Hi all,

Figured I'd throw this into the community as I'm sure most of you have been where I've been and could give me useful insight.

A little background:
I'm an IT System Admin and about a year ago my post got changed and I became a Manager. Still doing my Sys Admin work, but all of a sudden I got 1 direct report (and a spot open for another - still not filled :s). I soon found the MT podcast and and listened to every episode to date. Got alot of great info, but alot of it is filed in the "oooh I should do that some day" section.

My one direct is located in our other office (other side of the county - Scotland). I make it across once every two weeks, and he travels over the other week (on Wednesday). I quickly implemented the 1-on-1s and they work a treat.

However due to the work load I haven't managed to make a successfull shift which allows my management tasks to move up to a higher level then all the "emergencies" that crop up.

Do any of you have suggestions on how to make more time for the task of managing my one staff?

Any ideas are welcome, cause after a year I still feel I'm a Sys admin first and a manager second. And that isn't good for either my direct or me...



trandell's picture

This is a familiar situation to me and I imagine many others. I too started as an individual contributor (sys admin in fact), distinguished myself and ended up being promoted to manager. One day I am responsible for me, the next day I am responsible for 10 people, 3 of them in other countries!

I learned a few things during the 2+ years I had to be what I have heard called a "working manager" that I now accept as universal truths.

1. There is never enough time in the week to get it all done, so you need to get good at choosing wisely and figure out the quality needed for the end result. Trying to produce A+ work 100% of the time is impossible. For most things, your "good enough" is probably someone else's "great".

2. Your people are your primary responsibility. These relationships are a lot harder to fix if ignored or mistreated than a broken system. Spend focused time with them regularly and do not let anything get in the way of that.

3. Delegation is one of the best skills to learn and master early in your management career. It is the only way you will survive and progress in the long term.

4. Metrics help you get headcount. Quantify the work product of your department and show with numbers how the amount of work is more than the current staffing level can support. You just went from a 1x contribution to .75x or less because of your management responsibilities, but the work is still there. Headcount is hard to get but it is nearly impossible if you can't justify it with facts.

Now, you have 1 direct and hopefully 2 shortly. You clearly can't divorce yourself completely from your hands on sys admin responsibilities, but you can make your people and your management responsibilities take higher priority when there isn't a technical fire to put out. Given the choice between a technical task and a managerial task that must be done, do the managerial task first. You can almost always work a little later, come in a little earlier or work on the weekend to complete the technical task. You can't move a person's needs around as easily.

Your challenge, is to commit to a set amount of *quality* time for each direct each week. The O3 is totally essential and congrats on implementing that right away. Depending on how much time and direction your directs need, that might be enough. It also depends on how good the direct is. A superstar needs less attention than the guy in last place. I've tried to give equal attention to everyone and find it does not work. The extra attention on the superstar does not produce significant results but the deficit of attention for the guy in last place contributes to him falling behind.

Summing up, you need to carve out the time needed to develop your directs and give them the time they need. Do that by finding work that can go undone, be delegated or be done at a relatively lower level of quality than you normally put out to save time. The cold hard truth is you either commit to making the time or you don't.

Remember, you will get through this and learn from it. Keep us posted on your progress.

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

Terrence ROCKS!


trandell's picture

[quote="mahorstman"]Terrence ROCKS![/quote]

:oops: :oops: Awwww... go on :D

Seriously though, thank you Mark. I went through a lot of soul searching and mental pain to get to this point. Anything I can do to make it easier on someone else is good for my soul.

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

That's the best definition of community I've read in a while. Well done.


wendii's picture
Admin Role Badge

Hi Timo,

I just picked up on a little point in your post:

[quote](and a spot open for another - still not filled :s).[/quote]

How long has the post been open, and what have you tried to fill it? If you can let me know, I'll bat you back and forth with some ideas to get it filled.

Hope that helps,


timov's picture

Unfortunatly the post has been open since the day I started as a manager, and it doesn't look like it will be filled anytime soon.

Basically my direct is in a level 3 post, being payed a highly effective level 4 wage, and doing the job of a level 5. As such when I took up my post, my boss and I started the process of getting the posts upgraded to a 5 (my direct hasn't had a pay rize in 3 years even though he works his butt off all the time :?).

Only last Tuesday we found out wh ywe where habing so much issues regrading the job to what we felt it should be (at leats part of the problem at least): Where we listed a set of skills needed for his job, the HR people responsible for the grading assumed one of the skills would be enough.

Hopefully the job wil be regraded to a 5 early next week. In which case my direct officiually can move to the post, and I can then start recruiting to fill the other post. However I was just told that due to the end of the financial year coming close (end of March here) a freeze has been put on hiring. So it may be that I need to wait to April at the earliest to recruit :(.

To respond to Trandell.: Great tips. As I need to do more work atm then I should I have spend less time on Cameron (my direct) then I should. I have however dropped vertain things in his lap to sort, guiding him along the way on how I would sort it. In the long run these would eb things i would expect him and his other half to sort.

I can't dump the full load for the two posts on him so I'll probalby not be able to delegate as much as I'd have to in the long run. However I'll make it a point to plan some time around lunch each day to his development/needs.

As for how much time and direction he needs...if I give him some tasks he'll go away and do them quie happily, and pick up the usual things as the crop up. It's mainly for the newer things (we're going live with SAP just now) that I really need to push him in the right direction. But as stated it's a new field for him (and the company), and he's jumped on it with great enthusiasm.

In the first few months of the role (pre-sap) I had plenty of time to invest in him, and due to the training I gave him at that point, I managed to not lose him when he got offered an other job in the same department. I'll sit down this weekend and finish off some ideas I have on his development and put some more definete time frames on them, and make sure I then ensure they happen :)

I can definatly say that without him I'd have gone crazy by now :)

dmb41carter36's picture

Quick question: Is there a hard/fast rule that states you should spend more time with your top or bottom people?

I believe it was Gladwell that said you should spend more time with your top people. This is contrary to natural common sense, my practical experience and the OP's great insights.

BTW - I stumbled into this thread by mistake and it's a great post!

svibanez's picture

I believe it's important to spend time with all your people (O3's, anyone?) and work to develop them all.  Being human, they won't all improve at the same rate and my experience has been that top performers typically improve faster/more than bottom performers.  I suppose it's due to the attributes that make them top performers to start with.

Mark & Mike make a point in the "Coaching Dilemma" podcasts that getting a 10% improvement from your top performer will yield greater results than getting a 10% improvement from your bottom performer.  That supports the logic you attributed to Malcolm Gladwell (I can't remember if he wrote it, either) and makes sense to me.

Of course, you shouldn't have to just pick one part of your group to coach for improvement.  In the best of all worlds, you can get a 10% improvement from all your directs.


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