Tag Archives | CIO

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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Technology Leadership Series: Selfless

This is the last week of my mini-series where I write based on Brad Shorr’s “12 Most Loathsome Boss Behaviors” so I will tie a few related topics together and write about being selfless. Shorr mentions bad bosses are selfish by “credit grabbing” (#3) but there are several other points he makes that can be tied into this. Instead of talking in-depth about Shorr’s thoughts on being selfish, it would be better to talk about what a selfless leader looks like. Here are several key ways for leaders to be selfless.

Be selfless with praise. Great bosses go out of their way to praise and recognize their employees, all of their employees not just their key contributors. In “First Break All the Rules” the authors note the single most important statement to company profit, retention and engaged teams is “I have been recognized in the past 7 days.” Great leaders don’t just recognize their teams occasionally, they do so habitually. Great leaders never claim success for themselves, instead they share it with all the contributors. As Harry Truman said, “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”

Be selfless with your responsibilities. We’ve already discussed delegation as a powerful productivity tool. I firmly believe there is utility in delegation, however, I believe it is most powerful when leaders choose to delegate meaningful and visible work tot heir teams. There is an adage that I’ve heard several different times that says, “Great leaders create wins for their people.” This is absolutely true, delegating highly visible tasks allows your team to get some big wins.

Be selfless with your time.The best leaders not only consistently praise their people and go out of the way to create wins for them, they also make sure they create time for their people. A leader should never be to busy for his or her team.  Whether this means creating an open door policy for employees to speak with you on an ad-hoc basis, or scheduling a few minutes once a week with all your employees with no set agenda it is important to show your team you value them by making yourself accessible.

Being a selfless leader requires a proactive posture of offing your people the best chances to be successful. Being selfless incorporates the qualities employees look for in a dynamic leader. Sometimes being selfless means insulating your teams from criticism when they fail. No matter the practical application, the attitude of selflessness is endearing and compelling. No one wants to work for a selfish leader, so don’t be a selfish leader.

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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Technology Leadership Series: Decisiveness

Continuing along with Brad Shorr’s list of the 12 Most Loathsome Boss Behaviors , the fourth on the list is indecisiveness. In many organizations, and departments, indecision can be costly; however,  for a CIO, CTO or technology manager, indecision can absolutely cripple their team and their mission. With the fast paced, dynamic, environment of AV and IT, indecision is far greater a detractor than in other environments. The good news is there are several simple ways to transition yourself into a decisive, competent leader.

Be Informed. Making a quick, knee-jerk, reactionary decision of great importance is definitely not a smart operating model. Be sure to ask the right questions, such as open ended questions- Why? What? How?- to ensure you are receiving the necessary information to put yourself in a position to make an educated decision. This process of engaging your team also creates buy in, which can be extremely important in implementing any decision.

Be Timely. “A quarterback doesn’t have the luxury of taking weeks to mull over whom to throw a pass to,” Shorr notes. Decisiveness is timely. Decisive leaders understand deadlines and priorities; organize and plan ahead to ensure decisions are delivered in a timely manner. Even the right decision is wrong if it isn’t delivered on time.

Be Accountable. In so many areas of leadership its crucial for people to be accountable. In the decision making process it’s especially important. Involving others to ensure you’re informed is critical to generating buy in; but ultimately it is the leader who must stand behind their own decisions, and see them through to the end with steadfast determination.

Decisiveness is a key strength of influential and successful leaders. Crises and issues never navigate themselves. As a leader, gather as much input from your teams as possible so that you’re making an informed decision, quality, decision. Gather this information in a timely manner, act quickly to make smart decisions sooner, rather than later. A decision can only be as good as its timing. Most importantly be accountable for your decisions as a leader. Be ready to stand behind your decisions, right or wrong. Bad decisions happen, use them as a blue print for making future decisions, not a reason to avoid making future decisions.

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: Delegation

Lately I’ve been reading far more than I have been writing; this is definitely a good thing. Reading more often allows what I write to be better, to gather ideas and inspiration from other bloggers and writers is important. I came accross an article entitled 12 Most loathsome Boss Behaviors by Brad Shorr. I addition to being incredibly well written, this article also notes the worst possible behavior a boss can have. This article focuses on ways leaders, and for our purposes leaders in technology, can ruin a work environment or team. I’d like to slightly change his article and write, maybe for a few weeks, on the positive counterpoints to the behaviors he he mentions as “loathsome.”

The first loathsome behavior Shorr mentions is micromanagement. There is no doubt about how annoying working for a micromanager is. Constantly having a manager looking over your shoulder, or telling you how to complete a task is absolutely miserable and incredibly inefficient. CIOs shouldn’t be operating “in the trenches” with programmers and technicians, that isn’t the function of a C-Suite executive. Micromanaging is unnecessary and useless. Here are several ways to avoid micromanaging, as a leader in the technology field.

Trust your team. I’ve previously written about the importance of surrounding yourself, as a CIO, CTO or Technology Leader with the best possible people . The importance isn’t just to have a team accomplish fantastic work, although that is certainly part of it. The purpose is to be able to trust them, to have confidence in being able to hand off work to them, or delegation. Having full confidence in the people you’ve placed around you, to do their job and to lead their projects, is the quickest way to avoid micromanaging.

Delegation of big tasks, not just small tasks. Truly trusting the team you’ve assembled means trusting them to accomplish big, and important tasks, not just small trivial tasks. there is no reason for a leader not to actively delegate to her/his team.  This allows the leader to be free to concentrate on more pressing and important matters; allow the team members to be more engaged; and to make room for others to lead. Side note: true leaders make room for others to lead. Creating opportunities for others to succeed on highly visible projects is important to all true leaders.

Keep a 30,000 ft viewWhen I started in the “real world” this phrase use to annoy me, more so than any other “corporate speak”. However, I’ve come to understand the importance of this jargon. It’s easy in programming or project planning phases to get caught in the minutia, or the smallest of ideas. A successful CIO, CTO or Technology Leader must be focused on larger ideas. Avoiding being bogged down in the details is the key to leading a technology department.

Yes there is a time and a place for being “hands on” as a manager. Also, there’s a huge importance of being detail oriented and having a “fanatical attention to quality and detail” (to borrow a phrase from a former employer). However, as a general rule, avoid meddling in the details of the day to day tasks your teams work on. The unwillingness to delegate, and delegate meaningful work, often signifies a deep seeded insecurity, or need for control.

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: 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: Feedback

As a leader not providing a mechanism to receive feedback, or worse yet- solicit and not respond to feedback can be the most arrogant and self defeating action one could possibly take. The lack of opportunity to provide feedback has the potential to increase employee frustration and as a result decrease workplace engagement. Soliciting feedback, and ignoring it is perhaps the most self serving stunt a leader can engage in. It is important to earnestly seek and honestly respond to the opinions of your employees.

Certainly not all feedback given by employees will be unbiased, accurate and actionable; but it can all be useful and beneficial. It’s extremely important to be able to ask for- and fully accept- feedback regularly from a range of people you interact with, both above and below you. Fully accept and appreciate feedback; a culture of accepting feedback and proactively responding to it is the healthiest company culture around. Accepting and using feedback constructively engages and empowers employees.

All great leaders are great listeners, and by extension life long learners. Listening isn’t a skill a CIO, CTO or Technology Manager easily masters; it more involved than simply hearing and understanding what is being said. Leaders who listen well hear, understand, consider and act on what is being said to them.

Feedback requires flexibility. Depending on feedback that is received, either within the organization or from sources external to the company, a leader might need to deviate from their vision; or even decide to forgo it altogether if it is in the best interest of the organization.

Technology leaders need to rely heavily on feedback. Employee feedback informs the execution of the vision and the direction the department will head. A CIO/CTO cannot have a keep and expert understanding of all facets of their teams’ responsibilities. A great technology leader must solicit feedback to ensure the vision is appropriately tailored to what is possible, and in the best interest of the organization.

Leaders: don’t be arrogant ask for feedback from stakeholders internally and externally. Consider the feedback honestly and completely, adjust and make changes where appropriate. Use feedback as an opportunity to engage and empower your employees to share in the vision and the direction of the organization. Feedback is essential to the continued success of any vision; it creates a shared vision experience.

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: Self Awareness

Leaders at any level, whether CIO, CTO or even lower management, need to have a firm grasp of their team’s pulse, as a result it is important for all leaders to have tremendous self awareness. It is important for a leader to have a good accounting of their own strengths and weaknesses drawing on strengths when necessary and avoiding pitfalls of their weaknesses when confronted by them.

Leaders must be able to take a complete inventory of the perception of themselves within their team(s).  All too often leaders don’t take this important step, preventing them from being as successful as leaders who accurately utilize introspection and awareness. Without being insecure, leaders must be able to use this inventory to ensure they are providing their teams with meaningful leadership, direction, vision and emotional intelligence; guiding them towards success and solidly supporting and empowering employees.

Another key component of leadership having exceptional self-awareness is to always be cognizant of ensuring leaders never blame others for team or department failures. I’ve heard it said one of the simplest keys to being a great leader, and having highly performing teams, is to avoid personalizing failures and actively share successes with your team. Self Awareness is also integral to another key concept previously discussed: building successful teams.  A leader needs to be aware of their deficits to ensure they build teams with complementary strengths, in order to be as complete and diverse as possible. Leaders who are not self aware, or actively taking inventory of their strengths and weaknesses are susceptible to failure in the blind spots. It is crucial to constantly be aware of how your attitude, actions and leadership affects others.

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: Vision

Successful leadership always starts with a vision. Compelling visions have led to several of the greatest moments in human history. President John F. Kennedy’s vision to place a man on the moon forever changed the way we look at a nighttime sky. Likewise, every CIO, CTO and technology manager must have a far-reaching vision of where their department must be in twelve, eighteen and thirty six months into the future. Without a vision, or any concrete direction to move in, IT departments become stagnant and obsolete virtually immediately. A leader must be able to see where the organization is heading to position their teams in the best possible way, in order for the company to be successful. For a vision to be successful it needs to be:

Clearly set with the organizational direction and purpose. Visions must be in line with company core values an directives. Contradictory directives can derail any successful, high-performing team.
Help employees believe they are part of something bigger than themselves and their daily work. Everyone wants to be part of something larger than themselves. Vision empowers employees to make their daily work more than just a task list, but a series of steps in a much larger, more important, journey.
Flexible. This is the most important part of any vision, and probably any leader. Flexibility to change, adjust and adapt a vision is vital. As often as technology and technologies change, every vision must be adapted or they will quickly become anachronistic

Vision is imperative to the success of an organization. Leaders can be good, even great, without possessing some of the qualities previously discussed. However, a leader must have a vision and a direction as to where to lead their teams. Without a direction and a vision, any movement is controlled chaos at best and a complete disaster at worst. Take a step back, solicit feedback and constantly re-evaluate the direction and effectiveness of your vision. Don’t become too committed to the vision to be flexible and adapt when necessary.

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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Technology Leadership Series: Building Successful Teams

One of the best moves a CIO, CTO or technology manager of any level can make is to build a strong, competent and complete team.  While this idea seems to be common sense and commonplace it’s more integral to the success of the organization than it seems. There are endless books, blogs and seminars on the topic of team-building strategies, compiling successful, high-performing teams isn’t difficult.

 Hire people who are smarter than you. As a leader, personal insecurity shouldn’t be part of any decision making process, ever. Not being concerned with individual perceptions is important. Any true leader knows it is the team, not the leader who is the catalyst for success. Surrounding yourself with people who are smarter than you, who make decisions differently than you and whom process information differently than you will allow more creativity into the decision making and brainstorming process.

Insist on all team members being an excellent cultural fit. Every company, intentionally or not, has a company culture. Making hiring decision based on company culture is imperative. With rare exceptions, every employee contributes to team morale and culture. Each employee being highly skilled and competent isn’t enough. Each team member must contribute positively to the success of the enterprise as well as the company culture.

Clearly define expectations and roles. Few things contribute to high turnover, low morale and under performing teams than unclear expectations. It’s nearly impossible for employees to stay motivated while working towards a moving target of poorly communicated expectations. It’s simple to increase team productivity; efficiency and morale by ensuring team members are clearly understanding all expectations. Making smart hires and developing employees are important but nothing will keep employees engaged longer and deeper than clearly defined goals and expectations.

No one person is capable of doing everything, no matter how much we try. Leaders aren’t leaders unless they have followers, it’s important to ensure teams of followers are assembled in the best way possible. Hiring competent, intelligent and diversely talented people who are committed to the values, goals and culture of the organization; and then clearly and plainly setting reasonable expectations are the ingredients to strong, engaged, effective and successful teams.

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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