I have an interesting scenario at my job, that probably isn't unique, but is new to me. 

My role has 2 parts. I am the Director of IT and Director of another part of my company that is not IT. In the IT world, I am very comfortable managing my team and knowing where I fit and how to get results. I have been in IT for 25 years. 

Now, I manage another team that does something completely different and I have never done it before. I am finding it hard to manage the team when I have very little knowledge on how they actually do their job, since I've never done it. I am learning the processes and trying to make improvements along the way, but I am struggling to see where I fit and how I can help them be successful. I have already interjected myself into parts of their job, with negative results. They are a great team and don't seem to need much management. 

I feel like I manage best when I can relate to the tasks of the job. Right now, I am trying to manage the process and the people. 

Btw, I chose to start moving away from IT, so ultimately I am excited about the opportunity and want to get better. 

How do I manage a team effectively, when I don't have a thorough understanding of what it takes for the team to be successful day to day?

Thanks for any input. 

gehrhorn's picture
Licensee Badge

I'm better at my job than my boss would be, he's better at his job than his boss would be, the guys on my team are better at their jobs than I would be. At some level this can happen to everyone (this is good).

Ask them what the goals are, what's in their way, and what they plan to do about it. Can they name what 3 key priorities they have and how they align to the organizations goals (i.e., strategies flow downhill).

mrreliable's picture

There are several project management podcasts that would probably be helpful.

When the number of our company's products started expanding, we brought in a project manager to organize and monitor the workflow. I was skeptical because this person had zero education or training in our area of expertise. I was soon amazed watching this guy work. In discussions with this person he said he's done this type of thing for several different products and processes, and he didn't know anything about them going in. Through discussions with the staff he developed a list of goals and milestones, developed a plan, and a short meeting once a week allows him to track progress. He's been doing this for years and still doesn't have any product knowledge, but he's spot on in terms of how far along we are with various projects. It took a huge burden off of me and allowed me to focus on managing people instead of trying to track progress.


katehorstman's picture
Admin Role Badge

It can be hard to manage a team where you feel like you don’t understand their roles. However, One on Ones can help you with that. The purpose of the O3 is to build relationships. Building these relationships will allow you to manage your team of individuals even with limited knowledge of their everyday role. I would suggest having One on Ones with everyone of your directs, every week and spend your 15 minutes of the agenda asking questions about what makes the team successful. This will allow you to grow your knowledge and your relationships.  As well, our cast on the first 90 days might be helpful. Remember that you can learn a lot from you team and they can learn a lot from you.

Gre1gri's picture

Be upfront with the team on your intentions.  Let them know of your concerns about not knowing the day to day, but you are ready to learn.   If you just go into deep diving an area it may concern the team they have a new guy that knows nothing of their job (yeah they know, get over it) and with questions come changes.  So hear comes new Director and he's just hear to make a splash, etc.  if your company does lean events these are great opportunities to learn.

Do you have a successor identified on the IT side?  Can you delegate some of the work to her to free you up to spend more time with your responsibilities?

Lastly, maybe have a self coaching session.  If you gave a direct report a new project to oversee what would that session look like & what questions would you ask?