Building a Great IT Support Team is a Lot Like Playing Chess

To create the IT team you need, you must align your vision with your business’ values and think strategically in your hiring practices.

Providing an excellent experience is not only about process and procedure. Good leadership and a diverse and highly effective team deliver great support. They use the right tools and a combination of automation and people skills to ensure everyone has what they need to respond to employee and/or customer needs. A diverse team blends skill sets and personalities to ensure that the team as a whole can deliver a broad level of support, managing just-in-time training, technical issues, and advice that employees/customers need to get back in operation.

While the concept of using the personas of chess pieces to build a diverse, yet highly effective team may sound farfetched, it can help leaders envision how to create the team they need. A great chess player knows exactly how to use their pieces to position their team and create a strategy that helps win the game. Thinking of support as a game can provide the same opening for good leaders.

A fundamental aspect of great support is a commitment to strong alignment with the business: understanding the tools the business uses to be competitive and the types of issues people have that need to be mitigated. The leader then needs to build a team that not only understands the game plan but is effective at carrying it out.

Thinking of chess pieces as personas, the leader represents the king who leads from behind as the king does in battle. They need to ensure the team is trained in their expectations and then release them, under the control of an effective general. The leader must be able to set the direction effectively and then step back, steering only as needed. They should focus on the relationship with the business’ leaders and bring the message and direction back to the team.

The queen is the king’s second and the most powerful chess piece, using their strength to lead the day-to-day operation by directing the action, supporting the team, and always managing toward the team’s goal. While the king needs the ability to lead on relationship and charisma, the queen is a strong manager.

The bishops in chess are the queens’ protectors. From a personality perspective, they’re the networkers who seem to know everyone and know how to get things done. In the support organization, they know things and use their knowledge to ensure the queen’s success while the rook (or castle) protects by covering a lot of ground. Think of the rooks as the technicians that get a lot of work done. They can roll up their sleeves and help level 1 fix problems quickly and effectively.

Finally, there are the pawns, the line technicians. These are the entry-level junior techs who are just starting out. They need to be supported and treated like gold, as pawns become queens. They should be hired for great customer service skills and be trained in what they need to know to be successful in their careers and empowered to do their jobs with knowledge and support.

There are 4 simple steps to pulling the team together.

The next article in this series will dive deeply into these steps, but here’s a summary:

  • Find the right talent
  • Focus on the team; set the direction
  • Support your team with information, training, knowledge, and great tools
  • Let them go

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