Archive | September, 2013

Technology Leadership Series: Honesty

It it should be common-sense, and go without saying, that for all managers and leaders to be successful they must be honest; however it needs to be said over and over. You see it all to often in business, politics and even in religion where great organizations and great leaders are completely derailed and ultimately the leader and/or the organization fail. I could list numerous occurrences, like this, where honesty-or the lack of it- is to blame for an organization’s or leader’s demise. Instead, It is more beneficial for all to focus on optimistic thoughts, like how honesty can change an organization and empower leaders to be more successful.

Honest leaders reduce uncertainty. Leaders who constantly set expectations, make these expectations known and hold people accountable to these expectations have teams that know exactly what to do. Providing honest and accurate information on the status of the organization, or a project, alleviates the potential for confusion on high performing teams. Leaders need to be transparent and honest about the future, even if the prognostication doesn’t look too bright.

Honest leaders reduce turnover. The cost of having a position, or a team, that is a “revolving door” is astronomical. High turnover rates not only cost the organization a ton of money, they also reduce the perception of both the leader and the department’s competency. Being honest and upfront about work environment and expectations can create a stable environment and ultimately lead to a reduction in turnover. Having a department culture of dishonesty is also a quick way to increase turnover. No one wants to work in that environment.

Honest leaders improve ideas. I’m not sure if you have ever worked in an organization where a leader keeps around one, or several “yes men” but I have and it isn’t a pleasant experience, especially if the organization or the ideas need to change. It’s incredibly important, especially for CIOs, CTOs and technology managers to be honest, even if it isn’t in agreement, when it comes to the technical execution of the organization’s mission. Be honest, don’t be a “yes man.” Also, don’t be a jerk.

Honest business practices and honest leadership inspire staff and customers, alike, with respect to company values and culture. The “Golden Rule” is incredibly important for all leaders, if you want your employees to be honest with you you, you must be completely honest with them.

Each Friday, for the next several weeks, 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: Trustworthy

It should go without saying, but I’m still going to say it because it bears repeating. If you want to be a successful technology leader, you better be trustworthy. Your team better be able to trust that you will deliver on your promises, and back up your expectations. Your superiors expect that you’ll be able to deliver results and ultimately positively impact the bottom line. However, there are far more components of being trustworthy than just these two examples.

Being Trustworthy means being credible. It’s imperative for CIOs CTOs and Technology Leaders to back up what they say, to model appropriate behaviors and work ethic for their teams. Ultimately, though, there is so substitute for knowing what you’re talking about.

Being Trustworthy means being reliable. Trustworthy people do what they say they will. Trustworthy leaders ensure they deliver on time and budget regardless of the scope of the project. Leaders quickly lose the trust of their employees when they can’t or won’t keep promises or expectations.

Being Trustworthy means being accountable. Leaders are accountable, leaders use I when they talk about the failures of the team. I made a decision to move in this direction, it turned out not to be the best option. Leaders take full responsibility for failures, but also take specific steps to rectify the issue and prevent it from happening again.

Being trustworthy is an important facet in climbing the corporate ladder. However, not being trustworthy can derail any career and ruin the most promising prospects. Trust is essential in creating and maintaining business relationships. Trust is required for leadership; people will not follow those whom they do not trust.

Each Friday, for the next several weeks, 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: Consistency

One of the hallmarks of excellent customer service, and successful companies, is time after time delivering what the customer expects. This encompasses ensuring orders are fulfilled accurately, timeframes are met and client representatives are courteous and polite. As a customer this is what I’m hoping for each and every time I buy from a company. Leadership is absolutely no different; a CIO, CTO or technology manager must deliver consistency to their teams and customers in order for their companies to be successful. Consistency is a must in responding to adversity, setting expectations and dealing with external stakeholders (customers).

Whether we like it or not, no matter what we do, in leadership there will always be surprises. This is especially true in technology. Whether this difficulty is an AV system that suddenly stopped working or an enterprise wide network outage, each surprise is an opportunity to further deliver excellent service. Leaders must remain fiercely loyal to their teams; and must never, even in the worst difficulties publicly criticize their teams. Leaders know teams win and teams lose, leaders know its about the group not about individuals.

Additionally, leaders must be incredibly consistent in the expectations they set and the manner in which they set them. It’s critical to set crystal clear expectations for the performances of all employees. Great CIO’s are consistent in setting these expectations, as well as delivering them, in the same way to each member of the team. Communicating clearly, in writing, is far more consistent than communicating in person, for instance, as it provides a clear record of the discussion.

It’s imperative to note the first two points directly impact this. Interfacing with external stakeholders requires greater consistency than anything else. The expectations you set with your employees are the the expectations customers expect to receive each and every time. Consistently delivering on the expectations of external stakeholders in a professional manner is the single way to grow and expand the success of your organization.

Each Friday, for the next several weeks, 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

Technology Leadership Series: Buy In

The importance of vision to leadership has already been discussed and there’s no denying it’s impact; the same is true with a leader soliciting and accepting feedback on the vision. These two ideas combine to create the idea of generating buy in, or creating a shared vision. Generating buy in is important to a leader both within their team as well as outside their team whether it is organizational stakeholders or stakeholders external to organization. Great visions are so often derailed and ultimately fail because leaders fail to involve others in the creation of the vision and ultimately are unable to generate necessary buy in.

Internal: The importance of internal buy in cannot be underestimated. Soliciting input from your team members to create a shared vision is the easiest way to generate internal buy in. Without having buy in within their own team(s), any CIO, CTO or technology leader faces a significant uphill battle in seeing their vision through to implementation. Being an employee charged with implementing and executing a vision that is questionable at best and useless at worst is absolutely terrible. In my career I’ve been in the position of implementing visions that my colleagues disagreed with and didn’t support, the implementation phase was incredibly miserable because we didn’t believe in the vision. Conversely, having opportunity to contribute to the vision and offer our perspective ultimately lead to a shared vision that was easy to implement with minimal challenges.

External: While having internal departmental buy in is important to the implementation and execution phases of any vision, bring external stakeholders in to assist with a shared vision will ensure the vision will accomplish something that matters. Let me explain: often in technology or AV we get the urge  to do something amazing and grande just because we can. Maybe the vision is to migrate all services and applications “to the cloud” or to design a conference room with 8 displays capable of displaying unique content on each display. While there is nothing inherently wrong with these visions, bringing in external sources to assist with a shared vision will help generate the buy in necessary to move projects along. For instance, it might be asked: “is this necessary?” or “does the end justify the means (money)?” Including these external stakeholders will more often than not offer a different perspective that technology managers might not have previously considered.

Much like John Milton argued in his famed speech, “Areopagitica,” the more voices and views you can bring to the marketplace, the more buy in the shared vision will generate. This will ultimately lead the successful realization of the vision.

Each Friday, for the next several weeks, 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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