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Category Archives for CEO Best Practices

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.

See if IT is about to become a career killer.

Take our 2 minute, anonymous C-level IT Quiz to see where you rate as a steward of your IT people / department:

► Security
► Strategy

► Performance
► Profitability

► Business continuity
► Resources

Go here to take a 2 minute completely anonymous C-level IT Quiz:
https://smeester.com/c-level-it-quiz/

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.

See if IT is about to become a career killer.

Take our 2 minute, anonymous C-level IT Quiz to see where you rate as a steward of your IT people / department:

► Security
► Strategy

► Performance
► Profitability

► Business continuity
► Resources

Go here to take a 2 minute completely anonymous C-level IT Quiz:
https://smeester.com/c-level-it-quiz/

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.

Are you a C-level IT CHUMP or CHAMP?

Take our 2 minute, anonymous C-level IT Quiz to see where you rate as a steward of your IT people / department:

► Security
► Strategy

► Performance
► Profitability

► Business continuity
► Resources

Go here to take a 2 minute completely anonymous C-level IT Quiz:
https://smeester.com/c-level-it-quiz/

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.

See if IT is about to become a career killer.

Take our 2 minute, anonymous C-level IT Quiz to see where you rate as a steward of your IT people / department:

► Security
► Strategy

► Performance
► Profitability

► Business continuity
► Resources

Go here to take a 2 minute completely anonymous C-level IT Quiz:
https://smeester.com/c-level-it-quiz/

Six Major IT Functions You Cannot Do Without and Must Perform At Optimal Level

Your body is amazing.

It is comprised of six major systems in which all functions interact with each other. Not one survives without the other. Remove one from your body? You die.

(Just in case you were wondering: Skeletal, Muscular, Nervous, Digestive, Respiratory and Circulatory).

IT management also consists of six major functions that interact with each other. Failure to develop and maintain health in these, and you invite serious dysfunction; weak in one weakens all.

Communication

How does your IT leader communicate with peers and executives?

How do you coordinate when IT cannot make a decision alone?

How does IT partner with senior managers in strategic development and complementary focal points?

How does the Board understand IT issues and what must they know to make appropriate decisions?

People

How do you ensure that you hire, develop and retain the best talent?

How do you manage the gap of knowledge between managers and tech specialists?

How do you navigate leadership of highly smart and variously motivated employees?

How do you know what your talented people can or cannot do?

Cost and Accounting

How do you get the right people in decisions and safeguard what is in the interest of the company and not just a particular department?

What determines value for IT and where to invest for maximum return?

How do you know what projects to invest in and what determines there priority?

Project

When do you know to expand the scope of a project or not?

How will you budget while allowing for uncertainty in project time and cost?

What budget considerations do you make for the need to learn during the course of a project?

What is the chain of communication for when problems arise?

Partner and Services

What is essential in the agreements you structure with outside partners and vendors?

What is the selection process?

How do you know what must stay within the company’s walls and what need not be?

Who will we use for outside eyes?

Infrastructure

How much do you invest in maintenance versus new capabilities, and how do you know when new is needed?

What is your Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plan?

How much will you invest in redundancy?

How do you identify emerging threats and opportunities?

How does emerging technology integrate into your strategic plans?

In coming weeks, I will address each of these. But a major takeaway for today is, every company needs to bring in outside eyes to evaluate each of these functions: We don’t ignore our body’s systems, and we don’t ignore our company’s IT systems. The last thing you want is an IT emergency that could have been avoided.

See if IT is about to become a career killer.

Take our 2 minute, anonymous C-level IT Quiz to see where you rate as a steward of your IT people / department:

► Security
► Strategy

► Performance
► Profitability

► Business continuity
► Resources

Go here to take a 2 minute completely anonymous C-level IT Quiz:
https://smeester.com/c-level-it-quiz/

The Dirty Dozen: What every Disaster Recovery Plan must have in place.

Last week, I wrote “Disaster Recovery is about the information or technology systems that support business functions. It is a component of Business Continuity (BC), which plans to keep all aspects of business functioning during disruptive events.” We also learned together the critical need for DR.

But what really needs to be in the plan? Twelve questions begging to be answered:

1. What are the potential interruptions?

The key is to list all the ways in which business function could lose support, prioritize the likeliest, and address each with a plan. Today, cyber-attack is an increasing threat, and should be in the top of your list.

2. What are all the possible impacts?

A Business Impact Analysis (BIA) evaluates financial, safety, legal and public relations effects, and addresses to ensure the maintenance of confidentiality, integrity and availability.

3. Who calls for the DR to be enacted, and who is called when it is enacted?

A DR Plan spells out expectations of the roles and responsibilities for C-Suite Executives and the employee chain in the event of disruption. The chain of communication must be established as to who calls for DR enactment, and then who is called: What employees must come in and how they are to be contacted, with all contact information at hand.

4. Who updates the DR Plan?

Technology change, systems change and application changes, which are frequent, may all affect the effectiveness of the DR Plan. Who communicates the updates? Who adjusts the DR Plan and communicates the changes?

5. How often will you test the DR Plan and run drills?

Data breaches happen. It’s rare that a job will be lost over it, or a company’s reputation hurt over it. The damage is done on how well the company responded to it. Failure to respond properly leads to loss of employment and reputation. The only way to respond professionally is to have an exhaustive plan and to ensure that it works!

6. Who is responsible for hardware and software inventory?

Make sure the vendor technical support, contract and contact information is readily accessible in the event of a disruption.

7. What is your Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and your Recovery Time Objective (RTO)?

RPO is the maximum period in which data might be lost from an IT service. It answers the question, “How much time can we tolerate having to recover or rewrite lost content?” That determines your backup frequency. RTO addresses the target time to recover IT and business activity.

Prioritize plans based on what needs immediate recovery, what is acceptable to be recovered within a business day and what can be recovered within a few days.

8. What is your communication plan?

In the event of a disruption, Who needs to know What by When and by Whom? This also includes a statement prepared that will be accessible on your public platforms, and a plan on how and when customers receive initial communications and updates.

9. Where do you go if you can’t go to the office (or usual place of business)?

The DR Plan should address alternative worksite options, including telecommuting. Employees will need to know how to access systems from the alternative sites, and IT will need to ensure that compliance requirements are being observed.

10. Are all your vendors and contractors prepared to help?

The DR Plan must ensure that Service Level Agreements are in place, addressing how vendors and contractors are to help and the timeliness by which they are committed to respond.

11. Do you have operations and procedures in place to protect and access sensitive information?

12. Who is in Second Chair?

If a key employee is not available during a disruption, who knows what they do in order to perform their responsibilities in a crisis?

I hope you never have to enact your DR Plan. But I am available to make sure you have addressed all the key components for your business, and that you not only have a plan, but that it works and that you know how to use it.

What other questions do you have about DR Plans that I can help you with? Please comment below so that others can learn with you.

See if IT is about to become a career killer.

Take our 2 minute, anonymous C-level IT Quiz to see where you rate as a steward of your IT people / department:

► Security
► Strategy

► Performance
► Profitability

► Business continuity
► Resources

Go here to take a 2 minute completely anonymous C-level IT Quiz:
https://smeester.com/c-level-it-quiz/

Why The Odds Are Against You In Disaster Recovery

Let’s walk down a neighborhood, but it’s not your typical neighborhood. Instead of houses, it’s lined with businesses much like your own. Let’s put yours in the middle, and you have businesses down either side of you, ten total.

One bright morning, you wake up, throw on a robe, and step outside to drink coffee on your front porch. You can know that on any morning:

  • 4 of the 10 small businesses on your street will have suffered a cyber attack.
  • 6 of the 10 businesses that suffer a cyber attack will be out of business within six months. Your street will have six empty lots where once there was a structure (like a bomb went off or a tornado swept through).
  • 9 of the 10 employ different backup and recovery tools. 7 of those 9 will have overlapping capabilities, and of those 7, 6 will experience problems because they use a variety of tools requiring different learning systems and added costs.
  • The 5 businesses to your right and the 4 to your left experienced a major outage in the last 24 months (do you feel the walls closing in).
  • Your neighbor to the right is the only one who said they could respond and recover from a similar disaster within two hours.

Welcome to the neighborhood of Disaster Recovery (DR).

Disaster Recovery is about the information or technology systems that support business functions. It is a component of Business Continuity (BC), which plans to keep all aspects of business functioning during disruptive events.

7 of your neighbors experienced downtime due to human error or hardware failure or power outage. It took them between one to nine hours to recover, at costs ranging up to $700,000.00 per hour. Most of your neighbors, say the four on your right and the three on your left, spent one million dollars each to restore their business to normal.

It’s only a matter of time before one of your neighbors steps out for her morning coffee, and you are the statistic.

As a matter of fact, 7 of your 10 C-Suite Executive neighbors said they are very prepared for Disaster Recovery. But not even 5 of their IT leads agree. You have some domestic disputes in your neighborhood.

Plus, some of your neighbors are being stingy: Not even 5 of them allocate budget for risk-mitigation.

What’s happening in your neighborhood? Fear is rampant. Your neighbors distrust new technology. Ignorance browns the yards; the guys next door lack the expertise to build and test a plan. Money fell from the trees and has been raked away into other expenditures, leaving little behind for essential protection.

The 5 businesses to your right and the 4 to your left experienced a major outage in the last 24 months.

3 of your neighbors have no Disaster Recovery plan in place. If it was a house, it would be uninsured. All three of those neighbors will fail if their business is seriously disrupted.

If you called a meeting of your neighbors, you would discover that if they have a plan, it is likely incorrect. If their plan was a garage, and you opened the door, you would find unnecessary technology overwhelming the space. Only one of the business on the block tests their plan monthly (that would be you, right?) Three of your neighbors will make the effort to test it two or three times a year. The guy right next door: He never tests his plan.

Your neighborhood needs a better watch program. Not only are you vulnerable to intruders, regulators will be up in arms over the insufficient information management they will find.

Some of your neighbors have listened. Over two of you use the cloud as a DR strategy, which is an increase of 10% in the last four years. One of you is using Disaster Recovery as a Service.

What should you do?

I will address more of these issues in upcoming articles, but no matter how much you read, you need outside eyes to ensure your maximum protection. It is my pleasure to help so that you feel safe at home.

3 of your neighbors have no Disaster Recovery plan in place. Are you your neighbor? Do you know or not know?

See if IT is about to become a career killer.

Take our 2 minute, anonymous C-level IT Quiz to see where you rate as a steward of your IT people / department:

► Security
► Strategy

► Performance
► Profitability

► Business continuity
► Resources

Go here to take a 2 minute completely anonymous C-level IT Quiz:
https://smeester.com/c-level-it-quiz/

5 Qualities of Meetings Geeks Thrive In and Your Company Benefits From

Thomas Sowell said, “People who enjoy meetings should not be in charge of anything.” I laugh, because I get it. Like you, I’ve been the victim of life-sucking meetings. Remember the scene in the original Star Wars movie where the walls are closing in on Solo and Luke, being crushed a near certainty – meetings have been like that. Yet, I disagree with Sowell.

The contrast is given by Patrick Lencioni, “The majority of meetings should be discussion that lead to decisions.” I like progress and goals reached. So do Geeks (I am one).

Over the years, I have found 5 components of meetings that bring out the best in your Geeks.

1. Common Ground and Honor

Cross-functional meetings bring out the best in Geeks for your company. With key areas of a company represented, Geeks are able to get a comprehensive picture of whatis happening in the company and how they affect it. Even more, Geeks are natural problem-solvers, and once they understand what other functions are trying to accomplish, they often bring a perspective no one else has.

2. Solution-Oriented

Geeks often bring a perspective no one else has…

Always open a meeting by clearly stating the problem. This is different than a clearly stated purpose. Old school held meetings with a purpose that might be “for each division to understand what the other is doing.” Though that might comprise a part of the meeting, it is not compelling. A clearly stated problem may be, “How do we reduce cost overruns across the board by increasing efficiency in each department?” That leads to discussion that both inform what departments are doing and will have a technological solution to it.

Once a problem is clearly stated, get to it. Geeks don’t need a lot of preamble.

3. Ride the tangents into “what if” conversations

If we believe that an efficient meeting is free of tangents, we overlook the value of spontaneous creativity. Though tangents still need to be managed, seemingly off-point discussions can lead to valuable input. Geeks, especially, know how to process vast amounts of input and connect dots that are seemingly unrelated.

When you next observe a tangent conversation, watch to see if your Geeks are mentally processing what they are hearing, and feel free to ask them what their thoughts are “on what you are hearing or on the problem we proposed.”

4. Encourage thought-out opinions.

Geeks, especially, know how to process vast amounts of input and connect dots that are seemingly unrelated…

Meetings become lively when a thesis is put forward and challenge is invited. Antithesis leads to synthesis. Geeks value what is right, and mental challenge is the venue in which right applications are discovered and made.

The contrast, of course, is a poorly constructed opinion. “What do you think” is a poor question. “Who has given this some thought” is a better question. Geeks have little tolerance for opinions without basis; too much of their work depends on embarking on the right trail in the first place.

5. Truthful and Impactful

Geeks are truthful and seek to be impactful. Meetings must embody both: Facts and honest insight given; opportunity to make a difference real. Geeks are already used to collaboration. Geeks have tribes, and tribes interact, because each is dependent on the other. If they walk into a cross-functional meeting that isn’t after truth and impact, they will judge the rest of the company to be illusive and want nothing more than to stick within their tribal practices that actually gets things done.

Comedian Dave Barry said, “If you had to identify in one word, the reason the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings.’”

You have an opportunity to turn that quote on its head: The reason your company will achieve full potential is that you learned how to bring all the part into a whole, meetings being the engine that drives the cohesion.

Are you a C-level IT CHUMP or CHAMP?

Take our 2 minute, anonymous C-level IT Quiz to see where you rate as a steward of your IT people / department:

► Security
► Strategy

► Performance
► Profitability

► Business continuity
► Resources

Go here to take a 2 minute completely anonymous C-level IT Quiz:
https://smeester.com/c-level-it-quiz/

How To Lead Geeks The Way Geeks Want To Be Led

In 1964, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart issued one of the most heralded quotes in Court history, when he stated he would not attempt to further define obscenity, and said, “But I know it when I see it.”

I feel that way about defining Geeks. Definitions vary and stereotypes abound: smart, egocentric, socially awkward, victim prone, strong-headed – basically the TV show Big Bang Theory.

People feel as if they cannot define a Geek (and how they are different from a Nerd), but we know them when we see them. Or do we?

Before I share some traits to keep in mind, and best practices for managing Geeks, we must remember a vital aspect of the Geek tribe: they are people, which means they share the same common personality traits as those outside their tribe. Whatever personality test you prefer, they score on them too. Geeks aren’t like vampires who cannot be photographed; they fall into the same certain psychological snapshots as any. However, they often function differently than other smart, creative, ego-driven people and professions. I would know, because I am one. Here are some things to keep in mind.

I’m a Geek, not a freak

  1. Geeks are logical. Analytical thinkers thrive on knowledge. The upside is that they are motivated by problem solving, and the technology and toys that leverage their abilities. Yes, they want money as every other employee, but they are driven to solve stuff. The downside is that Geeks will use knowledge as a defense mechanism. In order to prove their worth, they will often give more detail than is needed; in order to assert themselves, they will use acronyms or technical language to gain neglected attention or ward off premature inspection.
  2. Geeks value respect. The respect they value is directly tied to their work. They will organize around the knowledge that advances their project. “Right” is a premium, because it saves time, energy and money. Wrong is evil, a chaos monster that creates messes Geeks need to fix. Geeks did not come through educational processes that trained much on dealing with people. As a result, they are often seen as candid to a fault, because they quickly assess if someone they are dealing with is helpful or harmful toward the solution they seek. As well, Geeks appreciate recognition, but are not the credit-hounds they are often made out to be. The exception is if credit is given to someone who is actually detrimental to the process. Then Geeks arise, not out of protest so much as protection to the integrity of what is “right,” effective and efficient.
  3. Geeks do communicate. But, Geeks prefer forms of communication that allow them to focus rather than suffer disruption. Phone calls, meetings and drop-in visits are curses on their work-flow. Because focus is so important, it’s also why Geeks, more than other professional tribes, do better with flexible schedules that honor their creative flow, and do better with devices. Whereas devices for others can be a distraction, devices for Geeks are friends and stimulants. Geeks have a way of being quick to say “no.” Requests can be judged as threats to their focus and current project. But give them time; the challenge to problem solve often means they will come back to you with a solution.

How Not To Be Weak With a Geek

  1. Encourage collaboration. Besides the fact that good code and stable networks require collaboration, Geeks more than others self-organize, self-assess and self-correct. Geeks require ideas of knowledgeable others.
  2. Bring Geeks to the larger, round table. Geeks love knowledge, which means they are interested in understanding more of the business. That understanding serves their problem-solving away from the table. Plus, every decision made that affects IT is a technical decision, inseparable from business decisions. So it pays to have IT knowledge in on decision-making.
  3. Bring in outside eyes. The IT team knows that the executive who depends on expert advice from the IT leader doesn’t know if he is getting it. And if there is a gulf between the leader and his team, morale and best solutions will erode. Your IT personnel want a skilled leader with technical competence. They need the sounding board.
  4. Train. Your IT team doesn’t want to be told to figure it out. The knowledge of the field is so expansive and changing, that months, not years, is the difference between effective or irrelevant. Do train on people-skills, but especially against the backdrop of the larger mission. Dealing with people is “problem-solving.”
  5. Ask. No IT person wants to rehearse Tech 101 with every employee. But they do expect their leaders to want to be informed, and they are usually more than happy to demonstrate their knowledge. Get deep into questions and encourage them to define their terms. They don’t expect you to keep up with them, but they do want you to understand what you need to know (especially what you need to know to further their work and not hinder it).
  6. No matter your review process, make sure your IT department is engaging in 360 review. They depend on each other to be at their best for the team to produce the best.

Are you a C-level IT CHUMP or CHAMP?

Take our 2 minute, anonymous C-level IT Quiz to see where you rate as a steward of your IT people / department:

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Go here to take a 2 minute completely anonymous C-level IT Quiz:
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5 Indications You’re On the Verge of an IT Nightmare

The IT team at your company has a very busy job to do, and sometimes, it seems like their work never ends. This is why many companies solicit the help of a CIO, who can work with IT to manage the network and keep an eye on any risk factors. Since there always seems to be a lot of buzz coming from the IT room, it can be difficult for a company leader to determine if there’s a real issue going on, or that’s just a normal day-to-day situation. So, how will you know when the silence or the chatter actually means something?

C-level leaders need to be able to rely on their teams to recognize when the company may be on the verge of an IT nightmare. While it’s not always entirely clear, there are some key signs you can look out for to prepare yourself for what’s coming, and hopefully stop whatever it is in its path.

1) You Seem to Be Left Out of the Conversation

If you used to be copied on all the correspondence going on between your IT team, your CIO, and other employees working with your company, but now your inbox is empty, this could be bad news. While it could just be a glitch in the system (which, isn’t a good thing, either), if your staff has stopped reaching out to you about problems, then the problem may be much bigger.

As a C-level leader, it’s important to be wrapped up in the conversation, even though you may not have time to worry about it. You can’t be responsible for anything if the information isn’t getting to you quickly enough.

2) There’s A Lot of Turnover

All of a sudden, there are people in the office you don’t recognize or vendors on the other end of the phone that you’ve never worked with before. A few employees that you know well have given in their notice and new employees with seemingly less experience have been hired. Hopefully, you’ve been made aware of the changes, but ultimately, too many turnovers can be detrimental to IT. Or, the problems with IT are so severe, that it’s caused people to move onto something different.

There are many reasons why turnovers are indicative of a bigger problem. But, overall, having new employees or contractors join the team constantly, can let a breach inside that much easier. This is especially more likely with the constant onboarding and off boarding of new staff members as it’s difficult to manage so many new network identities.

3) The Alerts Never Stop

Sometimes, there isn’t enough work to do, and other times, it’s like the work never ends. If customers are continuing to call in or email their IT problems and your team can’t keep up, that’s an IT disaster waiting to happen. This doesn’t mean you need to hire more people, but instead, you have to find a solution to these consistent problems that are distracting IT away from what’s critical.

4) There’s a Lack of Innovation

Technology is constantly improving each and every day and IT teams should always be striving to find better solutions to new and old problems. There should be frequent meetings about what IT is currently up to, what new data breaches or Malware cases have been reported, or what changes are being made to streamline processes throughout the company.

At these meetings (or e-mail correspondences) it should be evident that IT and other C-level leaders are constantly searching for new ideas. There should always be new proposals circulating, and if there aren’t, that could mean that there’s a problem somewhere.

5) Auditors are Making Frequent Appearances

If there’s any indication that you’re about to wake up to an IT nightmare, it’s that auditors are showing up at your office, and your compliance check already passed months ago. There’s no reason auditors should be interested in your company unless something is seriously astray. If this is happening, then don’t waste any time; figure out what’s going on, now.

These are just a few indicators that something’s not right in the IT department. If you’re noticing any of these signs, then it’s time to take a closer look at the inner-workings of your company and fix the problems ASAP. If you’re not sure where to start, a CIO can help you rewind, discover the problems, and assign solutions and strategies that will be effective long-term.

Are you a C-level IT CHUMP or CHAMP?

Take our 2 minute, anonymous C-level IT Quiz to see where you rate as a steward of your IT people / department:

► Security
► Strategy

► Performance
► Profitability

► Business continuity
► Resources

Go here to take a 2 minute completely anonymous C-level IT Quiz:
https://smeester.com/c-level-it-quiz/

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