01 November 2021

Adaptability, Creativity and Persuasiveness: Must-Have Skills for the Modern IT Manager

In recent years, the importance of soft skills for managers has increased exponentially. Developing competences for leaders in the IT sector has become a trend of its own. We discuss the skills IT-managers are developing today to stay competitive on the labour market.
Adaptability, Creativity and Persuasiveness: Must-Have Skills for the Modern IT Manager
Content source: MBA photo archive

Cooperation with the Synergetic Effect

Building relations within a team is the complex and crucial objective of a manager. High engagement and synergy are possible only when employees understand their role, can see their contribution to the final product and are in a position to use their strengths. To make professionals work side by side with each other, complement each other, is the challenge for the modern manager.  This is particularly relevant for IT-managers, since the teams developing a complex knowledge product need to know how to work smoothly together, and with high engagement.

The skills behind building teamwork involve a deep understanding of human relations on various levels – personal, group and organisational. Each of them has its own motivation, needs and qualities. For example, a strong loner might be burning with an idea for a product, while a team player might crave recognition. Today, managers in the IT sector learn the delicate craft of motivating their employees: how to diagnose people’s behaviour in the organisational context, to identify their needs, and to manage the team effectively based on this information.

Strategic people management can be learned on both specialized courses and MBA programmes. “During my business training, I took another look at some of the issues around teamwork that emerge at the different stages in a company’s growth. It was a discovery for me, that they are not unique. With the necessary competences, they can be solved completely, with minimal effort and rapidly as well,” was the conclusion arrived at by Rustem Milanov, CEO of Visitech.

Persuasiveness as a Skill

The ability to get one's point across helps in both building a career and managing a team effectively. The ability to understand other people and to stand one's ground in a well-argued manner is among the Top5 valuable skills of a manager. The days when tasks were formulated as orders and came down “from above” are long gone. Nowadays, crucial to high engagement is a steady dialogue between manager and employees. Selecting the department’s aims, developing strategies, setting objectives and distributing resources: all these are decided collectively. The manager should explain why a particular decision was made and be ready to listen to the other side of the argument and back down should if appropriate.

The manager's communication with the team is a skill that requires constant honing. A lot of programmes now involve simulation of disputes and conflicts. Under these conditions, managers try to find the best solution to a problem without resorting to an emotional showdown. The basis of this is being that, while communicating with employees, the manager should have a clear sight of the objective and be able to find the best solution without being swayed by emotion.

Such an approach to training, involving simulations, is often adopted on MBA programmes. “On the Negotiation Module, we practised various complex scenarios, and in different configurations. Our teacher was a former Israeli military officer who was responsible for negotiations with terrorists,” explained Egor Tolstoy, Kotlin Product Lead at JetBrains, describing his experience. You can read how Egor's business education helped him in his career here in his blog.

Anticipating Changes

The world has always been changeable, but the last two years could definitely go by the motto: “The only constant in business and life - is changes.” For this reason, the ability to adapt to ever-changing conditions is an important skill in a manager. In practice, this means the manager must “scan” the environment (the situation within the team, the company, market, industry etc.) and make decisions based on the information gathered. This is especially important for technology companies, where changes are more frequent and often on a global scale.

The manager's adaptability is a skill where strategic management and making predictions meet. It presupposes the use of a large amount of information and tools from these areas, from predictive analytics methods to the building of a “decision tree”. In this way, the manager learns to make decisions quickly, based on the data. A company’s competitiveness depends on its flexibility and adaptability. Thus, a manager's flexibility is of paramount importance.

An Out-of-the-Box Mindset

More often than not, it is initiative that puts the employee on the road to promotion. The way up to the senior management of a company begins with having interesting ideas that are easy to implement yet bring outstanding results as quickly as possible. Generating such ideas is a skill in itself. First, one must have a good knowledge of the processes within the company, and the particular culture and needs of one’s customers. Secondly, one must be able to think out-of-the-box. Creativity of such a kind has ranked first among the most in-demand skills on LinkedIn for several years.

To develop this mindset, different approaches are used – from classic lectures on the particular nature of the human brain and cognitive biases to 'original' approaches forcing you out of your comfort zone and making you look anew at your life and career goals. As a rule, it is a combination of these approaches that brings about the best results. The methodology for creating ideas is best applied in an unfamiliar environment: in this way, the skill of generating new thoughts and ideas can be sharpened more quickly.

Our interviews with IT managers confirmed a trend: representatives of the IT industry do indeed have an acute lack of important managerial competences. To a large extent, they have always concentrated on developing specialized hard skills, but now, the need to work effectively with other people and demonstrate flexibility and creativity has grown considerably. All the soft skills needed by IT-managers are taught on the SKOLKOVO MBA programme. The programme includes fundamental business disciplines, modules on staff management and working with data, as well as a leadership course on Kamchatka to develop thinking in unusual conditions, in this case, while ascending a volcano.

“Before, I used to look at the business from my own angle. But now, having graduated from the SKOLKOVO MBA programme, I can assess objectives comprehensively: in terms of finances, the operational model and the team,” says Maxim Morozov, founder of GoalProfit. “Managers in IT companies should know how to interact with their team, with other functional departments, in other words, to be flexible and open to innovations.”

A new intake for the SKOLKOVO MBA programme begins on November 17th.


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