How NOT to lead geeks

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Posted by Matthew Stibbe

The world of technology is full of immature management and poor leadership. Get some pointers about how NOT to lead geeks in this article from Alexander Kjerulf.

Alexander Kjerulf is in the category of people who wrote their own job description and then people took them seriously. The self-described Chief Happiness Officer worked on a ‘Happy People’ project at HP with me and I really like his blog.

“Happy geeks are effective geeks.” – Alexander Kjerulf

Like me, he comes from an IT background. I think is why I enjoyed his post: How NOT to lead geeks so much.

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Tips for bad management

  1. Downplay training
  2. Give no recognition (I used to write handwritten thank you letters to team members when products shipped, but I wished I had given more recognition generally.)
  3. Plan too much overtime (I was very guilty of this back in the day)
  4. Use management-speak (see my old posts The Devil’s Marketing Dictionary Part OnePart Two and Part Three)
  5. Try to be smarter than the geeks
  6. Act inconsistently
  7. Ignore the geeks
  8. Make decisions without consulting them
  9. Don’t give them tools
  10. Forget that geeks are creative workers

Find the right language

Another common problem in my experience is “two peoples divided by a common language”.  I wrote about Geeks: how to write for a non-technical audience and (in the opposite sense) How to write like a hacker.

Just as management-speak is inspires cynicism in geeks, techno-speak inspires fear in managers. A bit of empathy on both sides can make a huge difference.

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