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6 Tips on Maximizing IT Client Service

As an IT Manager, never forget the importance of teaching and emphasizing the importance of client service to your staff. I was in Washington DC for the second time in three weeks to provide training to a client.  On my first trip to Washington, I was able to stay at a Marriot Fairfield Inn right next door to my client’s office.  For the second trip, however, I was forced to stay at a hotel about three miles away because there was a convention in town and my hotel of choice was filled. On the morning of the last day of my second trip, I returned to the Fairfield Inn with luggage in hand.  The person behind the registration desk recognized me from my prior stay at the hotel and asked me if I wanted to check it.  I told her that not being able to secure a reservation at her hotel because of a local conference, I had stayed a few miles away at a different hotel.  I went on to say that I had come to the hotel that morning to ask if they would please check my suitcase for a few hours so I would not have to bring it to my client’s meeting.  Being a frequent Marriot client, she happily agreed to provide me assistance and even offered me cup of coffee as I was leaving the hotel.  This may seem like a trivial, easy and no cost way to help a customer.  Well, it is, but for the [...]

By | 2021-04-30T00:30:15+00:00 June 21st, 2021|

What the Boy Scouts Taught Me About Management and Client Service

It’s hard for me to believe, but it was forty years ago this month that I received my Eagle Scout award.  There were two of us, myself and a friend.  Achieving this level within scouting was a significant amount of work, but it was also a lot of fun.  What I didn’t understand at the time, as my friend Barry and I stood on the stage to receive our Eagle badges, was the lifelong lessons I had learned that would help me in various ways as I grow older. There were, or course, the obvious lessons, such as knot making, which to this day helps me to properly tie things to the roof of my car in a way that they won’t fly off when driving on the highway.  What I didn’t understand until much later in life, was that the principles I had learned in scouting as a young man, in my early and mid-teens, would help guide my personal and professional life. In addition to learning how to pitch tents and safely start fires, I was also required to memorize a few short statements, such as the scout motto, scout pledge, and a few other short sayings designed to make me a better person and valued member of the community.  One of these sayings in particular was the “Scout Law”: “A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.” I’m no longer involved with scouting, so I don’t know if the Scout Law [...]

By | 2021-04-30T00:27:18+00:00 June 14th, 2021|

Delegation Based on Programmed and Lateral Thinking

I’d like to begin by describing the difference between thinking programmed and lateral thinking.  Programmed thinking is the process of using structured methodologies and/or logical algorithmic processes to solve problems, make decisions, and/or create new product offerings.  Lateral thinking is, by its nature, more creative than programmed thinking and facilitates pattern recognition, language, and out-of-the-box thinking. As an IT Manager, an understanding of this concept can help you effectively delegate tasks to your staff in a way that plays to each employee’s personal strengths.  Good managers tend to do this through intuition and experience (lateral thinking), but by defining it, it can provide added insights and a more structured way (programmed thinking) to effectively delegate. To see this principle in action, let’s say you have two tasks you would like to delegate.  The first task is reviewing your monthly vs. actual budget report and the second task is writing a client proposal with the hope of gaining additional business.  At first glance, you may believe this is easy, namely ask the programmed thinker to review the budget and the lateral thinker to write the new business proposal.  Well, this may or may not be the case.  For example, you may be having trouble managing your budget because business conditions and product/vendor costs have varied widely from what you had originally anticipated.  Therefore, while programmed thinking is required to properly report expenditures; lateral thinking will be required to find creative ways to modify your expenses in future months to keep the budget in [...]

By | 2021-04-30T00:24:13+00:00 June 7th, 2021|

Writing Meeting Agendas: Tips and Tactics

Believe it or not, a well written agenda can enhance your meeting and help you achieve your business goals. If done correctly, a meeting agenda can greatly enhance your meeting by: Setting expectation of meeting attendees Keeping the meeting on track in regard to discussed topics and subject matter Helping manage the time spent on each topic Allowing people to mentally prepare for the topics being discussed Helping you keep away from topics you don’t want to discuss in the meeting (because it’s not on the agenda) Acting as a check list to assure that all needed topics are raised during the meeting As additional food for thought, the simple act of distributing your meeting agenda a few days prior to the meeting taking place, via the email-based invitation or other automated or manual means, has the following advantages: Allows meeting participants to properly prepare for the topics being discussed Saves people who are not interested in the topics being discussed from attending the meeting Helps assure that people who have a vested interest in the topics being discussed will attend your meeting Provides general status information to those who can attend the meeting as to what you are working on With the advantages of using a meeting agenda now defined, the question is “How should an agenda be written to maximize its effectiveness?” The first and most obvious requirement is that an agenda must clearly outline the topics that will be included in the meeting and order in which they will [...]

By | 2021-04-30T00:21:17+00:00 May 31st, 2021|

Protect your schedule using the “Near-Time Far-Time” concept

As an executive, very often your most limited resource is your own time.  This concept, which I have personally used for many years, has three great benefits: Helps protect you from filling your schedule with meetings and events that are less than optimal toward meeting your business goals Used in reverse, helps you schedule time with other busy people Used in reverse, helps you secure the best possible people for your future projects This may seem like extraordinary advantages for a time management technique, but it’s true and this is how it works. The underlying concept behind this technique is that people are much more protective of their commitments and schedule in the near-time (the next two or three weeks), than they are of their far-time (out two or three months from now).  The reason for this phenomenon is that people generally have a strong mental picture of their short term: Business commitments and work deliverables Longer range projects nearing their delivery dates Problems which have arisen and must be dealt with Unforeseen business opportunities that have seemingly come out of the blue Personal time commitments, such as doctor appointments and kids’ soccer games The uncomfortable feeling that your calendar is so filled with meetings that you will not have time to complete/perform the previously mentioned items For all of these reasons, busy people are very protective of their short-term time because they can mentally calculate their short-term workload. People’s far-time schedule is much less defined. Many business commitments and work deliverables [...]

By | 2021-04-30T00:18:21+00:00 May 24th, 2021|

Be willing to let your team members fail

This may sound a little harsh, but once you understand the meaning behind this statement, I believe that you will see that I’m suggesting a way to help, not hurt, those who work for you. Within certain bounds, giving the members of your team the opportunity to fail provides them with a safety net over which they can feel comfortable taking calculated professional risks and, in turn, help advance the organization and simultaneously grow professionally. By allowing members of your team to fail, I don’t mean losing a major client, hurting their professional reputation, or costing the company a large sum of money that could cost them their employment.  It does, however, allow them to: Define new techniques that improve existing department processes Design new product concepts Make a client presentation with you sitting in the back of the room helping them succeed if needed Try to develop a new skill that’s good for the company and their career Sit for a certification exam that they only have a 50% chance of passing Experiment with new technologies that could create company value if they are successful In essence, you are creating an environment that facilitates experimentation, innovation, teamwork, and the chance to have a real business impact.  By not giving your team this opportunity to fail, you are in essence telling them not to try anything new unless they are 100% sure that it will be 100% successful the first time and if not successful, their promotion, future pay raise, or even [...]

By | 2021-04-30T00:13:50+00:00 May 17th, 2021|

Advice on Managing Knowledge Workers

A “Knowledge Worker” can best be described as a person who works more with his/her mind than with his/her hands, uses trained judgment and creativity as part of his/her job, holds a job requiring a high level of education and professional expertise, and uses this acquired knowledge to perform needed tasks.  Professions that classically fall into this category are accountants, lawyers, doctors, computer programmers, analysts of all types, economists, consultants, engineers, and other similar job types. Managing these types of people can be both extremely rewarding and extremely frustrating based on your personal management style and/or the temperament of your knowledge workers. Regarding the temperament of your knowledge workers, assuming technical competence, their success or failure in a specific job tends to be based on the following factors: The relationship with their manager Their fit, from a personality perspective, with their coworkers Their manager’s ability to keep them mentally stimulated The job’s ability to meet their intellectual needs The manager’s willingness to allow them to use their expertise to make level-appropriate decisions, creative process improvements, and professional judgments Ability to enhance their professional stature, knowledge, and organizational position should they aspire to do so. Certainly the knowledge worker’s personality and job alignment with their skills and aspirations is a key factor, but don’t underestimate the role you play as their organizational leader.  As their manager, when looking at the above list, take note that many of the factors that drive their success, motivation, and job satisfaction is directly related to your ability [...]

By | 2021-04-30T00:06:07+00:00 May 10th, 2021|

7 team rituals to enhance employee performance

Does your team have any informal traditions, such as annual get-togethers, monthly pot-luck dinners, or employee birthday cakes? Do you celebrate project completions with pizza parties? Do you have lost-the-deal pep talks and lessons learned meetings or any other type of event or action that helps your group feel like a team that cries together and celebrates together? If your answer was yes to one or more of the above questions, then you have most likely seen that these organizational traditions have real business value.  This value shows itself in a number of ways, including: An increased morale because people think fondly of previous events and look forward to future events Stronger interpersonal relationships between employees because they have had the opportunity to get to know each other a little better outside the business structures related to job-based task execution An enhanced sense of “team” because these events, by their nature, are communal ways to celebrate success and reduce the disappointments of failure A greater feeling of loyalty to the company in general, you as their manager, and their team (your department) because of their conceptualization of group belonging After reading though the above bullet points you may be thinking “So what, my group likes getting free pizza” or “Big deal, my employees get to know each other a little better.  I just want them to get their jobs done”.  The business value of these types of activities is not simply to give them free pizza, get them to feel like a [...]

By | 2021-04-30T00:00:46+00:00 May 3rd, 2021|

Hire to your weaknesses, not your strengths

One thing great about being a IT Manager is that, for the most part, you can delegate things you don’t like to do, or don’t do well, to the people that work for you.  I’ll give you a personal example of how I follow this concept.  I’m a terrible proof reader.  If I’m asked to proofread a document that has three typos in it, by the time I’m done, it has four typos.  Knowing this weakness, I always make sure there is someone on my team that enjoys and is very skilled at proofreading.  I truly envy people who have this ability; it’s just not in my skill set. I’ll give you a second example that is experience-based, rather than skill-based.  I started my profession as a computer programmer and over the years moved up through the software development ranks into senior Information Technology (IT) roles.  My specialty was always computer software, not computer hardware.  Therefore, when at an executive level and had both hardware and software reporting to me, I was always very careful to hire a very knowledgeable and competent hardware person to cover my lack of experience in that technical area. Regarding hiring to your strengths, it’s of course, extremely important to always hire great people. However, if you only hire people that are just like you, namely with your strengths, weaknesses, experience, and perspective then you open up yourself and your department to: Quality issues caused by overall skill set deficiencies Reduced possibility of innovation due to a [...]

By | 2021-04-29T21:30:42+00:00 April 29th, 2021|

When to give up the aisle for a middle seat

There are times in life and at work when it makes sense to make a small sacrifice simply to benefit others. I was flying home on business from California to Massachusetts. By the luck of the draw, I was one of the first people on the plane and got a nice aisle seat near the front of the plane.  There I sat as person after person and suitcase after suitcase went by. As the plane filled almost to capacity, the only seats left were the middle seat in my row and the middle seat in the row diagonally ahead of me across the aisle. Then, on comes a man with his (about) six year old daughter.  The man motions to his daughter to sit in one middle seat across the aisle and then he begins to sit next to me.  Out of the corner of my eye I see this little girl looking longingly to sit next to her dad.  Her one look caused me to give up my aisle seat so that she could sit next to her father.  This middle seat I soon occupied was far less comfortable, but not unbearable, even given the length of the flight. I gave up my seat because I could see that she wanted to sit next to her father more than I wanted to site on the aisle.  In effect, I traded a little to give someone else a lot. My goal in telling you this story is not to show you that [...]

By | 2020-09-22T02:13:50+00:00 December 28th, 2020|
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