reasonable mechanism.

Meetings and chat . Note that the lack of sociability of introverts is nothing more than a stereotype and a delusion. Just introverts do not seek communication, anticipating the need for recovery after it. At the same time, in a friendly and welcoming atmosphere, communication with well-known people does not cause them any inconvenience and brings no less pleasure than extroverts. It follows that the leader must create and maintain such an atmosphere and then communication will not cause any problems. Of course, regular communication with subordinates is absolutely necessary. As one on one, if you need to parse some mistakes and joint, if there is an opportunity to praise someone. In general, recognition of merit, boast, especially public, especially when there is something for it - this is a huge motivating factor. But the leader in organizing meetings should carefully think through its contents, since otherwise subordinates will consider it a waste of time and will relate in the future accordingly. However, this applies to any meetings, in any format. I will especially dwell on the problem of confcalls and meetings by telephone. Of course, there are many situations when this is the most convenient way to discuss some issues without resorting to expensive trips and flights. But in my practice, in most cases, especially with regard to mandatory regular mandatory stake, this format was a waste of time. Interestingly, cola proved to be ineffective in dealing with extrovert sellers. A personal call to everyone, if necessary, and a detailed neat letter setting out tasks, an algorithm of actions, directions, in my opinion, many times more effective. Although it’s possible these are features of perceiving information “by eye” and “by ear” and my experience here is not representative. In addition, as in the well-known joke that the introvert can figure out any problem if he does not encounter obstacles in the form of the need to simply pick up the phone and make a phone call, I assume that dislike for cola is exclusively my personal problem, which does not mean that I do not use this tool.

In conclusion, I emphasize once again that a comfortable, friendly atmosphere based on trust, respect and responsibility of everyone (a topic that I did not touch on) is the key to the success of the team and the results of its activities that amaze all.

Without pretending to be the truth of my allegations in the last resort, I will be very glad to hear any comments, suggestions and objections.