The most important word

The Scout Law

A Scout Is:

  • Trustworthy
  • Loyal
  • Helpful
  • Friendly
  • Courteous
  • Kind
  • Obedient
  • Cheerful
  • Thrifty
  • Brave
  • Clean
  • Reverent

Several years ago I asked my scouts which one of these words is most important.  Hands flew up, “Reverent!” several shouted.  I told them no.  Then one-by-one they guessed at each of them.  Frustrated, they finally said they gave up.

The most important word is “IS”.  It doesn’t say a scout tries to be trustworthy, or is sometimes loyal.  It doesn’t say that you are reverent on Sundays and friendly to those that you like.  It simply says that he “is”.  And that’s an important distinction, and why I think it’s the most important word.

Why I Left Corporate IT

Well, the easy answer would be to say that my position was eliminated (i.e. I was laid off), and I never looked back.  But the reality is, I stayed around corporate IT for a few years after that.  It wasn’t until a few years ago that I began getting more involved in the business-side of the business, and less involved with traditional IT.  I worked with operations, engineering, support, and most notably, sales.

The transition wasn’t easy and many of my IT friends wonder what I’m doing.  I’ve even had people say “you are a hard guy to figure out”.  Yeah, I guess I am.

The problem I see with most traditional IT shops (but not all of the individuals, this is an over-generalization), is that most of them look at all problems through their particular lens.  For example, if you are a BI guy, then the solution to every problem is a report or dashboard.  If you are a C# developer, then everything can be solved with some code.  If you are a Unified Communications Engineer, then every problem can be solved with better communication tools.

This isn’t a new phenomenon.  20 years ago, Cobol programmers and DB2 DBAs looked at the world through their own lenses as well.  You see, if the only tool in your bag is a hammer, the solution to every problem looks like a nail.

I was fortunate enough in my early career to learn the business side of the equation. A leader I worked with taught me that IT exists to serve the business, not the other way around.  Once I discovered that, my perspective on business and technology changed forever.

Now when I see a business problem (or opportunity), I approach it with an open mind.  I love finding ways to apply technology to solve the issue.  But I’m not stuck on one approach or one technology.  If IT would learn to do that, I believe they would be much more relevant in businesses today.  And maybe they wouldn’t think I was so strange!!  What do you think?

Principle-Centered Leadership

I was reviewing the book “Principle-Centered Leadersihp” by Stephen Covey the other day, and was reminded of the great message he has in this book.  Here’s a summary.

Overall theme:  That “natural laws, principles, operate regardless.  So get these principles at the center of your life, at the center of relationships, at the center of your management contracts, at the center of your entire organization.”  Further, these principles have been “woven into the fabric of every civilized society and constitute the roots of every family and institution that has endured and prospered”.

  • We may not like them, we may not agree with them all, but they are there. And they have proven effective throughout many centuries.
  • Six major religions all teach the same core beliefs – fairness, kindness, dignity, charity, integrity, honesty, quality, service and patience.
  • Principles are different than values.  Even street gangs and German Nazi’s held values.

How we react to these principles impacts every aspect of our lives.  For example, the principle of trust impacts us on four levels:

  1. Personal – Trustworthiness
  2. Interpersonal – Trust
  3. Managerial – Empowerment
  4. Organizational – Alignment

He gives characteristics of principle-centered leaders.

  • They are continually learning.
  • They are service-oriented.
  • They radiate positive energy.
  • They believe in other people.
  • They lead balanced lives.
  • They see life as an adventure.
  • They are synergistic.
  • They exercise self-renewal

Traits that are essential for managers to exhibit this type of leadership are:

  1. Integrity – “the value we place on ourselves”.
  2. Maturity – “the balance between courage and consideration”.
  3. Abundance Mentality – “there is plenty out there for everybody”.

The abundance mentality is the “bone deep belief that there are enough natural and human resources to realize my dream”. 

The need for a moral compass.  Values are maps, principles are a compass.  We need to trade in our maps for a compass.  An accurate map is a good management tool, but a compass is a leadership and an empowerment tool.    Maps change, compass bearings are constant.

The First 100 Days

I was recently asked the question, “what do you do to be successful during the first 90 days on the job?”. The bottom line is that you need to demonstrate to your leaders, peers, customers and team members, that you are ready to take on this new position.

I was recently asked the question, “what do you do to be successful during the first 90 days on the job?”. I’ve been put in leadership roles before where it was a significant change, either through a reorganization or simply applying for and getting hired into a new position. In either case, you need to demonstrate to your leaders, peers, customers and team members, that you are ready to take on this new position.

For me, I am a very relational person. So I believe you have to first focus on the people. This is the case whether you are in a totally new company/role where they are complete strangers, or in a new role in the same company where you may know the people. The key thing is to get to know them. I focus on three groups – team members, clients/customers/peers and the boss(es). I also try to do this both informally (lunch/coffee) and formally (1-on-1s, formal meetings).

Second, I gather a list of the key issues. The truth is, I’ve been gathering them as I got to know the people. Again, the source of the issues come from all three points of view. I’ll likely get different opinions on issues from the three groups. This 360 degree view of the job is important, as it gives you insight from virtually every perspective. Note that your “horizontal” group (clients/customers/peers) may have to grow to vendors or others as appropriate.

Finally, I put together an action plan. I’ve typically called this a “100 day plan”. I try to have it prepared within the first 3 weeks or so (30 days at the most). That’s because it is retroactive back to my first day. In this plan I address key issues, and put together a strategy for tackling each one.

For example, a 100 Day Plan I once put together broke out the action plan into four key areas:

  • Meeting Project Commitments
  • Agree upon project commitments
  • Identify skill and resource gaps to meet commitments.
  • Define our Roles
  • Define our Service Level Agreements (SLA)
  • Layout our support model
  • Resources
  • To meet immediate commitments
  • Long tem (stable environment) requirements
  • Build Know-How
  • Identify key skill gaps.
  • Action Plan to fill gaps.
  • I then present the plan to the team and to key constituents to see if I missed anything and to get buy-in. Then, and this is key, you have to follow up at the end of the 100 days and review how you did.

    Bottom line:  I believe for any transition to be key, you have to first focus on the people, and then put together a measurable, actionable plan to accomplish your goals.

    Taking Credit or getting things done

    “It is amazing how much you can accomplish when it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.”

    I don’t know who is responsible for this quote.  Some say Abraham Lincoln, others refer to a similar quote made by Ronald Reagan, and still others attribute it to some guy named “anonymous”.

    This quote was brought to my attention this week when some very dear friends took time to honor me for work I had done with Boy Scouts.  When I look back on the good things I’ve accomplished in life, this statement does ring true.  I’ve accomplished most when I focused on the goal and not worried about what I would profit in the end. 

    Unfortunately, more and more I find the primary motivator for people is just the opposite.  I’ve certainly seen it exhibited by many in all walks of life.  Here’s to those who don’t operate that way.