As a leader in the technology industry for the last 21 years, I have led many different teams, ranging in size from 2 to 300. Yes, there are MANY factors to consider when leading teams.
AUTHORED BY GUY WOLF, TRANSFORMATION EXECUTIVE @ GUIDEIT
Early in my career, a manager told me how he made important decisions. “I always follow my gut. In fact, I’ve put on so much weight in this job, that my gut sticks out and I literally have to follow it wherever I go!” Kidding aside, he did stand out among leaders as being able to cut through the fog of data – some missing, some conflicting, and some just plain wrong – to guide his team along a path that was not always the obvious conclusion.
In leading one company through an outsourcing decision, we arrived at a point where the investigation had been completed. Two organizations were deemed qualified, capable and willing to work with us to take on a large service obligation to support the client company. This would have meant significant savings and access to resources for the client and significant revenue and favorable marketing publicity for the service provider. After negotiating the contracts, a key leader at the customer told us his gut was telling him not to do this deal. What happened next made the difference in maintaining a cohesive team that would continue to work with both vendors in other ongoing relationships.
There are at least two paths leaders follow when making this “gut calls.” One I would call the “trust me” path. It’s fast. It gets to the “right” decision very often, and it avoids the hard work of forging a consensus among people with different preferences of outcomes. When done well, it can lead to a sense of awe and glory for the leader. “Brilliant, if a bit abrasive,” others may say of this leader.
But we ignore our sixth sense at our peril. “Gut Feel” or “Intuition” is the stuff we know, even though we don’t know how we know it. Or in psychology terms: "rapid cognition or condensed reasoning that takes advantage of the brain's built-in shortcuts." (Psychology Today, 21-Aug-13 https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200704/gut-almighty) It is no less valid than other types of formal analysis. But because it is hard to demonstrate, it is frequently kept hidden.
The other path, and the one this leader chose, was to engage an impartial advisor to help document the pros and cons of multiple courses of action – some of it in spreadsheets, some in narrative. And he brought together the people who spent so much time and effort in the selection process to weigh in on the topic. It was an investment of several hours, and under a tight deadline. But allowing the entire team to engage in bringing these other factors to light meant arriving at the decision that preserved the outstanding working relationships they had built together within the client organization, as well as with the finalist vendors who continue to support this client in other ways.
We would like to hear from you how you use your “gut feelings” in your decision making.
AUTHORED BY JEFF SMITH, VICE PRESIDENT OF SALES @ GUIDEIT
I have always been fascinated by the different leadership styles I have witnessed and have worked for in my 35 years in the IT field. It is my belief that a leader, good or bad, has a direct impact on the achievements and accomplishments of those who work for them. I also believe that one’s leadership style is not something that is taught, rather is inherent in their overall personality.
If someone in their everyday life is known as a caring, giving person, they will tend to lead with a style that emphasizes caring more about individual and team achievements than their own personal achievement. If someone in their everyday life is more self-centered, caring more about themselves rather than others, they will tend to focus on trying to advance their own career off the work of their subordinates, and spending the majority of their time managing UP versus managing across.
When I became a leader over an IT Business Development team in my early 30’s, I felt a calling to lead with the same personality and purpose that I believe I have in my everyday life. I felt a responsibility to help others learn and grow, to have direct communications with them, to take responsibility, and truly wanted to contribute to the success of each individual, the team and a bigger purpose. Our overall goal was to find, close and sign new business, which we did well. But for me, signing business never yielded the same reward as watching the development of the team and individual team members, getting compliments about a team member, or having associates from other teams say that they would love to be part of Our Team. And there was nothing better than having a newly signed customer tell you what they saw in us over the competition was a better team of people and a team that they wanted to partner with.
When you become a leader, it’s my belief that your greatest achievements come from the opportunities you provide team members for personal growth, from the recognition of your team members for their dedication and their hard work, and most importantly when you know and feel they embrace you and trust you as their leader.
So if you are a leader constantly ask yourself, how you can best lead them, serve them, support them and engage with them. When you are thinking of these things I believe you have achieved being a great leader.
AUTHORED BY MARK JOHNSON, VICE PRESIDENT, MANAGED SERVICES @ GUIDEIT
Not long ago the call went out for a volunteer to write the next installment of our series of GuideIT Values blog entries. With the topic being “integrity” I quickly said “I’ll take that one”, thinking to myself “hey that’s an easy one to knock out.” Well, as it turns out, not so much.
As I put fingers to keys I started with the predictable list of “challenges to integrity” but soon had to ask myself, how do you write about integrity in a way that doesn’t come across as either sanctimonious or overly simplistic? And further, how do you translate a critical foundation of character into mere words?
At GuideIT our Founders adopted this approach in an attempt to express what integrity means to us: “We will hold each other to unquestionable standards of honesty and ethics, in words and actions, and operate with transparency.”
Helpful, but still what does that mean? If integrity in business meant simply being honest, it’s not a terribly high bar to clear, though isn’t it sad how some don’t? No, too often we’re faced with opportunities to “pass or fail” an integrity test in far less visible ways, or ways in which there’s not necessarily a clear cut “right” answer. That’s where the “unquestionable” part comes in. The standard is clear, the measure remains harder to quantify. But let’s face it – we all know it when we see it. So do our fellow team members, and so do our customers.
Can you teach integrity? I’d say yes and no. Without question you can use day to day opportunities (and challenges) in business to guide your team members towards what it means to operate in the center of the ethical playing field, whether leading by example yourself, or providing specific guidance about your expectations for ethical behavior as situations arise. So yes, you can absolutely teach integrity, but only to a point.
No matter how hard you work to establish an environment conducive to both earning and maintaining trust, inherently there is still an element of character that has to come from within, one that if missing will never consistently meet the expectation to operate with “unquestionable standards of honesty.” To me, that internal compass is called having a conscience, emboldened with the courage to choose the harder right, rather than the easier wrong, even when the decision or the results may not be popular. There are lots of people who know the right thing to do; at GuideIT we look for the ones actually willing to do it, and hold everyone, including our leaders, to that same standard.
At GuideIT our motto is “Do Technology Right.” As I reflected on what I initially thought was a simple marketing slogan, my “ah-ha moment” was when I realized it also provides a straight forward approach to operating with integrity. “Do Technology Right”, absolutely. But how about, simply do what’s right.
I guess it wasn’t all that hard after all.
AUTHORED BY DEANA EILAND, VICE PRESIDENT OF DELIVERY @ GUIDEIT
Teams are a fundamental part of our work and personal lives. But, creating a team is not the same as creating a team that works. Just as joining a team is not the same as performing as a team member. Very simply, teams do not work without teamwork. Active, collaborative teamwork towards a common goal makes all the difference.
How do you build a team that works?
- Be Aware of How You Work – Know your strengths and weaknesses, hold yourself accountable, course-correct and modify your approach if needed to ensure you are leading from a position of strength.
- Get to Know the Rest of the Team – Invest the time to know your team’s individual strengths and weaknesses, how they are wired and what motivates them to excel beyond what is expected.
- Clearly Define Roles & Responsibilities – Each of your team member’s responsibilities should be interconnected and dependent on one another. Unique strengths and differences can convert into a powerful united force when aligned properly.
- Be Proactive with Feedback - Feedback is a two-way street and is key to staying on track and course correcting when needed.
- Acknowledge and Reward – People love recognition and appreciate respect. Take the time to give your team the accolades they have earned and deserve.
- Always Celebrate Success! – In today’s fast-paced world, people often don’t take the time to take a step back and truly appreciate what it took to cross the finish line. Don’t ignore it. Your team’s accomplishment was likely with some sacrifice by team members. Celebrating their success and overall impact of the achievement is critical.
"The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don't play together, the club won't be worth a dime."
AUTHORED BY JOHN LYON, CHIEF OF FINANCE @ GUIDEIT
The reality of organizational life is never black and white. More often than not, accountability is muddled and people are not fully aware of the direct connection between their efforts and results. We tend to keep ourselves from being productive simply by not holding ourselves accountable for our actions. It is of utmost importance to first hold yourself accountable for your own obligations, commitments, and actions before participating in a team environment.
Accountability is about improvement. Improve oneself, and the team will respectively improve. Tom Price nails it when he said, "One person's embarrassment is another person's accountability." We are all in a leadership role, as all team members are responsible for contributing to the success of the organization. As leaders, without accountability, an organization would cease to exist. You not only betray yourself by not owning up to your responsibilities, but your team as well.
The major leagues would never send a player on the field who has consistently missed mandatory practices, for obvious reasons; such an action would diminish the collective hard work of the other team members, and scores would decline rapidly. The same goes for any type of team. There must be rules and adherence. A pattern toward advancing success. And that pattern begins with the individual.
It is up to me and no one else to make sure I am doing what I know I should be doing. When someone has to hold me accountable, because I failed to do what I should have done, I have a serious conversation with myself. My belief is that no one should have to hold me accountable for my actions, responsibilities and goals. While I appreciate others helping me get better, I am the one that must hold myself to a high standard.
I am convinced if you want to advance your life personally or professionally, you must hold yourself accountable for your actions, responsibilities, and goals. Think about it. Commitment is a choice and a decision that should be made responsibly. Why should it be someone else’s job to make sure you are doing the things that you know you should be doing?
AUTHORED BY MARK JOHNSON, VICE PRESIDENT OF MANAGED SERVICES @ GUIDEIT
You pick up the paper or watch the news and it has become an all too common occurrence. What used to surprise us is now sadly routine – breaches of cyber security. In the early days these breaches were usually just an annoyance – most simply focused on defacing public facing websites. Plug the vulnerability, re-upload your homepage, and you were back in business. Almost seems quaint now doesn’t it? Today the stakes are much higher, both from a commercial standpoint and from an international security standpoint as well.
While much of the preventive focus for cyber-security justifiably falls on IT, the role of each and every user is critical as well. From password security, awareness of social engineering threats, and prudent behavior when it comes to attachments and web-browsing, many enterprises are only as strong as their weakest user. One of GuideIT’s managed services customers places significant emphasis on the importance of user awareness in their overall cyber-security program, and recently completed a Phishing exercise I thought worth sharing.
To establish a baseline from which to measure the results of an upcoming training program focused on Phishing, every employee was sent an outside email informing them that their email storage quota had been exceeded, and directing them to click an enclosed link to address the issue. The organization’s Information Security policy dictated that they forward suspicious emails to the GuideIT Service Desk, who would either confirm/deny the authenticity of the email, or open a ticket to the customer’s Security Team for review. So how’d they do?
· 90 people clicked the link - they failed the test outright.
· 50 people forwarded the note to the Service Desk AFTER clicking on the link, many asking, “Hey the link didn’t work; how can I get more storage??” They also failed the test.
· 40 people forwarded the email to the Service Desk without clicking the link, and identified the email as a potential Phishing attempt – BRAVO!
Obviously no harm came of this exercise. But had the threat been real, the outcome might have been different. The lesson? First it’s worth emphasizing that this particular customer has an active IT Security Program using both internal dedicated IT resources, and the assistance of an outside Security vendor to audit and support their efforts. Yet the majority of people who received the Phishing attempt “took the bait”. With this particular customer, the next time a user fails a Phishing attempt they will be directed to a mandatory online training module to raise their awareness on the risks of Phishing – a great motivator huh?
The lesson to me is that even with strong internal programs to raise cyber awareness, your work is never done. And if you don’t have programs in place like this customer, give serious thought to how your organization would perform if put under the same microscope.
Stay tuned; this customer plans additional testing over the course of the year to gauge the effectiveness of their training efforts. I’ll be sure to provide an update when they do.
AUTHORED BY WENDY DURRE, CUSTOMER EXECUTIVE @ GUIDEIT
What would you think if you walked into a physician’s office and they actually wrote down your appointment in an old-fashioned paper appointment book? Recently my mother called me to say she left a physician’s office because of this very thing. Although she is in her 70’s and not necessarily tech savvy, it made her uneasy and less confident in that practice. Why??? If they were using antiquated business practices, how would that effect her patient care and the way they treated her medical issue?
As a person who works in the technology field, I am accustomed to helping providers implement and optimize technology. Today’s customer (patient) has a different set of expectations; even those of just 10 years ago. You don’t have to grow-up using video games to understand that technology is an integral part of the medical field and patient experience.
Recently a study was performed where 97% of the patients surveyed approved of their physician using technology (including desktop and mobile devices) in the exam room. And, 58% felt that it positively impacts their overall experience, especially when used to educate and explain. What I find ironic is that technology abounds and always has in the healthcare world; however we often hear that physicians/clinicians etc., are reluctant to adopt new technology despite the fact that their patients welcome it.
While change is never comfortable, it is definitely necessary. I predict physicians who choose not to adopt this new tech-savvy avenue will see a dramatic decline in the number of patients they see in their practice. But, as long as technology doesn’t take away from the interpersonal communication they have with their patients, it will be an asset. Not only will it improve their physician/patient experience, but their business practices as well.
Now what to do with all of that data?
Make it a great day!
AUTHORED BY WENDY DURRE, CUSTOMER EXECUTIVE @ Guideit
What do you think when you hear the “touchy-feely” side of IT? Am I referring to a new, softer keyboard, something that works completely in Emoji’s? Try again! Believe it or not, TECHNOLOGY impacts our life not only in a practical way, but in an emotional way.
What I’m saying is **YOU** have an impact on others and the world as an IT professional. If you have a career in IT, whether it be a Service Desk Agent, Project Manager, Developer, Marketer, or Executive Leader, you have experienced the touchy-feely side of IT...and you may not even realize it.
Have you ever thought about how your work impacts others? And how do you feel about your work? According to a recent study, only 39% of employees believe that the meaningfulness (contribution of their job to society as a whole) of their job is important to overall job satisfaction. 61% are passionate about their work, and 71% say they frequently put all their effort into their work. The takeaway here is that employees who find their work meaningful and fulfilling are more likely to be engaged and do their work well.
Here’s an example. Does your work assist in the creation of IT jobs or increase employment opportunities in the IT space? Your impact may look something like this: You hire a candidate. That candidate has a family. That family lives in a home purchased through a realtor who helped them find the best location close to work. That candidate also works with a team within the company. That team services the needs of their customer. That team works on maintaining the new EMR application adopted by a medical practice treating and assessing ER patients. We are definitely beyond keyboard, servers, and code.
By digging deeper and evaluating what our job is, we are able to understand that not only are we maintaining systems, we are impacting lives. Every day as a result of your work, you impact hundreds of people. It may seem like your job is a small part of a big process, but to those on the receiving end of your efforts, it is huge!
I challenge you this week to see the scope of your impact on others through your job. I’d love to hear how it changes the way you see yourself in your company and community. So please leave your comments below and make it a great day!
AUTHORED BY Ron hill, Vice president, sales @ GUIDEIT
It was a sunny winter day and I had just started as the Client Executive at one of the largest accounts in the company. Little did I know, clouds were about to roll in. The CIO walked into my office and sat down with a big sigh. She communicated that they were ending our agreement and moving to a different service provider. We had 12 months. It required immediate action by our company, implications in the market would ensue, and an environment of uncertainty was born for our team of more than 700 people providing service support.
This was no time to defend or accept defeat. We had to act. Our account leadership team readied the organization for the work ahead and imminent loss. We formally announced the situation to the organization. There were tears and some were even distraught. Our leadership team had not faced this situation before. The next 12 months looked daunting.
Regardless, it was time to lead. We created a “save” strategy and stepped into action beginning with daily team meetings. We invested time prioritizing and sharing action items and implications about information systems, project management, and the business process services. It was our job to operate with excellence, despite the past. It was our job to honorably communicate knowledge to the incoming service provider. One of the outcomes of our work was a weekly email outlining past week accomplishments and expectations for the next week. The email often included a blend of personal stories and team success. We even came up with a catchy brand for the email…Truth of the Matter. It turned out to be a key vehicle that kept our teams bonded and informed. Our leadership team used it as a vehicle to help maintain trust with the team.
During our work, we also began to rebuild trust with the customer as we continued to support them in all phases of their operation. Because of our leadership team’s commitment to service, transparency, and integrity, the delivery team was inspired in achieving many great milestones during those 12 months. We were instrumental in helping our customer achieve multiple business awards including a US News and World Report top ranking. We also found ways to achieve goals that established new trends in their industry. Before we knew it, the year had come and gone and we were still there.
Reflecting back, since that dark day when the CIO informed me that we were done, it was actually the beginning of more than a decade-long relationship. The team had accomplished an improbable feat. In the end, it was the focus of our leadership to come together with a single message and act with transparency…letting their guard down to build an environment of trust with the team and with the customer. This enabled all of us to focus on meeting the goals of the customer, together.
AUTHORED BY SCOTT TEEL, MANAGED SERVICES EXECUTIVE @ GUIDEIT
Today’s Service Desk continues to evolve with the technology that it supports for the individual end user community. Granted, it begins with a single seat and phone. From phone calls to email, to self-service customer web portals, chat, and social media…the ways in which we engage help has changed and scaled dramatically.
All sources of customer engagement must be tracked and reported in a single ticketing system to ensure quality of service through measurable analysis of performance. And a strong value proposition is a must. As you or someone in your organization considers that value proposition, here are 3 checkpoints for selecting a Service Desk solution:
- Partnership. Service Desk capabilities are often labeled a commodity offering due offshore capabilities. All providers of these services are battling and driving for the lowest cost solution without ‘listening and understanding’ individual customer requirements. If treated like a commodity, in most cases, the service becomes a bad investment. The right partner will assist in offering the right solution by listening and understanding the demands and risks of your needs. Then they can apply the right automation, tools and utilities to make service flourish and mitigate risk.
- Pricing. Yes there are many variables to drive costs up or down a Service Desk offering…from onshore to offshore, languages, first call resolution, ticketing, tool types, reporting, IT, application support, and so on. Regardless, service providers want to fill their excess capacity. Invest the time to understand their situation. Asking the right questions about their capabilities and willingness to be flexible (and ability to execute within such flexibility using a defined methodology), you can find great value through negotiating the right balance of service and pricing.
- Metrics. You must ensure that your partner has the available tools to establish a baseline for delivery for this service, while following ITIL processes that enable Continual Service Improvements (CSI) throughout the relationship. The right tools include the availability and performance of the PBX / ACD system, the ticketing system and any additional automated processes to show the CSI. The right reporting is available weekly, monthly and must be meaningfully measurable.
In summary, evaluate your options and ask a lot of questions about their situation. You will develop the leverage you need to achieve the right service with maximum value. Approach your evaluation this way and you will increase the probability of partnering with a group that serves as an extension of your team.