A Business Technology Place

Work for something bigger

“Work for a cause, not for applause. Live life to express, not to impress. Don’t strive to make your presence noticed just make your absence felt.” – Unknown

I pinned these words on my board at work because they describe a work ethic I see in some people. I admire colleagues that create work as an extension of themselves rather than an object that is simply sold for purchase. These are workers who approach their craft thinking about relationships, processes, and flow. They understand and realize they are a single player in a team sport. They recognize the value that all team members bring to the effort and they don’t value their own work higher than what others contribute.

Technical skills such as programming and configuration are important. But technical skills are replaceable. There is always another programmer for-hire to write code. But real value is added when we create work with the customer in-mind more than our individual gain. Real value is added when we step out of our own box to help others be successful because we genuinely want to see them succeed.  This is what it means to live for a cause and to express an ideal bigger than ourselves.
Onward and upward!

My Labor Day Reflection

Labor Day is a tribute to the contributions American workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. The US Congress designated the first Monday in September as a holiday in June of 1894. On this Labor Day, after completing a do-it-yourself home fix-up project, I reflected on my day-off from work.LaborDay

A look behind me.

I appreciate past relationships with co-workers and managers because the experiences with them shaped and molded my professional career. When I think about my past teams, I am reminded about interactions, coachable moments, managerial decisions, and putting laborers in the right job to contribute to team results.

I appreciate my first manager who hired me after college graduation. He gave me a chance. He extended trust and let me establish a work routine. I appreciate the manager that removed me from an assignment when I was failing and repositioned me to an assignment where I could both succeed and mature. I appreciate the co-worker that approached work with zeal and creativity. Her example opened my mind to see new possibilities for work assignments and inspired me to reach higher.

A look ahead of me.

Can I help others achieve more by using my experience as a guide? Can I improve team output by examining job assignments and organizational layouts to make sure that laborers are in the proper assignments and working on the most important tasks? Am I building team unity?

To contribute to my portion of the team load I need to make sure I’m still learning and continuously improving through self-inspection. One of the reasons I write each week is to reflect on events and ideas that shape my life journey. I believe that my achievement come as the result of the collective effort of those on my team. I must carry my weight on the team by being prepared.

So happy Labor Day to you and me. The fruits of our labor are sweet tasting. But the journey of our labor is not yet complete.

Onward and upward!

Photo Credit: LPHR Group via Creative Commons

The truth about IT managers.

Part 2 of 3 – The Truth is…. I’ll share some truths about developers, managers, and processes in IT.

Just what is an IT Manager?

The management career path in the Information Technology field is often a major “fork in the road” or decision point. Individuals weigh options between maintaining their technical skills and job assignments with responsibility for managing people. In IT, it’s not uncommon to find workers that have zero-interest in management. The technology is what attracted them to IT and they prefer to interface with technology more than people. For those workers that choose the other side of the fork in the road there is an important lesson to be learned; Managing IT requires more than managing technology and technology workers.

We need to redefine what we expect of IT Managers.

A large component of IT management is comprised of understanding technology and managing the people that implement technology. But the most successful IT managers are those that align with and create partnerships with other business units in the organization. Managers from marketing, finance, operations, customer service, and other areas of the business want true partnership from their IT management counterparts. IT managers that just provide a technology service, follow IT rules and processes, and enforce standards are missing the mark. When that happens, IT becomes an island in the organization. Other business units start to look for ways around IT (often called Shadow IT). Business partnership is the place where IT managers connect the technology with solutions that the technology provides. The technology exists to connect people-to-people and businesses-to-customers.

Some truths about IT Managers.

Getting up every morning to work with technology is a good place to be. Opportunities abound to be the hero. But with every opportunity is the risk of being the goat as well. IT managers can be viewed as value-add or expensive overhead. These boundaries and risks provide the framework for a few truths that I’ve learned:it management

  • IT managers wonder is it possible to please everyone. Business leaders want IT managers to have their IT organizations accomplish more, use more nimble processes, and cost less money. At the same time security and compliance officers want more controlled changes, more thorough processes, and added costs for additional security.
  • IT managers are caught somewhere between run-the-business and grow-the-business. Traditionally business leaders wanted IT to keep information flowing through the organization so that business orders are processed, produced, and billed. But business environments change and products mature. When customers start looking for new products and services, business leaders wants IT to help grow the business as well. On the income statement, IT is a cost center. The IT manager must prove the value-add of how they help grow-the-business by mapping their actions to ROI and profit.
  • IT managers struggle with prioritizing what’s important from what’s urgent. Internal customers create urgency with a variety of tactics when their routine is interrupted. Their urgency often interrupts IT managers from working on the important projects for the organization.

Next time you see your IT manager, say some kind words and help them build the IT-Business partnership.  At the end of the day, they want to make their customers happy and provide better solutions for everyone. It’s OK if you tell them that they need to work faster and cost less. They’ve heard it before and it gives them a little challenge. 🙂

Onward and upward!

 

One-on-one meeting advice for managers and employees

I have weekly one-on-ones with my boss and direct reports.
Meeting regularly with my boss is an important element of my work week. I use the time to explore ideas, ask for broader company information, and request additional help for some initiatives. So I find it strange when I talk to people that rarely meet with boss. I’m not sure how they stay connected to the broader organization.

What’s my mentor have to say?
Recently, during a discussion with my business and career mentor I asked for advice on how to make the best use of the one-on-one meetings as both a manager and employee. He advised me to to use the meeting to discuss the goals and objectives I am trying to achieve and how the boss can help. In his experience, the biggest value is when the manager can help the employee to clear obstacles and stay in alignment with the business. Both the manager and the employee have responsibilities to make the meeting successful.

Advice for managers going to a one-on-one: Listen before speaking.
Let the employee speak first. Remember, this is valuable time for them get guidance and relay information. It’s not about running down a checklist from the boss, it’s about creating engagement and solving problems. So give the employee the chance to set the agenda and talk first. In this way, the employee can seek help and guidance in the areas most pressing for them.

But what if the employee has nothing to say? That could mean the employee isn’t engaged with their work of that they are in the wrong job. I’ve discussed this topic with other managers and I often hear that they don’t have trouble filling the one-on-one time because the employees are eager to share their needs and status updates. If time permits, or if there is a particular pressing need, then the boss can cover topics of need.

Advice for employees going to a one-on-one: Articulate a vision and propose solutions.
Innovation isn’t just a buzz word to make people feel good. Use the time with your boss to share ideas and a vision that is greater than your current job. Stretch ideas to cover broader solutions for clients and cost savings for your company. Impactful ideas often originate with those closer to the work because they see more of the details of the business operations and how it effects revenue and customer interaction. So articulate a bigger vision around current processes, products, and solutions.

It’s easy to get caught in the trap of complaining about processes and the task list. But remember, all employees must navigate legal guidelines, industry regulations, internal processes, budgets, etc. A better way is to acknowledge the restrictions and then propose solutions. So for each complaint, have an alternate solution ready to discuss. It may not always be possible to remove the obstruction, but show the boss that you are thinking about how to best create work more efficiently. Remember, your boss may have received the promotion to their position because they found ways to get things done despite the same set of obstacles.

What about you?
What are some learnings you have from regular one-on-one meetings with your manager or employees?

Career mentor specialists?

We live in an age of specialization. You see it in the medial profession, in corporate america, and in professional sports.  One area where I have not noticed a great deal of content about specialization is in career mentoring. Career mentoring itself gets a great deal of thought in books, blogs, and self-help publications. From my reading though, the act of career mentoring is regarded as a specialty (of sorts) unto itself. So I wonder, is it too much to try to have mentors in specific areas of your career?

For example, as an executive with responsibilities in multiple areas should you seek to have a mentor in each area? (Finance mentor, Strategy mentor, Information Technology mentor, Career guidance mentor, etc. ) The idea is to get more focused  mentoring with the trade-off of additional time commitment and complexity.

What are your thoughts and experiences with career mentoring? Have you used multiple mentors or just one?