Showing posts with label humility. Show all posts
Showing posts with label humility. Show all posts

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The I in Team (Te-I-AM?)

OK, so we've all heard it... there's no "I" in team. However, if you squint just right, and tilt your head a little to the left... you can see there is a "ME"... which doesn't leave any room for giving credit to you. Shuffling the letters a bit, you can get tea, meat, at, ma, am, mat, mate, tame, item, and so on... however, you're just shuffling the letters, and not adding value. Do you shuffle letters and take credit, or do you really add value?

So, in this brief thought piece, please take some time and ask yourself one simple questions? Are you a team player, or do you shuffle letters that don't add value and then take the credit? I believe humility is one thing that's very undervalued and often overlooked in our society. Leaders lead, they don't focus on constant jockeying to make themselves look better for their next opportunity. That's self promotion and salesmanship, and it often can come at the expense of their team.

Yes, I hear the chuckles... if you don't promote yourself, then who will promote you? My attitude has always been, if your team's doing a great job... then the entire team should get recognized for their contributions. You'll be recognized for your contributions, if your contributions really add value. That recognition may come from above, below, or from a combination of areas. Success stands out from the crowd, or at least it should.

We become stronger leaders by promoting the "true" success of our teams, the "business value" that they add to your organization, and giving credit where it is due. When we lead by example, they we encourage our team to reflect our attitude, ethics, sense of shared responsibility, ownership, and collaboration across the enterprise. Encourage your team to work smarter, not harder... take measured risks, and publicly give the team the credit they deserve. Add value by removing obstacles, coordinating across the enterprise, keeping a pulse on your projects,... roll up your sleeves, and really add value.

You succeed and fail as a team. As a leader, sometimes we need to take responsibility for a failure to lead. That doesn't mean protecting incompetence, that's a different subject, and outside of the scope of this brief piece. Taking responsibility means that you're willing to take measured risks as part of a continuous improvement process. Your staff should be confident that you support them. If they follow best practices, yet misjudge mitigation of a risk from the introduction of changes in your product or processes, they should be confident that they aren't going to become a sacrificial lamb. Risk should be managed and mitigated, not completely avoided. You should publicly acknowledge any incident; explain clearly what happened, and how you plan to mitigate this risk to prevent a recurrence of a similar event in the future.

Let's go back to business value. I like to use the perspective, as draconian as it sounds, if I owned the company, would I be willing to pay another staffer out of my own pocket for doing EVERYTHING that I'm doing? What does the company get back? If I wouldn't pay me, then why am I doing it? (And if you're honest, you already know you have some of these activities, we all have them.) You wouldn't pay a lawn-care company a million dollars to mow your one acre lawn, no matter how good it looks. You'd pay the market rate, and expect a well manicured lawn. You wouldn't want the workers swimming in your pool while they are on the clock, surfing on your computer, or any other of other things that don't improve the looks of your lawn.

There are activities that add value such as team building, because they teach staff to be more productive as a group than they could be as individual workers. I'm definitely not being critical of these type of activities. I'm also not talking about professional development, research, and networking. These are all highly valuable activities that lead to improved skills, processes, methods, and communications. I'm talking about activities that really add no value.

Finally, leaders try to hire people who are the most qualified for their open positions, are capable, share their approach to team work, have the same level of commitment, and take pride in their contributions. Leaders focus on ways to provide stretch opportunities, give frequent constructive feedback on opportunities for improvement, and provide examples where staff are leveraging their strengths. Leaders challenge their team to excel.

So in summary, here's a few thoughts.
  1. Lead by example, not by words.
  2. Promote the accomplishments of your team
  3. Look for continuous improvement and innovate, while mitigating risks. When you fail to mitigate properly, accept responsibility, and use it as a learning opportunity.
  4. Recruit, hire, develop, and retain the best staff.
  5. Focus on continuous process improvement and employee development.
That's it for this brief piece. Hopefully it causes you to think critically in one of the areas I've covered. Ask yourself, are you adding value in all that you do for your team? No squinting is required - approach this with your eyes wide open... be critical... and reflective. Do you see an I, me, or a team?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Great companies have great marketing... does your team?

Everyone wants to get ahead, correct?  What better way than to promote yourself?  That depends on your lens  or perspective.  I'm from a blue-collar family, where humility is regarded as a positive value... and well boasting... is usually reserved for fishermen and hunters.  Those that do, let their actions speak... and those that can't... well... spend more time speaking than doing.

Does it always work, probably not... there are times when we each need to stretch outside your comfort zone.   I've always envisioned the role of a good manager as one that promoted the efforts of their team, and gave recognition to where it was most earned, by those that do the work.  I'd prefer to market team successes than any individual accomplishments.  The reality is that any success of the team are a result of the efforts of the team... and any failures... well... often they are a failure of leadership.  I'll have to do a future post on what is leadership... it's not management... leadership is painting the target on the wall and getting people to follow you... management is controlling how we get to the destination..

So, back to the question at hand... what is marketing... and why is it important in technology for companies that do internal  IT?  It's a question that most people ask themselves.  For that answer, let's discuss what marketing is not...
  1. It's not overstating what you've done, what you can do, or what you're capable of doing.
  2. It's not committing to something you can't deliver, are incapable of delivering, and have no plans to deliver.
  3. It's not lying, stretching, or stating things that cannot be achieved, or trying to get a foot in the door when you hope that like a tick, you can't be pulled once you're hooked in and get some blood.

What is marketing?  It's a necessary skill that you need to learn in order to survive.  Just because you're an internal resource doesn't mean that you should not be prepared to compete with other teams or external organizations for projects.  It's important to be prepared to provide a plan to get and service a new customer, or to maintain an old customer.  There's this small thing that's been happening in IT... it's called outsourcing.  There's always someone smarter that can do things better... if it's not you... it will be someone else.

Case and point... see the cartoon below... it was developed using tools from, and was delivered as an icebreaker at a recent meeting.  It was an overwhelming success... it helped demonstrate that we had some basic sense of what their challenges, goals and objectives were for a project in a context that was understandable... and important to our customers.

Connecting with your customer!
We've made significant efforts moving from older technology to a new ASP.NET stack adopting object oriented technology, implementing user controls that could inherit properties from their parents when dragged onto a form... and that handled their own methods to update the associated data.  My team had also abstracted the database into business objects as well.  This new effort included a dynamic workflow engine that included versioning to support future workflow changes that may need to be introduced... and was designed to be able to match workflows at different hierarchical levels of granularity.  We also heavily adopted templates, environment variables, and other "soft" ways to update the application without changing code.

Our partners are going through some major changes, and want to evaluate other solutions... partially because one of our highly adopted systems was written almost ten years ago... and doesn't have the flexibility of the new architecture.  If we want to be at the table and in the discussion, we need to ensure that our customer is judging us on our current projects, not one that is a legacy project.

Through demonstrations, and connecting with them on a business level, we've allowed our new solution to continue forward in the evaluation process.  Will it be chosen?  I don't know... that will really be a business decision.  However, it should be a decision based on an equal footing... not one that is from lopsided from a lack of marketing on our side.  Making this assumption, in my opinion... would be nothing more than a significant miscalculation.

The moral of the story... don't become a dinosaur, learn, innovate, and continue to compete.  Don't become stagnant in your technology, or complacent... and for the sake of your projects.. sometimes all you need to do is guide.. and then get out of the way!  If you focus on recruiting great people, develop them, and make sure they are recognized... they will want to succeed... have ownership... and a sense of pride.  The will develop great products... sometimes it's your role to ensure they have the knowledge, skills, and tools they need... remove any obstacles, and let them succeed!  Guide the project... there's nothing that kills a project quicker than scope creep...   

Don't let the below be said of you... for everything you add to a project, look for something of equal weight to remove, or extend the timeline immediately... you should NEVER hear....WHAAAATTTTT?!?! YOU'RE GOING TO BE A YEAR LATE?!?!? AND YOU BLAME IT ON ME CHANGING SCOPE!?!? YOU ARE INCOMPETENT... YOU DIDN'T CAPTURE THE CORE REQUIREMENTS IN THE FIRST PLACE!!!!...