By Stephen Ibaraki
When I think about “Professionalism” in IT and management, it brings to mind Colin’s Powel’s (CP) lessons on leadership which I’m reproducing here as extracts. All of them apply to IT Managers. I have added a few words of interpretation to each as I see them.
CP 1: “Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off.”
Change management is the byword today. What is crucial for organizational growth or agility requires repurposing of processes and people. Not everyone wants this change. Strong leadership through continual communication and team involvement works to manage this process.
CP 2: “The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.”
You need to keep an open door policy where people are encouraged to express their ideas and challenges too! How can there be innovation or improvement without an open dialogue?
Moreover, it is productive to setup a dynamic exchange or interactive incremental improvement model. Rather than just agreeing or disagreeing with ideas, also provide an environment for solutions or added insights to problems or innovations to move forward. “I don’t like this new company policy because…and I feel by doing this…there can be improvement.” “We need to move into this new area…by trying this approach…”
CP 3: “Don’t be buffaloed by experts and elites. Experts often possess more data than judgment.”
Diversity of input from a variety of perspectives leads ultimately to deeper insights than depending upon one expert. Isolated data without meaningful context and interpretation can lead to problematic solutions. As one example, there is a drive to broaden the audience and participants here in IP3. This makes for a much richer environment. There are benefits to maintaining an entrepreneurial spirit in your teams where everyone is actively engaged and contributing. I have blogged about it before, but it is one of Gartner’s recommendations to building your career – to work for a start-up where everyone takes a share of the load and takes on many tasks. In this entrepreneurial environment, there isn’t a dependence only upon experts.
CP 4: “Don’t be afraid to challenge the pros, even in their own backyard.”
Ask questions to provide deeper insight and to explore all the nooks and crannies. Have confidence in your abilities to connect to your needs and challenges, mining expertise from a variety of sources.
CP 5: “Never neglect the details. When everyone’s minds is dulled or distracted the leader must be doubly vigilant.”
The key here is to have both viewpoints: the overall roadmap but also the necessary details required to manage and push for success. It sponsors growth to encourage input and maintain active communications with those on the front lines too.
CP 6: “You don’t know what you can get away with until you try.”
There is a certain truth to asking for forgiveness later. I believe that there is success in taking the next step and not to be overwhelmed with the uncertainties. If you have an idea that moves your organization forward, why not try to take it into action? Beware of over-thinking everything which leads to inaction!
CP 7: “Keep looking below surface appearances. Don’t shrink from doing so (just) because you mind not like what you find.”
I have blogged about conducting a frequent SWOT analysis—either for personal career growth or to support the success of your organization. This is where you assess internal Strengths and Weaknesses versus external Opportunities and Threats. What this really means is to ensure you have a continual assessment of your environment and your place in it. Plus you make adjustments to ensure growth.
CP 8: “Organization doesn’t really accomplish anything. Plans don’t accomplish anything, either. Theories of management don’t much matter. Endeavours succeed or fail because of the people involved. Only by attracting the best people will you accomplish great deeds.”
People are the centerpiece of every great innovation or success. Community is an extension to this rule such as with IP3; or with the audience for this forum, reading, commenting and blogging. Professional Societies such as members of IFIP provide a local, regional, national, and internationally home or base for IT professionals where you can network, exchange ideas, find real solutions, and enhance your career.
The glue that binds people are relationships and interaction and for IT managers, continual collaboration and discussion, with your team is the basis of great leadership. In my podcast with Ben Grebinski, 2005 Computing Canada IT Executive of the Year Award recipient, he talks about taking a little time up front in his meetings to address the individual contributions of each of his staff. This keeps his team working together and having passion about their work.
CP 9: “Organization charts and fancy titles count for next to nothing.”
I see a lot of flat “high touch” organizations who are making inroads in many areas. If you watch the upswing in the market it is about quick uptake, instant communications, working in communities. Everyone can share their ideas and feel heard. Energy and passion drive organizational spirit no matter where they exist in the hierarchy.
CP 10: "Never let your ego get so close to your position that when your position goes, your ego goes with it."
You and the value and resources you represent are not defined by your role. Look to continually grow your skill sets, and the differentiation and value that you provide. Over time, this builds your value and it’s not role dependent.
I have blogged about this in:
Moreover look towards your next position and moving forward. Develop your team to take over your current duties.
CP 11: "Fit no stereotypes. Don’t chase the latest management fads. The situation dictates which approach best accomplishes the team’s mission."
In talking with many senior executives, I find they follow a series of core or basic principles and then keep to them. They add to this core due to insights they develop over time however they don’t make a wholesale shift in their core views. They also are agile in their ability to assess threat and opportunities and to react quickly which is essential to survival and growth today. If you get a chance, look at some of the writings/views of Warren Buffet.
CP 12: "Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier."
In the more than 400 interviews I have conducted since 2001 with the top authorities in business and technology, this is one common attribute--continual optimism including under the most serious challenges. As a manager, motivation is driven by taking a forward looking view of enablement and success for your team. And encourage an entrepreneurial risk taking approach or continual innovation, even incrementally.
CP 13: "Powell’s Rules for Picking People." "Look for intelligence and judgment, and most critically, a capacity to anticipate, to see around corners. Also look for loyalty, integrity, a high energy drive, a balanced ego, and a drive to get things done."
I find that attitude and approach are the best predictors of future success for picking your team and those you want to engage with on a long-term basis.
The rules say it all!
CP 14: "Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt, to offer a solution everybody can understand."
There are various indices for writing where the writing level is measured. One example is the FOG Index. The key is to simplify and it’s a rule for general publication writing too.
These principles apply to any kind of communication. If you can’t communicate your ideas simply, no matter how great they are, you will lose your effectiveness and this will delay your career.
One side note: It is always good to contribute to a discussion through new research, experience examples, and summarizing existing arguments. Simple agreement and non-agreement is not enough. I call this dynamic learning. You will notice that the bloggers here are always looking to add value. The famed, Gary Kawasaki, talks about this too.
CP 15: Part I: "Use the formula P=40 to 70, in which P stands for the probability of success and then numbers indicate the percentage of information acquired."
Part II: "Once the information is in the 40 to 70 range, go with your gut."
This is the most common challenge I encounter with ICT professionals. It is easy to get into ‘preparation paralysis’ where you put something off since you are not 100% ready. I use a mountain analogy sometimes to describe what I mean. Imagine it’s dark and you have to get to the mountain top. You can’t see the entire path but you can make out the next 50 meters which is the extent of your flashlight. So go the 50 meters and you will see the next 50 along the path to the top. You will get there if you are patient and keep trying!
CP 16: "The commander in the field is always right and the rear echelon is wrong, unless proved otherwise."
One of early lessons I learned is that you need to reach out to your team and listen to their views. They are on the front lines and can give you a perspective from actually being involved directly and on a day-to-day basis with your products, services, and with customers/clients. I have seen companies fail when this continual interaction and communication is not occurring with the team—the front lines. I recommend this approach no matter what level of management you reach. As a board director, I found it of great value to talk with developers and project managers. You get insights that you cannot get anywhere else.
CP 17: "Have fun in your command. Don’t always run at breakneck pace. Take leave when you’ve earned it: Spend time with your families. Corollary: surround yourself with people who take their work seriously, but not themselves, those who work hard and play hard."
I have no further comment here.
CP 18: "Command is lonely."
Ultimately it’s your responsibility and this entails making the hard decisions. However it always helps to be an inclusive as possible and to have transparency in dealing with associates. Be up front but also solicit valued input.
"Leadership is the art of accomplishing more than the science of management says is possible."