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How C-Suite Executives Master Digital Transformation And Avoid Stalls and Failure, Part 1

Your company is a business in transformation. It’s not about the newest technology, it’s about mission; it just so happens technology is your business and digital transformation is your future. Though most CEO’s and CFO’s didn’t rise through the ranks of tech mastery, they still see clearly the essential changes in front of them. They then enlist alongside them a whole new band of Chief technologists. Together, Digital Transformation is your shared vision.

But many digital transformation efforts fail.

 

In their book Switch, Chip and Dan Heath write, “Don’t obsess about the middle. Look for a strong beginning and a strong ending.”

The middle is mostly a mess. A rule for life is the same for digital transformation efforts: Don’t quit in the middle. The ability to see an effort through depends on the strong beginning which set the vision, clear expectation and tone. It also depends on the strong ending, which is a clearly understood, effectively applied new reality that benefits every internal and external customer of the business.

Every C-Suite Executive leads any digital transformation effort through three intentional commitments: Rally. Craft. Drive. (Craft and Drive will appear in a sequential article).

Intentional commitment #1: Rally

Every C-Suite Executive leads any digital transformation effort through three intentional commitments: Rally. Craft. Drive.

Legendary football coach Bear Bryant knew how to win, and his players at Alabama always brought discipline to the field. One game, however, near the end of the final quarter, Coach called in a running play to his offense. With the team ahead, they needed only to run out the clock. The quarterback changed the play. He threw the ball. It was intercepted by the fastest defensive back in the Conference who began running toward the end zone and certain victory. The quarterback gave chase and somehow tackled him before he scored, preserving the victory for Alabama. After the game, the opposing coach asked Bear Bryant, “How did your slow-footed quarterback ever catch my world-class sprinter?” Coach answered, “Your man was racing for six points. My man was running for his life!”

Too many companies are driven by desperation. Crisis leads the way. To rally a company, C-Suite Executives focus on three practices:

  1. Motivate
  • People can sense when change is needed. They don’t need to be convinced of it. They need to be connected to it. Seth Godin advises, “Transform shared interest into a passionate goal and desire for change.” People accept the need for change when change is toward fulfillment.
  • Do employees have a clear understanding of the company’s current position in their industry? Do they know the score both for the company and for their team?
  • Do employees have a clear understanding of how customers can be better served through digital transformation? Do they know how change will better serve their own motivation for working with the company?
  • Do employees have a clear understanding of the negative consequences of failing to get out in front of competitors? Risk-averse voices will try to pull back transformation, but non-traditional disruptors demand attention and consume the luxury of time to get up to speed.
  • Do employees know how new applications will solve problems and result in greater efficiency, less headaches and greater profitability/employee benefit?
  1. Relate

Your teams are motivated by an awareness of need and opportunity. Too often, initiatives are rolled out without further understanding of each team’s relationship to the process. Every digital transformation needs a single message, even if it is from multiple voices. Efforts will bog down if outside voices, such as vendors, begin to pick at a process by offering alternative solutions.

C-Suite Executives need to relate the following:

  • An honest assessment of the scope of the overall project.
  • The contributions expected of each team.
  • Realistic time frames to understand new technology and use it, and the training that can be expected to do so.
  • How circumstances or positive developments have made the course of action obvious.
  • The drawbacks to anticipate.

Part of the Relate Strategy is to lead people and teams into agreement. They share the same motivations and they commit to their responsibilities within the initiative.

  1. Connect

Seth Godin says that great leaders “realize that a motivated, connected tribe in the midst of a movement is far more powerful than a larger group could be.”

Connect involves cross-pollination of teams, and multiple team representation for the purpose of coordination and communication.

To connect also requires removing silos. Digital transformation is not a point-specific problem. Data silo in a single group restricts access needed by others. Digital transformation is about holistic value to the business, and data integration is the leverage.

Connect requires simplified structures. The emergence of new C-level titles can increase complexity, but digital transformations require agility. Clearly delineated outcomes, flow of information and means of decision-making are requisite for efficiency, avoidance of redundancy and alleviation of turf protection.

Outside eyes are part of an effective Connect equation. It is difficult to innovate in your four walls. Unbiased stakeholders who think creatively can stimulate your teams and clear up perceptions. Outside eyes say what needs to be said, so that connection is strengthened toward problem-solving rather than threatened by problem-identification.

Digital Transformation requires rallying the team. Long-term initiatives can only be sustained when compelling motivation is in place. Unless employees and teams can relate themselves to the project, diversion and distraction will pull at focus and energy. But when motivation and relationship is in place, connected teams will answer the rally cry with great determination.

How C-Suite Executives Lead Digital Transformation and Avoid Stall Or Failure, Part 2

The Birmingham Sunday Mercury reported in December 2000:

Bosses of a publishing firm are trying to work out why no one noticed that one of their employees had been sitting dead at his desk for five days before anyone asked if he was feeling OK.

 

George Turklebaum, 51, who had been employed as a proofreader at a New York firm for 30 years, had a heart attack in the open-plan office he shared with 23 other workers.

He quietly passed away on Monday but nobody noticed until Saturday morning when an office cleaner asked him why he was still working during the weekend.

How do you walk past a dead guy?

In his book, Necessary Endings, Dr. Henry Cloud writes about the importance of pruning. He teaches that a gardener cuts off branches and buds that are healthy but not the best or sick but not going to get well or dead and taking up space needed for healthy ones to survive. He then writes, “(1) If an initiative is siphoning off resources that could go to something with more promise, it is pruned. (2) If an endeavor is sick and is not going to get well, it is pruned. (3) If it’s clear that something is already dead, it is pruned.

How do you walk past a dead initiative?

Companies get so buried in daily responsibilities they overlook what really matters. Digital Transformation matters, and the effort it takes to rally, craft and drive that initiative matters. In Part 1, we talked about rallying change through how you motivate, relate and connect.

Part 2 addresses how change needs to be crafted.

Establishing pace is essential. Pace deals with size and seasons. Leaders manage Digital Transformation so that reasonable benchmarks are reached in rational time.

Pace is critical. Michael Easter was the number one cyclist in California. During one race he cramped up and could not finish. He commented later, “All the skill and all the will can’t overcome dehydration.”

Chip and Dan Heath, in their book Shift add, “Self-control is an exhaustible resource. The bigger the change the more it saps self-control. When people exhaust self-control, they exhaust the mental muscles needed to think creatively, to focus, to inhibit impulse, to persist in the face of frustration…Change is hard because people wear themselves out. What looks like laziness is often exhaustion.”

Three types of changes determine the size and seasons of changes.

1.   Immediate Changes

  • What will we do to demonstrate that things are happening.
  • What small wins will validate the sacrifice people make?
  • What do people need to hear, to see or to experience that communicates this is change toward progress?

Chip and Dan Heath reinforce this, “Change feeds on itself. Small change snowballs to big change.”

Immediate changes must result in positive experiences and allow leaders to reinforce the behavior they want to see. Group perception begins to shift. People do what others are doing. You’ve established an environment that fosters the new.

2.   Incremental Changes

Long term vision; short term views. Incremental changes understand the impact of change and gives time for employees to understand and utilize new systems, processes and components.

  • Where immediate changes inspire, incremental changes anchor.
  • If X is implemented, what, if anything, might be unattended that is still a critical function to us?
  • If X is implemented, what, if anything, could be more than people can handle?
  • Time invested in one function means time may not be invested in another: When can we let go of something and not be impacted negatively?
  • How is the energy level? Do we need a celebration or a rest?
  • Do we have the right people in place to keep moving the right things forward?
  • Are the financial resources still in place for the next piece?

3.   Ideological Change

Seth Godin in Tribes writes, “Ideas that spread, win…Do what you believe in. Paint a picture. Go there…The very nature of leadership is that you’re not doing what’s been done before. If you were, you’d be following, not leading.”

Ideology is belief that moves forward; it is vision turned into identity, capacity and destiny. Ideology clarifies, multiplies and solidifies.

  • You are immersed into Digital Transformation for a reason. How will people know, always, how these changes more firmly define them?
  • How will people experience greater growth themselves and, therefore, a sense of greater contribution than they have made before?

How do your ideas fulfill what your employees always hoped would be true of your company or of their talent?

Leaders craft change. They prune. They pace. They purposefully implement what is new.

But they must drive what has been designed. And that is Part 3.

Three Strategies For C-Suite Executives and Effective Decision Making

Let’s say you are a judge. On one occasion, you will issue pardons 7 out of 10 times. On another occasion, you will issue pardons 1 out of 10 times. Do you know what the occasion is?

C-Suite Executives are faced with decisions every day. They are more than you realize. It’s not just decisions within the company or in a day’s work, it’s all the decisions you made on the way into work and after work. From what you wore to what you did for breakfast to which lane your drove in to what you said to your children – decisions add up, and as they add up, they take their toll. Science calls it decision fatigue. Too many small choices drain mental energy; sometimes we make them because we simply don’t recognize what we are doing. Sometimes we make them because decisions we make allow us to manage and control more. Sometimes we make them because we don’t want to make bigger decisions. Regardless of why, we make them. It doesn’t help that we make them after work, either, because if you are like me, you are still mulling over situations in the back of your mind. If you reached a decision before you went to bed, you want to rethink it. There is a reason we “sleep on it.”

 

The occasion in which judges grant pardons 70% of the time versus 10% of the time is whether they made the decision in the morning (70) or the afternoon (10). That is scary. So is the study that showed that business analysts were less accurate with their forecast if they made it in the afternoon. And the study that divided people into two groups: One was given a series of decisions to make, and the other was given fewer decisions to make. After, each group was to solve the same puzzle. The group that made fewer decisions easily outperformed those who were fatigued by decisions. When we are fatigued, we stop trying. We take the easy and safest way out.

Effective

Anyone can make decisions. C-Suite Executives must make effective decisions. Effective decisions implement goals and plans, influence direction and people, and identify key issues and insights. To make these decisions, C-Suite Executives need to stay informed on trends and market realities within their business and filter decisions through customer-centric focus. If they do, then the following strategies will lead to the most effective decisions.

3 Strategies for Effective Decision Making

  1. Process-centered Decisions

Many decisions brought before C-Suite Executives issue from previously covered territory. You know this, because you will be asking the same questions to gather the right information you need for the best decision possible. Not only does this consume time, but it depletes energy and heightens irritation.

What are the decisions you must make in which you are better served if people come prepared with the information you already know you will need? Effective decision-makers have people do the work beforehand. You provide the template of questions, they come in with the answers. For example most decisions include cost factors or feedback from affected parties. Why should you be the one to gather that information? The person needing the decision does the work: You make the decision.

Collaboration tools can be a valuable assistant in process-centered decisions. They are easy ways for people to garner the information and insights needed before they ever come to you for a decision. If necessary, they provide a history of conversation that you can glance through to verify perspectives that are important to you.

The key: Keep in your court the decisions you must make; keep the responsibility to bring solid and complete information in the other person’s court.

  1. Practice-based decisions

A number of the same decisions need to be made in the life of a company. People can make “easy” decisions when same decisions have been automated or documented. Policies and procedures are in place so that work has been done once.

Have as many questions answered in advance as possible, and never make the same decision twice. Even if an employee seeks an exception, there is a best practice in place by which exceptions are granted or not (Now we know that smart employees seek exceptions in the morning and not the afternoon).

At the personal level, C-Suite Executives have learned that lists are still their friend. A To-Do and a Not-To-Do list maximizes your focus. A Pro and Con list clarifies your thinking, especially if those attributes are measured toward alignment of company culture and values. A Workflow list, starting with the end in mind, identifies what is truly the next best step toward accomplishment.

  1. People-driven decisions

C-Suite Executives must make the decisions that reflect what they are responsible for, such as vision, culture, strategic direction, product creation and so forth. All other decisions can and must be made by others. You can give parameters, but so long as outcomes are within those boundaries, you don’t need to make another decision in regards to that issue.

Do you really need to be in on what desserts are served at the banquet? There are people better suited to make certain decisions then you are, and the decisions they make for you may be the ones that energize them. It’s a double-win: You are not drained by unnecessary decisions; they are thrilled to be making decisions that make them feel effective.

Clark Kent wore the same glasses all the time. I think he was on to something. Even Superman avoided decision fatigue.

Why The CIO Must Co-Create And Not Just Facilitate

You live with insight most people are still coming to understand. You know ahead of others that technology is not an important part of your business, it is your business. You know that customer experience is your commodity. You also know that there is lack of agreement among key influencers as to what digital transformation really is, that executives need critical buy-in now because market-changes occur at the speed of blur, that budgets are still lacking, and more, that talent is at a critical deficit: Advances in technology outpace the education required to keep up.

You know that 1.2 trillion dollars was spent on digital transformation technologies in 2017. You also know that 2019 will see that figure increase to 2.1 trillion dollars. Yet, people’s poor digital literacy keeps them pinned to the conviction that they are keeping up with advances so long as they use whatever technology customers use.

Because technology is “important,” the CIO has been invited to the table. What companies don’t realize is that the traditional long table with a head that listened and then made decisions has been replaced by the round table. Today’s CIO must co-create, not just facilitate, the very nature of how business is done. The CIO is transformational not transactional.

Co-Creation Requires Three CIO Initiatives

First, the CIO must create a whole new way of thinking. Digital is not a solution. It is not a way to optimize the way business is done so that old ways are now simply faster and cheaper and to the customer’s satisfaction. Digital is a way of being. Customers aren’t just creating new habits. Digital instinctual behavior is being wired into brains. The CIO as a co-creator must constantly, intentionally and strategically vision cast digital transformation. Fear will try to interfere: People will be political, protecting their interests; people will hold to old ways because they are their ways and they don’t want to be found to be irrelevant (or incapable of learning what is essential in the future). But the technological shift has already happened. The key behavior of the CIO is to identify the benefits for those who need to catch up:

  • They have a problem
  • You have a technology that could be the solution
  •  You show them their “happy ending” when they adopt your solution.

Second, the CIO must create a new focus. Technology is not about them – a department – but about us, the company. We cannot move at different speeds, reading from different pages. Since no one can keep up with the pace of advances in technology, the company must create a culture of learners. Across the board, people must learn different aspects of applications, and then be cross-pollenated to help frame right applications. Work teams must have people who represent the user-experience. The belief that perfect exists or that being bulletproof is real must give way to “ready, fire, aim.” Rapid application development models must take hold. Roll-out, review and adjust based on customer experience now prevails over design delays that feared the repercussions of imperfection. Engage the customer now or lose the customer soon. In helping people see that technology is the business, failure is seen as a friend, not an enemy. If every lesson learned teaches a company about customers, it is a valuable lesson learned. The CIO must build a culture of feedback loops, where the focus is on improving for the sake of the end user. The old days of criticism of an imperfect product must be relinquished: It is now the engaged experience of the customer that counts. Companies want to make the best product they can, of course. But the cost of getting it perfect the first time is not greater than the cost of customer alienation. Your competition, which has broadened, thrives on customers who feel neglected. Companies must put more value on having an improved product based on actual customer feedback than on not making an imperfect product.

Third, the CIO must create a new direction of innovation. IT has now recognized that it must innovate or be left out. Architects of digital transformation know that there are two foundational constructs: improve customer experience and create digital revenue streams. Digital will represent 40% of revenue one year from now. Those who have anchored such innovation in their companies are 26% more profitable. Both customer experience and revenue streams require an outside-in perspective versus the traditional inside-out paradigm. Practically, this is why companies are moving from an executive down “buy-in” strategy. Instead, they are using cross-departmental collaboration to co-create solutions and then demonstrate the opportunity to C-Suite executives. As CIO, you envision every technology development as having begun in the street. Then you walk it in to the office. Data and analytics are re-engineering business processes and shaping new value creation. The CIO that co-creates knows the customer journey map, and is able to articulate the opportunities and obstacles toward digital value and revenue.

As a CIO, you have stepped into a bold, new future. You have been lifted up from the underground of systems. You see differently. You see further. By nature of your field, you see what others cannot. Since a company’s horizon is only as small as the limit of their sight, your vision can no longer take what others seek and try to make it better. You must be in the beginning. You must create.

How C-Suite Executives Keep Their Geeks Geeking Out Over Their Job

It seems now that everyone is a Geek. I read the other day about Concrete Geeks. Of course, you have Student Geeks and Sports Geeks and Cookie Geeks and Politics Geeks and Fitness Geeks. In other words, you have people claiming to be Geeks even if what they geek out over is pretty much the opposite of what original Geeks were known for.

So let’s apply the brakes a bit. Yes, Geeks are known as someone with an intense interest and curiosity in a particular subject. But as Wil Wheaton says, “it’s not what you love but how you love it.” And that is the key understanding for C-Suite Executives, because even if you are an Executive Geek, it is highly likely you are motivated differently than a true Geek, and by true Geek, I mean us high-tech gurus who defined Geek in the first place, and name claim to the highest definition of Geek because we were the ones who spilled blood, and who were diving into computer programming while others were beating us over the head with automatic typewriters.

 

So you want to keep your Geeks and not lose them to the competition…

It’s not what you love (modern definition of Geek) but how you love it (true Geek). If you want to keep Geeks in your company, the IT wizards who are at the heart of everything you do, then you must be intentional in differentiating extrinsic motivation (which works for most of your employees) and the intrinsic motivations that drive your Geeks. Yes, Geeks love money and time-off and other physical perks, but that is not what drives them and keeps them. Instead, most Geek-work is driven by creative problem solving. The C-Suite Executive who keeps their Geeks geeking out are the ones who offer multiple motivations built around this single core.

Geeks want challenging projects, on purpose, with the right people, the right tools and the right reward.

  1. Challenging Project

There are two sides to challenging projects: There is the Geek and there is the work. The Geek is an artist; (s)he wants to be able to look at a problem and consider the number of options available by which it may be solved. “And this is how we want you to do it” is a literal death sentence to a Geek.

The project needs to be well-defined. Specifically, a challenging project needs a problem statement, a clear idea of what the Geeks are trying to solve. It’s even better if there are clearly articulated goals at the outset. Part of a challenging project is that it is accompanied by realistic deadlines and humane hours. The challenge of a project is not in the impossibilities (“have this done yesterday”), it’s in the possibilities of solving a problem the best way possible, and perhaps, in ways not envisioned before.

If you want to keep Geeks in your company, the IT wizards who are at the heart of everything you do, then you must be intentional in differentiating extrinsic motivation (which works for most of your employees) and the intrinsic motivations that drive your Geeks.

Geeks want to know that their work provides measurable value. Geeks are learners; what they learn, and how they apply it to a problem, is inherent in demonstrating their value. The last thing they want to do, for most of their time at least, is to do what “anyone else can do.” Geeks pride themselves on what they alone can bring to the table. This is also why a good C-Suite Executive will build competition into a project. Geeks love competition, not necessarily against something but within something: For example, “Produce a system more efficient than this company has ever seen before.”

  1. On Purpose

Geeks will leave if they aren’t accomplishing anything. If projects are always delayed or courses are being changed, Geeks will look for the company that actually need their expertise to get something done.

That is why the best C-Suite executive or IT Manager knows to protect their Geeks from any customer interface or meeting prematurity where a desire has yet to be translated to an objective. Objectives can be turned into code. Ambiguous wishes are merely vapors that vanish into the air.

That a Geek needs to provide value, and that a Geek needs to solve a problem, and that a Geek needs to see their contribution against a bigger corporate objective is exactly why Geeks thrive on communication. Leaders must constantly keep in front of Geeks what the company is trying to accomplish and how the projects advance the greater mission. Geeks are info junkies – they want to know. But they don’t want too much information. Geeks live enough in a silo to not want to be distracted by information that is not relevant. It’s not that information is power; it’s the right information is power.

  1. With the Right People

For Geeks, the right people are team members who know their stuff, and who are not prone to make mistakes that will cost the rest of the team innumerable hours on unnecessary repair and rework.

For Geeks, the right people are teachers and mentors. Geeks will leave if they do not have people expanding a Geek’s capacity. This is a critical question for the C-Suite Executive: “Do I have masters in place who answer the intrinsic need of Geeks to inquire, to know and to grow in their fields?”

For Geeks, the right people are those who highlight a Geek’s intelligence and give proper credit. It is those who take them seriously, and what drives them seriously. Geeks want to contribute; they genuinely want to help. They also really don’t want to be asked to do anything that calls their credibility into question. Geeks are ruthlessly honest because their work requires honesty; they know if there is a problem in the system, and they know that misrepresenting the problem creates bigger problems. Never ask a Geek to misrepresent your product. They will flee.

For Geeks, the right people give them free food. Seriously. Not all the time, but regularly. It inspires them. It’s a low end investment for the company that gains a high yield of creativity.

  1. With the Right Tools

Stagnant technology will drive away your Geeks faster than the Flash can circle the earth (which is about a work day at Mach 6 speed).

It’s not that Geeks just want the latest and greatest gadgets. A Geek is genuinely driven to succeed at a problem you have given them, believing that the company legitimately wants to solve a customer need, and to do so in a way that is profitable in the long run to the company. To be given such a challenge, and to then have the right technology withheld, is to betray the honesty of the project, and certainly, to cast a shadow on the true motivation of the company.

Geeks either want to learn the technology that can solve their problem (and once a project is entrusted to them, it personally becomes their problem), or they want the ability to develop the technology that is needed.

  1. The Right Reward

Have you established for your Geeks a clear path toward career development? Remember, Geeks want to expand themselves. Career development can mean promotion, but it definitely means the ability to become their best creative self, making the most valuable contributions possible.

Geeks will stay with a company for a long time if their ability to grow is not short-term within the system. C-Suite Executives that want to keep their Geeks geeking-out will live by one rule: Geeks Are Always Learning. Reward them with educational opportunities, mentoring relationships, peer growth circles and other capacity-building avenues.

After reading this, you are probably geeking-out yourself over your Geeks. Who doesn’t want employees who are driven by problem solving, focused on the most profitable means, simply seeking to be their best for the best of the customer?

The Myth of Trust, The Must of Trust and the Role of Technology

Myth: Trust is earned.

Truth: Trust is not earned. Trust is granted.

If I can earn your trust, then you have given away power to me. If I can earn your trust, then trust is something that can be quantified, and all I have to do is reach a goal, a standard, a 100% of something that necessarily releases what you have. Trust doesn’t work that way.

Trust is something that you grant. You can give it or not give it. Trust is in your control, an expression of your power and will.

If someone failed you, and then asked, “What can I do to get your trust back,” I doubt you gave them a clear list of tasks to complete.

Trust is an opportunity you extend for someone to act in your best interest. Trust is a bridge you are willing to cross with another from the known to the unknown. When you get on an airplane, you trust the pilot to get you there safely, and to get you to a place in a way you could not on your own.

Do-It-Yourself industries rely on undermining the trust you put in professionals. Where you once relied on someone to act in your best interest and to do so with a knowledge you did not possess, DIY now gives you the knowledge you need to act in your own interest (while trusting that the knowledge they provide is accurate). It’s not that professionals are bad; some just aren’t needed like they once were. Trust is rooted in need.

Consumers are moving their trust away from institutions and toward individuals. It is a major shift. Before, we relied on the good name of companies. Now, corporate reputation as a whole is suspect. Consumers either rely on individuals directly (e.g. Airbnb, which averages 5 email exchanges before booking, vs. hotels) or indirectly (hence, the rise of peer reviews).

Trust cannot be earned, but it can be triggered. How do companies today trigger the trust of the public?

The Musts of Trust

1.    Don’t try to build trust. Trigger trust.

Building trust is an exercise of persuasion. Being trustworthy is an expression of character. Persuasion seeks to have you act in another’s best interest. Character will act in our best interest.

Trust is triggered by four trustworthy character-istics. Not any one of these is a magic bucket that, once filled, requires the trust of another. Each one of these is a signal, for reasons you cannot predict, to another’s mind and emotion that they can grant something of their self to you.

Competence: Do you have what it takes to act in my interest or get me to a place in a way that I cannot?

Consistency: Will you be responsive to me and act in a way that I can count on you?

Care: Are you really driven to meet my need or is your service just a camouflage for your own profit?

Congruence: Does your behavior match your stated intentions?

Trust is not necessarily revoked because of failure. Studies have shown that loyalty to a company is highest not among those who never had a problem with a company, but with those who had an issue rightly resolved. Why? Because competence is but one of four triggers, and if, when you fail, you are responsive, genuinely caring, and living up to what you project, then trust might remain in place.

2.    Technology that triggers trust amplifies decisions rather than dictates decisions.

Technology does things for people, and it has a growing role in deciding things for people (algorithms). Your company will be more human when it chooses to enhance decision-making (honoring a trust to be granted) rather than to impose a decision (trying to require trust).

Customer knowledge (which informs what you offer) plus multiple options (which maintains your customer’s power of choice) is the equation for relational business versus transactional business. And the more you seem human (relational), the more you will trigger trust.

The Role of Technology

Your company’s technology serves the triggers. Technology is not only about you being more efficient; technology empowers your ability to be trustworthy. IT must do both – serve you, and strengthen your competence, consistency, care and congruence.

Failure to utilize technology to both serve you and strengthen you will cause consumers to entrust their needs elsewhere, and neither one of you may be able to articulate why – and that’s because trust is not a commodity a company can measure and attain, but a part of a consumer that they willingly, if not consciously, give.

Five Skills IT People Must Have Before Being Considered for Promotion

In a recent article, Techie to Tech Lead, Peter Gillard-Moss confessed to the five biggest mistakes he made when assuming a lead role from his previous tech role. It’s a great article, written from lessons learned the hard way. As I analyzed the article, I found myself framing his lessons proactively:

What makes a leader effective who has been promoted based on technical competence?

1. Leadership is not about the leader’s competence but the team’s competence.

It feels good to work in the field, to plunge into the familiar, and to bolster one’s ego by producing great product. But leadership is always about someone else and their competence in cooperation with their peers. Leaders aren’t building stars; leaders are bringing stars into alignment. Leaders orchestrate by bringing the pieces together to perform as a whole.

IT leaders experiencing promotion lose sight of this if they focus first on their own reputation, or if they believe they must be the best skilled among the team. Some of sport’s best coaches were nominal players, but they understood the game better than most. In understanding the game, they know how the system best works and how to bring out the best in a player in a team capacity.

In order to be about team, and in order for a leader to keep his or her own ego checked, the measure of success must be stated in terms of team accomplishment and team play, not technical or personal expertise. How do you define success as a leader? Define it in terms of overall objectives, objectives that can only be met by the whole of who you work with.

The moment you assume the mantle of a leader, you redefined success in terms of how you bring out the best in others, and how you multiply your skills to the point that others surpass them. Leaders are not threatened by any one individual’s success, because the leader is measured differently than those they lead. A leader is not evaluated by the same standards as when they were a tech genius. So don’t allow a former standard to drive what you do in a given day.

2. Leaders focus on their strengths but expand their competence.

The Strengths Movement has taught us that to focus on weakness and seek to improve it is counter-productive: Know your strengths and build on them. As true as that is, leadership comes with increased responsibilities, and those are characterized by skills that can be learned. For example, one may not be the most administratively detailed person, but they can still learn the skills of time and project management. One may not lean toward being a people person, but people skills, such as listening, asking questions, and giving proper direction can be acquired.

Think of it this way: If you are being asked to learn something that applies to other areas of your life, it’s a competence you can grow in (being on time and listening improve a lot more than your job). If you are trying to become someone you are not, then you may be seeking to over-reach. For example, if you are strategic (strong in ideas and plans), being asked to be deliberate (focused only on tasks at hand), you will find yourself climbing the wall in order to see the big picture.

As an IT leader experiencing promotion, the critical essential to expanding your competence is to beware of the source. That’s why outside eyes serve you well: People who have history and connections in the areas you are seeking to improve upon can lead you to credible sources so that you are maximizing effort and not wasting time.

3. Leaders guard values and facilitate action.

As a technology expert, your primary responsibility was to get your job done, and if possible, to play nice doing so. Your biggest obstacles were obstacles that got in your way, not necessarily the way of others. As an IT leader who wants to maximize your promotion, you are responsible to make sure that all of your team can get the work done, and so you are aware of all the obstacles that can come into play. You must be proactive more than reactive as before.

Obstacles are either internal to your team or external upon your team. As a leader, you must be aware of what is happening company wide, anticipating how decisions will affect the work of your team, and articulating to others what your team absolutely needs.

As a techie, you could ask, “Who let in the wolf?” As a leader, you look out for the wolves in the first place.

Also, before your promotion, you contributed to the culture. As an IT leader, you shape and defend the culture.

4. Leaders cannot afford to control every aspect of how the work is done; but they must continually move the work toward the right outcome.

Doing things right (as determined by you) now gives way to doing the right thing (as determined for everyone). A leader is still aware of wrong, and is quick to correct; but a leader gives much more allowance to the various right ways of accomplishing tasks and purpose.

5. Leaders are more person-sensitive than product focused.

Before your promotion, your aim was to produce that best product possible. The IT leader builds the best team possible. Part of building people is being aware of all that is in play for them in a given day: life circumstances, distractions, insecurities, personal liabilities. How to identify issues and engage in helpful conversations about those issues are skills to be learned. They are essential skills for those who sit upon the summit of leadership.

Consistent to each of these five realities: Leaders have a broader perspective. You must take far more into account than ever before. More things shift, and leaders live in the paradox that they must be more proactive than ever before, and they must be more agile in being reactive than ever before. Simply, more is at stake: People.

3 Top Responses of C-Level Execs To The Inevitability Of Cyber Crime

Cyber crime costs to the world will double in a six year period ending in 2021.

More reports of attacks give rise to a gnawing sense of inevitability. As leaders in the fight, there is only one strategy that safeguards our companies. Inevitability must promote “Response-ability.”

The Biggest Catalyst to Response-ability is Compliance.

Internal compliance drives adherence to the practices, rules and regulations set forth by internal policies. External compliance follows the laws, regulations and guidelines imposed by governments and agencies.

Compliance requirements are numerous, and the legal team and C-Suite Executives are responsible to determine the scope of compliance. Compliance officers and staff are a growing requirement. Technical, procedural and strategic frameworks must be built to assure your company’s integrity.

Behind the pressures, costs and potential fines that surround your compliance, the public is demanding more of you as the steward of their information. 6 of 10 people would blame you, not the hacker, for lost data. 7 of 10 people said they would boycott a company that appeared negligent in protecting their data.

Here are a few pressing challenges to compliance:

  • Use of Personal Devices

Companies now must have strong policies and technical controls in place, such as mobile device management protocols that exist, and by enforcing device lock passwords and time-based, one-time based passwords. Employees with laptops and devices should be provided security policies and prevention mechanisms, as well as secure access to corporate data.

  • Updates and Patches

IT Managers must ensure that your organization is current with software updates and that they immediately patch known vulnerabilities. Last year alone, the number of third party vulnerabilities doubled.

  • Third Party Vendors

Also last year, 63% of data breaches originated directly or indirectly from third-party vendors. Managing vendor information security and vendor compliance with privacy laws is a major and essential undertaking.

Cyber Insurance is Response-able.

And it’s being responsible in advance of the need. Cyber insurance not only covers legal fees, but typically expenses associated with notifying customers of a data breach, restoring personal identities of customers, recovering compromised data and repairing damaged systems.

Purple is Response-able.

Borrowed from military language, Red Teams exist to attack your cyber-security systems and to expose points of weakness. Blue Teams defend, enforcing the security measures you have in place. The buzz of the day is the Purple Team. The Purple is either a make-up of both Red and Blue teams in which participants form a learning community for the sake of the other, or an outside group brought in to examine the tactics of both teams and make recommendations. Ideally, Red and Blue Teams exist not in competition to the other but as complement, holding the security objectives of the company as the standard of each team’s success.

The greatest detriment to your response-ability is lack of clarity on what you need or don’t need. Outside eyes continue to be the best check and balance for CIO’s. Without third-party, unbiased expertise, you will not possess the confidence you need that the compliance, policies, insurance and Purple evaluations are sufficient and efficient for your situation.

3 Building Blocks That Keep Your Board On Solid Footing And Grateful For You

Board members are becoming increasingly aware of their own accountability and risk in the event of a cybersecurity breach. By 2020, 100% of large companies will be asked by the Board to report on cybersecurity, an increase of 60% in four years.

What boards are not asking for is a lot of detail they will not understand and that will just cloud their ability to make good decisions on your behalf. Instead, I recommend shaping the board around three important mindsets which I treat as building blocks.

Building Block 1: Cybersecurity is about Risk

The risk is no longer just an IT issue, but an enterprise issue with costs and penalties at every level, from company mission and profit, to employment, and to financial and legal consequences.

Risks are proportionate to threats, vulnerabilities and consequences.

Therefore, boards need to be informed about

  • Evolving threats
  • Changes in business needs and their association to new security risks
  • Increasing regulations
  • Policy updates
  • Geographic changes in which services have been moved to outsider or cloud applications

Building Block 2: Cybersecurity is about Risk Mitigation

Mitigation is about reducing the threats, vulnerabilities and consequences your company faces.

And it starts with the Board. Often overlooked is their own vulnerability. The Board is privy to a lot of information, much of it confidential, and much of it being communicated on their own devices. Security measures need to be in place for them that reflect the policies and procedures of the company.

By extension the Board needs to be aware of how training and education is implemented and practiced among all employees.

Building Block 3: Cybersecurity is about Risk Mitigation Strategy

A number of boards are now discussing the value of having a cybersecurity specialist on the board in order to bridge the gap between the board’s lack of knowledge and the increasing expertise they must have in front of them. In the least, they must address who in the company reports to them. Ideally, it is the same person each time. Boards are increasingly aware of the time they must now give to cybersecurity issues in their meetings, and to being able to understand these essentials:

  • Is our budget congruent with our security need?
  • Are we in compliance?
  • Is the Business Continuity Plan and Disaster Recovery Plan in place and what are the results of the tests of it?
  • What risks must we avoid, what risks are we willing to accept, and what risks must we transfer through insurance?
  • Are the right people in the right places?

The CIO that builds these into the working knowledge of the Board will find a Board and CEO ready to build back into them and the IT needs the CIO represents.

Which of these has been most critical in your own work with boards? Tell us below.

How To Hire IT In Order To Accelerate Your Work and Teams

“Take away my people, but leave my factories, and soon grass will grow on the factory floors. Take away my factories, but leave my people, and soon we will have a new and better factory.” – Andrew Carnegie

We suffer a deficit in IT and cybersecurity professionals. The projections are in the millions of vacant positions. That means the competition for good staff is tough. It also means the temptation for desperate hires are great.

But a bad hire can devastate your company.

So what are the guardrails you need in place to ensure that you are hiring a quality person who will move your company forward?

Let’s look at four: Character, Commitment, Cultural Fit and Competence.

Character

One professional football coach, prior to each draft, would put these initials next to the names of potential players: DNDC – Do Not Draft, Character. Coach understood that character detrimental to the team was not easily corrected or coached.

But how do you explore character and avoid legal entanglements?

Behavioral assessments are based on the belief that past actions are the best predictor of future actions. The key is to identify the character essentials you are looking for, translate them into behaviors, and then ask about past experiences with each.

For example, let’s say you are looking for the following essential character traits:

Disciplined. Compatible. Positive. Compassionate.

Those traits have certain behaviors, such as:

Being on time. Resolving Conflict. Handling criticism well. Partnering in a company’s community service.

Those behaviors translate into important, demonstrable and perfectly legal questions:

When was a time that you had to go to extra lengths to make sure you finished a project on time?

Tell me about a person you had a difference of opinion with and how it was resolved in a manner satisfactory to you both.

When did you receive a criticism, and how did you turn it into a learning opportunity for yourself?

What did you do in the last community service project you volunteered for?

Commitment

Resumes can be deceptive. Both a long time at a company, or frequent changes in work, can demonstrate strength or weakness. Longevity may signal insecurity as much as tenacity. Short stays may point to lack of commitment or promotion or life circumstances.

I prefer a different formula to determine a candidate’s commitment:

Shared Conviction + Rich Participation = Bedrock Commitment

Shared conviction exists when an employee agrees that why a company does what it does matters. Rich participation exists when an employee buys into how a company does what it does matters. “Rich” indicates that they invest in the values that are important to you, and find new ways that best express those values.

How do you know if they possess shared conviction and will bring rich participation?

Behavioral questions!

Let’s say that you own a chain of fitness clubs and your big Why is “to promote health to persons of all body types so that they feel good about themselves and put a smile on the doctor’s face.” How you accomplish your mission is through customized training at affordable prices in well-kept facilities filled with accepting persons. The four qualities found in that last sentence each have strategies and processes behind them.

Here are some sample questions I would ask a prospective IT person working in my company:

“When was a time you recognized that someone was making an effort to improve their health? How did you encourage them? What did you feel inside yourself as you watched them work at it?

“When was a time you adapted to a company’s process? Along the way, as you discovered how a process could be improved or done differently, how did you communicate that?

The key is to ensure that the person you are hiring isn’t just filling a spot. Instead, they are investing who they are into what you do.

Cultural Fit

Culture transcends character and commitment. You can hire a person of great character who is fully committed, but if they are straight-laced and paired with a team of practical jokers, the lack of chemistry will blow up morale and productivity.

Personalities can learn how to work together, but culture is more than personality. Culture is the way things are done that personality must bend itself to. Culture can be disciplined, loose, competitive, confrontational, non-confrontational, professional, artistic and so forth.

Know the culture of the team your hire will be working with. Assign behaviors to it. Ask questions about how the candidate has demonstrated those behaviors. One example: The culture is confrontational, and it’s confrontational because one mistake can cost the team valuable time and money. A behavior is the need to be able to defend an idea or position. The question: “Tell me about a time you put forth an idea that was challenged. How did you defend it, and how did you fight off any discouragement because you were challenged?”

Competencies

I saved this for last, because you have any number of ways that you test for competencies, whether it’s their understanding of technologies, designing technical architecture, systems integration or project management.

The insight you need is the complement of a candidate’s competencies with the team (s)he will be working with.

Though a wrong hire can devastate a company, the right hire may accelerate what you are all about.

Which of these have proven most important in your hiring? Help us to learn from you in the comments below.

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