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How do you manage?

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In the second of our posts around team management – Steve Devereux shares his impressions of managing a team of Geeks.  The Lab logo

I’m lucky enough to manage most of the team that make up the Lab and the vast majority of them are self confessed Geeks (and proud of it).

Now, as most people will know, Geeks and company schemes/processes sometimes do not go well together. Over the years however, I’ve learnt a few important lessons on how to manage Geeks which I thought were worth sharing.

  1. Geeks are humans! Their brains might be wired a bit differently and have strange sleeping/working hours but basically they are the same as the rest of us, so that means…
  2. In the main manage them the same as you do everybody else and the golden rule of “manage how you’d like to be managed” still applies. You just need to concentrate on the smaller things that Geeks hate doing.
  3. Remove as much bureaucracy from their working day as possible, they hate doing it, are not very good at it and will spend more time trying to figure out ways of either getting around the tasks or automating them than it would take to actually do it in the first place. So I complete the weekly time recording activity on their behalf, which means I have to complete 15 time sheets each week. It is quicker for me to do this than spend the time chasing after fifteen people who don’t want to do it every week.
  4. Find interesting and really challenging stuff for them to do, the harder the challenge the better – especially if they have been told that other people have looked at the problem and couldn’t find a solution!
  5. Geeks care about what is happening to the business and probably are more read on macro economical impacts and what the competition are doing than the vast majority of “normal’ company employees. So, provide as much business info as you can, it will also help them with finding solutions to challenging projects mentioned above.
  6. Do not put them on a pedestal! Treat them a bit differently to “normal” employees but your aim should be to make all your team feel special.
  7. Do the usual stuff around 1:1s and team meetings but find a style that suits your team, the week I do my 1:1s ends up being a caffeine fest!
  8. Career development is challenge, but do have those open conversations about what is appropriate for them. It is unlikely that the team will be exactly the same in a year’s time as it is today, as by their nature Geeks like to keep learning and try out new experiences. Be prepared for this and have a good recruitment process in place. Often the best way of recruiting into your team is by gathering recommendations from the people you already have.

Managing Geeks can be very rewarding, just be prepared to be a bit flexible.

If you want to watch some truly inspirational guys talk about the management of Geeks and how to navigate around a large organisation this is a great video

Guy

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