Archive | November, 2013

Technology Leadership Series: Failure

Whoever said “failure is not an option” is a complete idiot. Actually, they weren’t- it was Gene Kranz, NASA’s Flight Director during the Apollo 13 mission (if you aren’t familiar with the Apollo 13 mission let me know, I’ll mail you my VHS of the movie). Kranz knew failure wasn’t an option, he has several astronauts stranded in space with a limited oxygen supply. Kranz’s world and the world of technology are totally different. Being in technology almost requires a mindset that views failure as not only ok, but failure should be sought after. Certainly failure is not the endgame, and nobody sets out in life to become a failure and although being a failure ins’t glamorous it doesn’t mean it’s bad to fail. Failure is actually a really important step on the road to success.

Failure is a result of not playing it safe. Companies don’t become wildly successful by “playing it safe.” In order to be successful in IT/AV it’s important to innovate and to push boundaries. Great CIOs, CTOs and Technology leaders don’t expect their team to adopt a ‘play it safe’ strategy.

Failure helps you learn. Companies developing products sink obscene amounts of money into research, development, testing and quality checks of these new products. Yet, inevitably, something doesn’t work perfectly or there is a hiccup with the product. The company doesn’t throw away the product, take down the marketing materials and start over. Instead they deconstruct the failure and learn what can be done differently, and better, the next time.

Failure is incredibly important. If you’ve never failed at anything then maybe you’re the idiot. Just kiding, but maybe if you’ve never failed you should consider whether or not what you’re doing is really worth succeeding at.

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: Humor

It’s important for leaders to have characteristics that are unique to business, or work, such as delegation, team building, management skills and organizational vision. It’s also important for leaders to have characteristics that are foundational to personal interaction. For example, leaders need strong interpersonal skills, empathy and humor just as much as decisiveness, intuition and budgetary skills. The importance of humor as a leader, or at least a sense of humor, is essential. I’m not suggesting that stand up comedians make great leaders, nor that leaders are necessarily the funniest people in the room. All I’m suggesting is humor generates a positive energy within your team that is extremely important to success.

No matt how much research, planning, development and documentation goes into your work, inevitably there will be times where bad things happen. Whether it is the launch of a website that has been three years in development that produces bugs that weren’t present in the QA phase or a control system that errors out during a high profile audiovisual installation. How a leader reacts and chooses to handle these failures can make, or brea, a successful team. This is where a good sense of humor can pay off. Encourage, and allow, your team to be comfortable laughing at mistakes instead of crying over them. If you are constantly learning to find humor in the struggles your work environment will become happier and healthier. The type of environment your employees look forward to working in, rather than dread coming to each day. Make it a point to lighten the mood by joking with members of your team, and use humor as a method to keeping the workplace emotional environment light. These actions help keep productivity high and morale levels even higher.

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: Development

Good managers work diligently to get the most out of their employees in their current positions. Great managers work tirelessly to prepare their people for advancement. While the difference in practical application is ever so slight the difference between the two philosophies speaks volumes. Getting the most out of employees is important, and greatly benefits the organization; however, spending time on each employees’ personal and professional development is better than to simply seek efficiency and productivity. The concept of leadership and professional development isn’t new, nor revolutionary, but often times the execution of this concept leaves much to be desired. There are several ways to improve professional development within your organization to ensure your people aren’t just high performers but that they are ready to take the next step in their careers.

Have a plan. Provide guidance on professional development and options of a career path for all employees. If you have employees approaching their review, or work anniversary, take the time to ask them “where do you see yourself going within the organization?” Share your thoughts as to where you see them going and what opportunities exist for them to be challenged.

Know what you can change.  It’s crucial for leaders not only to attempt to provide professional development for all personnel, but to do it correctly. In reality, people don’t change all that much. As a leader, know your people, and know not to waste your time attempting to put in what’s been left out. instead try to draw out, or improve, what’s already there. In other words, hone strengths, increase core competencies but don’t waste time trying to correct or eliminate fundamental weaknesses that are too deeply ingrained.

Celebrate Resignations.  This may be a hard pill to swallow. I’ve worked with, and for, several leaders who constantly say things to their employees like “I want you to be the best you can be” or “I want you to be successful at the next level.” These are great idioms to use to encourage your people to continually grow, but they’re useless maxims if you don’t mean them. If what you really mean is “I want you to be successful at the next level, as long as you wait until an opportunity at the next level is available within the organization” you’re neither helpful nor honest, rather probably self serving and spiteful. True professional development is the mindset of, “I want you to succeed at the next level, even if you have to leave to do so.”

Some of the best leaders I’ve ever worked with or for constantly tell me how excited they are to talk with employees years later and see where they are, and be a resource for them. Professional development doesn’t end when an employee leaves the organization, great leaders make themselves available to continually develop and mentor professionals. Every employee wants to work for a leader who can help them get to the next level.

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, Personal Development, Technology

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