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Who has inspired your management style?

Who are the managers you have had in the past that have inspired your management style? The interesting thing about this question is that inspiration can come from many unexpected places. Have you ever had a great manager that you looked up to? As a child did you have a sports coach that you looked up to? Did you volunteer your time to a charitable, religious, or civic organization and are spellbound by the leadership’s ability to lead and inspire others? In many ways managing people is like raising children. That said, can you draw management inspiration from your mother and/or father? Did you have a high school teacher or college professor who changed your life? If you think it’s easy to properly manage a classroom, you should try it.  Like most things in life, it’s much harder than it appears. Is there a person in your life, such as a relative or friend, who you admire and try to emulate? Management inspiration can also come from negative experiences.  Have you ever had a manager who was indecisive, unorganized, professionally incompetent, uninterested, or just plain mean?  The reason it’s very appropriate to learn from your worst managers is because it teaches you what not to do.  Working for a really poor manager teaches you what it feels like to report to this type of person.  Chances are you don’t want your team to look at you the way you look at and think about your less than desirable managers. The reason that [...]

By | 2020-09-22T02:03:22+00:00 December 21st, 2020|

Remember to say please and thank you

There are two great reasons I decided to write a blog on this topic. The first is that the combination of good manners, respect for those you work with, and showing appreciation to those who work for you is not only good taste, but it’s also good business.  The second great reason for me writing this column is that it will make my mother proud.  Yes mom, all those years ago as a kid I was listening, thank you. From a business perspective, good manners, respect for your colleagues, showing appreciation and being good to those working for you each brings its own advantages. Good manners to all those you work with, including vendors, peers, your staff, customers, and those above you organizationally help you build a high quality professional brand of being a team player and someone of character.  There is an old expression that gets to the heart of the matter on this topic. It says you get more bees with honey than with vinegar.  You should be nice to people because it’s the right thing to do, but also feel free to reap the benefits and rewards that common courtesy can help bring. Showing respect to the people working with you is also the right thing to do, but, like good manners, in the long run can be much to your advantage, or at least not to your disadvantage. Early in my career I worked with a person, we’ll call him Joe, who for some reason didn’t like the [...]

By | 2020-09-22T02:03:39+00:00 December 14th, 2020|

Strategic thinking and the power of diversity

From a strategic thinking perspective, diversity in the workplace is a true blessing. Let me explain this statement by first defining strategic thinking, then describing my definition of diversity, and then explain the magical connection between the two. I consider strategic thinking to be the process of defining the successful future state of an existing issue, topic, or direction.  As a contrast, I consider strategic planning to be the process of defining a plan to bring you from the current state to the successful future vision created via a strategic thinking exercise. I consider diversity as being the differences between people in a way that provides different perspectives, philosophies, perspective on the world, values, and thinking processes.  These differences could be based on ethnic background, gender, age, professional discipline, level of education, life experience, and any other factor that makes someone unique. I’m quite confident that almost everyone who reads this column has heard the expression “Two heads are better than one”.  At its essence, this is the basis for the value of diversity.  Two heads bring two different perspectives, thus allowing the problem at hand to be analyzed in two different ways. Now let us expand on this two heads are better than one theory.  Let’s say that you have ten people on your staff, with the following types of diversity: People in their 20’s through their 70’s and beyond Some men and some women Three different religions Various ethnicities including Hispanic, Caucasian, African American, Asian, and Indian Some born in [...]

By | 2020-09-22T02:03:54+00:00 December 7th, 2020|

The power of big thinking

There are many quotes and sayings that strongly suggest or quietly allude to how you think about things today can have a profound effect on your future reality.  These sayings include: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right.” (Henry Ford) “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” (Eleanor Roosevelt) "In the long term the most important question for a company is not what you are but what you are becoming." (Gary Hamel) "The best way to predict the future is to create it." Peter F. Drucker What these quotes and quotes like them teach us is that each one of us has great power to shape our personal futures, the future of the companies we run, and potentially, the future of the department we manage within the company were we are employed. As an IT Manager within a company, big thinking is relative to the current state of your department, and your department’s role within the company. Thinking big may be something as seemingly simple as reducing processing errors, increasing productivity by a specified percent, or providing your customers with an incremental improvement in customer service.  It could also be something as grandiose as helping to accelerate company growth or implement a major reduction in processing costs.  The important thing is that the goal you select stretches the people in your department in a way that is: Challenging, but realistic to attain Conceptually appropriate, given your department’s charter Something of true value [...]

By | 2020-09-22T02:04:06+00:00 November 30th, 2020|

Spend time “on” and “in” your IT department

The idea of spending time “on” and “in” your IT department is best described using the example of a small one-person consulting firm specializing in management consulting.  Like most small companies, the owner, has two primary responsibilities; first, generating revenue by doing hands-on consulting and second, trying, to find future consulting assignments.  The problem is that if you try to maximize your revenue by spending all your time working on your current client, when your consulting engagement ends, you don’t have your next client lined up.  Alternatively, if you spend too much time marketing, you run the danger of not properly servicing your current client and/or reducing your billability. Department managers have a similar dilemma.   That is to say, if you spend too much time ”In” your department working on tasks performed within the department, you don’t have time to properly manage your staff and/or perform manager-level tasks such as salary planning and budgeting.  Alternatively, if you spend too much time “on” your department, performing general management functions, then you run the risk of not properly managing your staff. One of the hardest things for self-employed consultants and first-line managers is to properly divide their time between these two types of activities.  This phenomenon is doubly true if the manager is in a player/coach type role where he/she officially has both managerial and individual contributor type responsibilities. Some of the reasons that this balance is hard to achieve are: The pressure to complete department tasks on time and under budget prevents you [...]

By | 2020-09-22T02:04:17+00:00 November 23rd, 2020|

Great IT Managers are also teachers

As IT Managers, we wear many hats, including delegator, commander, disciplinarian, leader, decision maker, facilitator, and role model.  Great managers, however, are also teachers, providing instruction and insights to their staff on topics such as: Job specific skills Navigating company politics Leadership skills Interpersonal skills Professional growth and career advancement Life skills, when asked for personal advice Incorporating teaching into your management style has many advantages for your company, your staff members, and you personally. Regarding the advantages to the company, teaching your staff is a triple win.  First, improving the skills of your staff can enhance company morale, boost productivity, increase quality, and reduce employee attrition.  Second, as your staff becomes more highly skilled, due to your tutelage, they increase the company’s bench strength as new projects and challenges arise.  Third, you may be the manager, but you are still an employee. Hence, the more you learn by teaching, the more valuable you become to the company in regard to future promotions. Regarding the advantages to your staff, they’re learning new job skills, gaining insights on navigating their professional careers, have the benefit of working in a nurturing environment, and are enhancing their future professional marketability. The advantages to you personally include: You learn by teaching. The reason you learn when teaching a topic is because students’ questions cause you to consider things from different perspectives, this giving you deeper insights into the topic/subject you are teaching.  Also, teaching makes you break down tasks into steps so you can explain them [...]

By | 2020-09-22T02:04:30+00:00 November 16th, 2020|

IT Managers must dance when the music plays

No, I’m not suggesting that you actually start dancing around the office, especially if your ability to dance is similar to mine.  What I am suggesting is that, as an IT Manager, there are specific times and key situations when we really earn our pay.  Depending on how we act, these situations can get us promoted, get us fired, or cause us to be forever ignored and un-promotable. These situations could be related to: Issues with an employee A business partner/user A major production problem causing great risk for the company A major mistake made by someone within your department A natural disaster A major company challenge that potentially brings great success The rollout of a new company product or service As managers, most of workdays, workweeks, and work-years are spent performing standard processes and tasks such as: hiring new people, creating budgets, overseeing ongoing department processes, and going to various types of meetings.  Then, out of the blue, a situation arises that’s highly visible, time sensitive, politically charged, and for better or worse, centered around you or your department. When this situation arises, consider the following advice: Even if the situation is emotionally charged, be calm, think logically, and don’t let your emotions get the better of you. Just because you are temporarily put in the limelight and in full focus of senior management today, it doesn’t mean you will be there tomorrow. As a result, don’t burn any bridges with your boss or other important people.  If you do, once [...]

By | 2020-09-22T02:04:41+00:00 November 9th, 2020|

Name your IT projects based on the result you want

At first glance, which of the following projects do you think have the better chance of achieving their needed business results? “Sales Process Redesign” OR “Revenue Growth Enhancement” “Business Intelligence System Implementation” OR “Competitive Analysis Information Gathering” “Employee Inventory Skill List Enhancement” OR “Talent Management Maximization” When looking at the three comparisons above, my contention is that the names listed on the right have a greater chance of meeting their business objects than the project names listed on the left.  The reason for this statement is based on my belief that a project’s name helps define its purpose and helps the project’s manager define his/her team’s vision. When looking at the project names listed above, the names on the left describe the work to be done and the project names on the right describe the business outcome to be achieved.  This subtle difference in naming convention can help the team focus on the “project why”, not just the “project what”.  This simple, seemingly small, difference can help the people working on the project focused on filling the business need, not just completing the business task. In addition to providing project focus, the names on the right also have the potential to help motivate the team.  It’s funny, sometimes in life it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.  As an example, which of the following two rally cries do you find more motivating? “Ok team, let’s get out there and redesign the sales process!” “Ok team, let’s get out there [...]

By | 2020-09-22T02:05:02+00:00 November 2nd, 2020|

Be skeptical and engaged not cynical: It fosters innovation

As the IT Manager of a busy department with too much to do and not enough people to do it, it’s easy to simply say no and walk away when a member of your staff suggests an idea for a new project, process improvement, or potential opportunity.  The problem with this approach is that it sends the wrong message to the members of your staff.  I’m not saying here that you should do every idea that your staff suggests, that would be impossible and, quite frankly, odds are that not all of the staff suggestions would be worth doing.  What I am suggesting is that you do the following:  Listen carefully to each suggestion. Who knows, it may be a really good idea and something that you would like to implement within your department.  Discuss the rationale behind the suggestion. This discussion will allow you to not only gain an understanding of the issue at hand, but it will also give you insights as to how the employee assesses situations, defines problems, constructs action plans, and presents his/her business case.  These insights into your staff member’s abilities is valuable when trying to delegate tasks, provide training,  give performance reviews, and deciding how to promote. Thank the employees for their initiative. Whether you use their idea or not, even whether you like it or not, thanking the employee for taking the time and caring enough to make the suggestion has many advantages, including: You are letting the employee know that he/she is being [...]

By | 2020-09-22T02:05:13+00:00 October 26th, 2020|

Find meaning beyond just the paycheck

The interesting thing about this column is that it’s not only good advice on how to treat those you manage, it’s also good advice for you personally, regardless of your professional level. Let’s begin by talking about you as the employee and then talk about you as an IT Manager.  My question to you is this: Do you find meaning in your job or is it just a way to feed your family?  Don’t get me wrong, working hard to feed your family is a noble and important goal, I have done it myself for most of my life.  The questions behind the question are: Do you like what you are doing? Do you find meaning in your work? Come Friday afternoon (assuming you work standard business hours) are you thankful it’s a weekend because you are sick of your job or simply because you are looking forward to spending the weekend with loved ones? Does your job allow you to employ your best skills and talents? Is there some other job you would rather be doing? To coin an old expression, does your job get you juiced? (excited and energized) My goal here is not to get you to quit your job.  Rather, it’s to ask you to pause from your daily tasks for a few minutes and look at your job from the perspective of your values, interests, career objectives, and goals in life. I’m asking you these questions for two reasons.  First, as human beings, it’s a wonderful thing [...]

By | 2020-09-22T02:05:23+00:00 October 19th, 2020|
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