Pat Vickers, Expert in Help Desk Management

Start a Team Mentoring Program

Most support teams are pretty diverse when it comes to skill sets. Some techs excel at customer interaction while others are experts at telephony and others are the hardware specialists. It’s good to have a specialty.  We can be good at many things but generally, to be great we must concentrate on one area.

A lot of Good can be better than Great

In managing teams I found it’s better to have a lot of employees who are good at many things than a few employees who are great at one thing each. Vacations and sick days alone really kill you. That’s why I like to have a mentoring program within my team. A lot of organizations refer to this as skill sharing but I’ve had more success calling it mentoring.

Make everyone a Trainer

There are few ways to do it. One is to schedule two hours a month, or even a week devoted to training. Ask each team member to prepare a course to give the rest of the team in those hours. Some members will be too shy to present. While it is great to encourage people to face their fears, never force it. If an employee just does not want to present ask a less shy employee to work with him or her or ask that they write up something.

Don’t stop the program when everyone has had their 2 hours. Start over again. Each area of expertise has should have a lot to offer. Encourage your employees to create training around incidents where they learned something new about their area.

Another mentoring method is just that, mentoring. Team up people with different strengths for a few months at a time. Be clear about why you team them. Ask each tech to mentor the other one on their specific strength. Spell it out. Make sure the techs know you mean their ability to analyze network issues, not their wicked Xbox skills.

Everyone Wins

Mentoring others helps the team become more diverse in their skill sets and, therefore, stronger. It also develops leadership skills in people who likely want to eventually move into management roles. It’s a good trade off for everyone involved.

Do you have a mentoring program within your team? Tell us how it works for you. What problems, if any have you run into?

For more ideas on how to get the most from your team check out our Practical IT Manager Gold series.

The Best Boss I Ever Had

I’ve heard that some of the most popular blogs on Toolkit Café have been about best bosses and worst bosses so I thought I would take this week to talk about The best boss I ever had.

Better Bosses Make Better Employees

The best Boss I ever had forced me to be better than I thought I was, to think for myself, and think through problems. If I made mistakes, I had to helped troubleshoot them until the issue was resolved. Fortunately most of the people we supported were patient and didn’t mind if I had to redo a network setup or if I crashed their laptop by installing the wrong drivers.

My boss literally felt that everyone had the capacity to succeed in life and everyone had opportunity if they wanted it. I think the fact that he was gay at a time and place where that wasn’t always accepted influenced those beliefs. He never let what others think get in his way. He had several degrees, stature and respect in his position.

All Good Things Must End

Later in life this boss left IT to get a law degree  but not before teaching me that the best bosses anyone can ever have are the ones who will work with you when needed, get  hands dirty with you, if that’s what it takes to get the job done, and help you achieve your goals…not just theirs. That was my boss.

Being a great boss is tough but worth it. To make it easier check out Mike Sisco’s IT Manager Toolkit. It provides everything you need to for the day in day out grind of managing leaving you more time to work with  your employees.

Pat Vickers, Expert in Help Desk Management

Pat introduces the Worst Help Desk Manager…EVER

When I was hired as a contractor by a fortune 500 company to help start up a small Help Desk, I was excited about being in on the beginning of a project and couldn’t wait to get started. My excitement was quickly turned to dread as I soon realized I was working for The Worst Help Desk Manager, Ever!

King Percy

To protect the innocent, and the guilty and me, OK it’s really to protect me, I’ll call this manager Percy. Percy was young and ambitious. From the beginning it was obvious that he liked being in charge. Most of his days were spent leaning way back in his chair with his feet propped on his desk tossing a football up in the air and catching it. If he got a call he took it on speaker, so as not to interrupt the tossing.

He kept the speaker volume loud so the entire team could hear his calls. This saved time. If anyone asked Percy to do anything he would happily agree and point at one his techs. He usually pointed at me when the request was to write new technical documents. If someone wanted something heavy moved he pointed to John, the big guy. Undesirable tasks fell to whoever was out of favor.  It was good to be king.

Well-deserved Credit

I discovered the hard way that Percy didn’t like to read. After completing a first draft of the first technical document I was asked to write I emailed it to Percy with a note explaining I had thoroughly checked it yet for errors and that I had to guess in a few areas but wanted his input on the direction I had taken. In the meantime, I assured him, I would research the areas I guessed on.  A few days later I told Percy I had a second draft and it had changed a lot. He said not to worry, the first was fine. Turned out he had not read my email, or the draft. He just printed it and sent it on.  The good news was Percy had taken full credit for the document.  The bad news was I had to inventory the stock room.

Beware of Bad Managers Bearing Gifts

The worst came a few weeks later.  After successful completion of a project Percy gave everyone half a day off, with pay, on a Friday. What a treat. As a contractor I knew I couldn’t get paid for the time but I was happy to be off at noon on a Friday.

The next week, when I turned in my time sheet Percy noticed that I had only recorded 4 hours for the Friday before. He reminded me that he was giving us the rest of the day with pay. I told Percy I really appreciated the gesture but reminded him that I was a contractor, not a salary employee and it would be illegal for me to report hours that I didn’t really work.  Percy insisted that I change the 4 to an 8. I refused. He finally admitted that he told his manager that we all worked until the last minute to complete the project and if my time record was different than the rest of theirs, it would look bad. I refused to change my time sheet which made Percy so angry I was placed permanently on the newly deployed night shift.

Fortunately as a contractor my jobs were never permanent and I soon moved on to other if not greener pastures.  I don’t know what happened to Percy. I suppose he went on to torture many a poor help desk analyst. I would like to think that eventually one of the analysts snatched his football out of the air and … well you get the picture.

Policies to Pre-empt Percy

Those of us who are not Percy’s need to do everything we can to free the world of them.  The best way to do that is put in place IT policies to which all managers must adhere. That can be daunting but the Ultimate IT Policy Toolkit makes it a lot easier. With templates and charters that will guide you through creating an extremely effective set of policies and procedures.

Have you ever work for a Percy?

Tell us about it. Post a comment below or email the editor.