Category Archives: Management

Top rope management

At the upcoming itSMF conference, I will be presenting on how I work with Service Desks to try and change the perception of what a Service Desk is and can do. This is done with a combination of skilling up people and empowerment, but the underlying message is management and leadership for my talk.

We have all worked for them at some point in our careers, the managers who you always ask ‘What do they actually do?’ You see them go to countless meeting and all smiles but what is their output? What or how does their team benefit? When the team asks them a question or needs advice, it is quickly deflected with ‘You need to work this out, it isn’t my job’. In John Maxwell ‘5 levels of leadership’ talk, he would describe them as a Level 1 manager. The leader the team only follows because they have the title.

When I was younger, I used to watch wrestling, every Saturday afternoon watching wrestlers go at each other. One move that got everyone on their feet and the commentator’s voice would go up an octave, was when the opponent was on the floor and the wrestler climbed to the top rope and then jumped. If they landed right on the opponent, they would hook the leg, a 10 count and the match was over. If the opponent rolled away, the wrestler would land on the floor and probably lose the match. However, why was this so exciting? It showed total commitment and bravery, as there was no safety net for the wrestler.

I would describe my management style as ‘Top rope management’; though my opponent isn’t my staff members, but instead boredom and lack of motivation. I have to beat these two opponents or my staff will leave. I don’t want to be a level 1 manager but show bravery and commitment to do things out of the norm for my team and not accept ‘…but we have always done it this way’ if it doesn’t make sense or could be done better.

I want my team to follow me because they want to, they see me getting results and put them in the right positions to show off their talents. We have all seen various stats and articles all saying the same thing: People leave because of their manager and not always due to the money as proven in Dan Pink’s Ted Talk ‘The Puzzle of motivation’.

In the talk, the premise is that if you give autonomy, mastery and purpose to people then they will be more motivated than just giving them more money. My presentation is all about a strategy which was alternative to the convention of what a Service Desk should or could do and how I have tried to give autonomy, mastery and purpose to my teams. The presentation shows how I have :

  • Skilled up my teams so there are no favourites people always want to always speak to when they have a problem
  • Enhances the relationships between the Service Desk, other IT teams and the business.
  • Empowered them to come up with ideas improve themselves and their work situation
  • Highlighted and promoted talent within the team to other teams
  • Trend analysis designed to show workloads and trends to try and either:


A final quote sums how I try to adopt an attitude to challenge convention with unconventional ways of working :

“It is more fun to be a pirate than join the navy’

Steve Jobs

If you are attending the event then hopefully you can attend my session ‘Rethink the Service Desk role to change its image forever’ these are the three takeaways :

  • Understand how the service desk can value add to the business and IT
  • Rethink the service desk role and the career path it offers
  • Identify and show off talent in the Service Desk team in a structured way



How spotify works

I always like finding out about new and bold ways companies work. Recently I came across this 2 part video showing how Spotify works using Agile principals. This got me thinking, could tribes be used in Problem Management and other improvements instead of chucking things over the fences, build a virtual team which brings in expertise to solve a problem?

Spotify engineering culture (part 1)

Spotify engineering culture (part 2)

Plastic, not fantastic managers

We have all worked for them at some point in our careers, the managers who you always ask ‘What do they actually do?’ You see them go to countless meeting all smiles but what is the output? What or how does their team benefit? When the team asks them a question or needs advice, it is quickly deflected with ‘You need to work this out, it isn’t my job’.

Anecdotally, I have a friend who loved her job until a recent org change and she now sees see she is going to be reporting a plastic, not fantastic manager. She saw recently a colleague being told to arrange a meeting for this new manager to present some slides in. When the colleague asked ‘Who should I invite?’, the manager just replied ‘My job is to present the slides, your job is to make sure I am presenting to the right people’. My friend’s colleague is now confused, demotivated and knows she will be the scapegoat if she doesn’t invite all the right people. Now my friend is actively contacting recruiters as she can see what is coming soon along with the rest of her team, because of one plastic, not fantastic manager. How can businesses keep making the same mistake???

Regardless of if your title is Manager or Leader you are in charge of a group of people who are looking to you for direction and help. A manager / Leader title is not a title just to look great at parties and for a bigger salary.

These are the qualities I think all Managers/Leader should demonstrate:

Be a Leader

Have a strategy of somewhere you are going to take the team from where it is now to somewhere else. Small changes add up to big changes so keep improving the team little by little. If the team are doing the same job as they were a year ago, what value have you provided as the leader? If someone asks why is this leader/manager doing that job, if the answer is because he is really senior and they take no crap, then run for this hills. It needs to be around their strategy or what they are doing for their team

Motivate and nurture

You team are at a place in their careers right now, how are you going to get them doing other things to encourage them on and to be promoted. I believe a good manager/leader should be able to take away all barriers to a member of their team being promoted so it is down to just them being their own barrier to them getting on. They can take the shot or not but atleast give them all the other conditions needed to take the shot.

I believe if all my team get promoted in senior team then that is fantastic and this is my ultimate goal. The company retains talent, the individual can see career progression and others in the team can suddenly see this can really happen, and for me, that promoted team member is going to have my back. In my context of a Team Leader for Service Desk, if one of my team gets promoted in a Server Team and needs to raise a change, they are going to know the pain of a deluge of calls if the change goes wrong as they know that pain so the chances they are going to do everything they can to mitigate any risk is quite good I would say.


This is a fine line between deflecting any questions / advices with the answer ‘Go and find the answer’ or ‘What would you do?’ but if you do that every time then people will start thinking you don’t have a clue, to the other extreme, doing everything for the team without their input so they don’t get a chance to grow or say ‘I did that’. A manager/ leader needs to be able to give advice or where the next step could be to encourage someone but at the end of the day be able to be that safety net to catch their team if they fall and get them back on their feet and to try again.

This quote I saw from @gtsanker (Greg Sanker) IT leaders: if your staff aren’t scaring you, at least a little, you’ve not sufficiently empowered them.’

Hire people smarter than you

You cannot know everything, plus why do you have to. If you are scared someone knows more than you so you don’t take them on, you need to check your ego at the door. One, you are stifling the team as they can only know more when you understand the subject or new thing to be the font of all knowledge. Two, surely your team can do more with loads of different skills sets and talent coming together, if you can manage it to point them all in the same direction. You team skills and talent grows as people can bring other ideas and skills in and up skills the team.

So, I say anyone who is a plastic, not fantastic manager are taking up the seat of real managers and leaders. Hopefully the plastics either start shaping up or shipping out otherwise teams will suffer, people will leave and productivity will go down. In these days of financial struggle and businesses needing to more with less they has never been a better time to make sure the right people are in the driving seat.