Archive | July, 2013

Technology Leadership Series: Emotional Intelligence

The individualized vision of the “Perfect Leader” is highly subjective and its definition can be surprisingly diverse from person to person. While there are many attributes and actions that are commonly associated with high performing leadership, one of the most understated in my opinion is emotional intelligence.

You may have run across this person before. They seem to be calm regardless of the circumstances, they never lose their temper, and they always make a deliberate effort to listen to the views and opinions of their team. These qualities reflect an individual who has been able to leverage emotional intelligence to their benefit. More importantly, this method of leadership has perhaps had a more beneficial impact on his or her direct reports than anything else.

So what exactly is emotional intelligence? It is loosely defined as the ability to manage and understand not only your own emotions but the emotional state of those in your presence. Someone with a highly acute sense of emotional intelligence will be able to quickly analyze their emotional state to understand what they are feeling, what it means for the given situation, and how their emotional state may affect others. When a leader loses their temper, they are not only creating an unnecessarily tense environment, but they are communicating that they have lost control of the situation. Gifted leaders never allow this to occur. They recognize the warning signs and channel this energy into more deliberate, actionable leadership.

It’s my opinion that emotional intelligence is an absolute for true leadership success. Leaders need to set the example for their teams and have the ability to operate and execute in the most stressful situations. The absence of self-control in situations such as these can lead to reactionary actions and a “shoot from the hip” type approach. Neither of these are recommended during periods of high stress and pressure. While some leaders have developed a strategy to manage and maintain their emotional state, it may take time for those who are new to leadership to hone their self-awareness. Before you can move to understand the state of your teams on an individual basis, you must have an acute sense of self.

In conclusion, working with diverse teams and personalities will invariably lead to challenging interpersonal situations. Strong leaders will be able to quickly recognize these instances and be able to apply their emotional intelligence to mitigate the situation. To get started, leaders should focus on honing their skills as it relates to empathy, self-awareness, self-regulation and of course, social skills as they relate to communication and conflict resolution.

Each Friday, for the next several months, a new post will be released with another key characteristic of what it takes to be successful in technology leadership. These posts are in no particular order; I’d love for you to provide feedback and let me know if you think I’m missing something, or if you’d like to see a particular trait addressed please feel free to email me, or leave a comment. I’m hoping this will be a useful dialogue about what is necessary to become a successful technology leader.

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Leadership, Technology

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Technology Leadership Series: Managing Expectations

As we’ve already discussed, one of the most important characteristics and skills a CIO, CTO or Technology Manager can have excellent communication skills. One of the ways great communication skills are manifested is in managing expectations, internally and externally.

A good CIO will be able to do internal marketing of their department’s ability to help a company reach their goals and objectives. A great CIO, however, sells the department without overselling it. There’s a subtle difference, but a great CIO must understand the limits of his or her team and set realistic timelines for project completion. The difference between a good CIO and a great CIO is the ability to understand limits and not to overcommit resources.

A great technology leader understands the best way to avoid overselling their department is to build a team capable of thinking fast on their feet, and able to develop solutions and strategies to help the organization accomplish its objectives. A great CIO must have the ability to inspire his or her team to provide a viable solution to every problem. On my team we don’t say no to any request, we offer at least one solution for every request allowing the customer to make an educated decision as to whether or not they would like to pursue it further. By constantly challenging team members with high expectations they know and understand what is expected of them, allowing them to focus on meeting deadlines and project requirements.

Each Friday, for the next several months, a new post will be released with another key characteristic of what it takes to be successful in technology leadership. These posts are in no particular order; I’d love for you to provide feedback and let me know if you think I’m missing something, or if you’d like to see a particular trait addressed please feel free to email me, or leave a comment. I’m hoping this will be a useful dialogue about what is necessary to become a successful technology leader.

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Leadership, Technology

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Technology Leadership Series: Management Skills

Technology Leaders, CIO’s and CTO’s must be more than good manager  to be successful. However, it’s difficult to have success in an organizational leadership role without having strong management skills.  Management skills extend beyond some of the typical roles of a manager one might think: scheduling employees, hiring applicants, ensuring adequate coverage and meeting goals. Strong management skills include a dedication to not only improving their individual performance, but also the performance of their team. Successful leaders develop the talent they manage, preparing them for future advanced roles within the company. Successful leaders motivate their team to accomplish more than expected, and exemplify excellence as the standard.

In college I worked in retail and food service, arguably two of the worst managed industries. I’ve had terrible managers that used their authority to manipulate and coerce employees; but, I’ve also had several incredible managers who motivated me to be a better employee and person. I can recall one day, while working in a restaurant, I was vacuuming carpet and I saw the store’s General Manager walk out from the restroom with a cleaning cart. Jokingly I asked what he was doing, and didn’t he have someone to do that for him, since after all he was the manager. He smiled and explained the cleanliness of a bathroom can have a impact on a guest returning to the restaurant. Even cleaning a bathroom can increase the restaurant’s success; his job as a manager was to increase the restaurant’s success even if it meant scrubbing toilets.

A successful CIO must be proficient in directing and supervising people, projects, resources, budgets, vendors and other business partners is essential. In addition, great management skills entail team building, motivation, coaching and mentoring. Great managers ensure priorities are set appropriately and projects are completed on time and budget. . People with great management skills take advantage of delegation to ensure all work gets done and to engage team members in the success of the organization.  Organizations require excellent managers to be successful; the level of management skills in an organization’s leadership can be a good barometer of the organization’s health.

Each Friday, for the next several months, a new post will be released with another key characteristic of what it takes to be successful in technology leadership. These posts are in no particular order; I’d love for you to provide feedback and let me know if you think I’m missing something, or if you’d like to see a particular trait addressed please feel free to contact me, or leave a comment. I’m hoping this will be a useful dialogue about what is necessary to become a successful technology leader.

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Leadership, Technology

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Technology Leadership Series: Communication

The ability to intelligently and articulately talk about a strategy or a feeling in a clear and appropriate manner is an absolute must of any leader, especially a technology manager. Good communication is the foundation for success in any organization. Communication affects everything from task lists to the culture of the team. Communication prompts motivation by providing information to employees regarding the task they are to perform, or how to improve their performance. Communication is the source of information to all team members; allowing them to participate in decision-making process as it helps identify and assess alternative course of actions, if necessary. Communication plays an imperative role in altering individual’s attitudes. An individual who has been properly communicated with should have a better attitude than an individual who has not been properly communicated with.

Communication is more than just disseminating information. Great communication skills require great listening skills; to be a strong communicator one must also seek and accept feedback from peers, subordinates and customers. One of the most important things a technology leader can do is successfully alter the course of direction based on feedback. There is nothing worse than forcing an idea through against all common sense and feedback.
More than just written word, one-to-one verbal communication and public speaking. Much of what is discussed over the next few months, in this series, will have to do with healthy communication; which is why it was chosen first. Communication skills properly frame all other parts of an organization: communication the vision and direction the organization is to take, informing employees their role in advancing the company, managing expectations and time frames and so much more.
Each Friday, for the next several months, a new post will be released with another key characteristic of what it takes to be successful in technology leadership. These posts are in no particular order; I’d love for you to provide feedback and let me know if you think I’m missing something, or if you’d like to see a particular trait addressed please feel free to email me, or leave a comment. I’m hoping this will be a useful dialogue about what is necessary to become a successful technology leader.

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Leadership, Technology

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