I was recently asked what characteristics set apart the best IT staff.
There are six:
The best IT employees are curious about all kinds of stuff – technology, businesses, history, psychology, economics, crafts, sports, etc. Uncurious people do not innovate. Uncurious people do not look past the status quo. Uncurious people are never able to apply lessons from one discipline to another. Uncurious people will fight you on every transformational change that you need to drive.
The best IT employees are compassionate and they identify with people. They have a focus on the needs of others. This is part of solving business problems and meeting organizational needs. Caring about people leads to meeting their needs well. Not everyone is a “people person,” but even your best technical staff need to appreciate the people who use the technology they create and support.
The best IT employees use a myriad of technology and processes to create solutions that solve problems people actually have. They can invent processes to deliver results. They can adapt and tailor existing tools and processes to your specific needs. They persist until they have the answer, and a better answer. This is base creativity and applied imagination.
The best IT employees are always working on their craft. They have never “arrived” and don’t “settle.” Therefore they accept coaching, mentoring, and direction. They in turn begin to excel and coaching others. This is true for both the hard-technical and soft-people side of their work.
The best IT employees deeply understand that technology must serve a purpose. They work at understanding the business and its needs. They know that technology must enable real people to solve real problems for real benefits. The best IT employees demonstrate desire to keep up with changes in business as well as changes in technology.
The best IT employees know how to use their skills as part of a network of people with different skills. Anyone can develop some appreciation of multiple technologies and processes, but individuals have specific strengths. The best IT employees are realistic about their strengths and thrive in an environment where 1 + 1 = 5.
Smart leaders like you understand that IT matters to business success. Use these six criteria to evaluate your current employees and to screen new hires.
One more thing: smart leaders know that these same characteristics apply to nearly all your best employees, not just in IT roles.