Mistakes Happen – What Matters Is What Happens Next

Imagine two scenarios.

First, we are at a restaurant. Scanning the menu, we see lots of great options. It’s hard to decide. But finally, we do. We put our order in and sit back, mouth watering in anticipation. Finally, it arrives. And it’s wrong. We wanted french fries and got Brussels sprouts. Or vice versa. Either way, it disappoints us. When we point it out, the restaurant is very apologetic, brings out new food and takes something off the bill.

Second scenario.

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Changing Your Mind is a Good Thing

It is with great satisfaction that I look back at myself five years ago and think about how much wiser and better I am. This feeling of satisfaction is tempered by the fact that five years from now I will say the same thing.

Andy Rooney (probably paraphrased)

This quote has stuck with me over the years. I want to keep growing as a person. One of the consequences of this quote is that I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I will look back at today and feel good about growing, getting wiser, getting better. Of course, the last line of the quote reminds me that this will happen continually so don’t get too full of myself.

I think a major part of this is the ability to change my mind about things.

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Build On Strengths

photo of golden cogwheel on black background

I believe that a core component of leading people is to understand and leverage their strengths. Everyone has parts of their job they are good at and parts they aren’t. Knowing the parts they are good at and figuring out how to use that strength is important. Let me give an example.

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Making Decisions

Decide on a Path

As IT Leaders, we are continually making a wide range of decisions. There are all the normal people & business decisions that leaders need to make. Then there are the technology decisions that need to be made faster and faster. Throw in all the changes in consumer technology changes that are making their way into the business world. IT Leaders makes many decisions each day.

Big decisions, little decisions, simple decisions, complex decisions.

How can we stay on top of them all?

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IT Leaders: Managing Ourselves

judgement scale and gavel in judge office

Managing ourselves can be harder than managing others. In related news, doctors and nurses make terrible patients. I’m married to a nurse, so I know this to be true. It is easy to wave it off, convinced that we are in good shape and don’t need any help.

Improving as a leader is a lifelong journey. As a leader, we are never as good as we think we are. But take heart, because we probably aren’t as bad as we think we are.

There are four things that are necessary to be a good IT leader. There are other important leadership skills, of course, but these are ones I believe are specifically helpful for IT leaders. Here is a brief explanation of the four.

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Ask The IT Director: Cantujust Dilemma

Dear IT Director,
People seem to think that IT has an “easy button”. That we can just make simple changes and slap it into production quickly. How can I respond to this nonsense?
Frustrated in Fresno

Dear Frustrated,

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Now For Sale! The I.T. Leaders’ Handbook

IT Leaders Handbook front cover

The paperback & Ebook versions of The I.T. Leaders’ Handbook is now for sale on Amazon (US, UK, Canada, etc), Barnes & Noble, and fine bookstores everywhere.

Whether you are a current IT leader or hope to lead an IT organization in the future, this book will be useful to you. This book is a collection of the scars and skills that I have earned over the years.

From The Introduction:

Organizations structure themselves, in part, to manage people (HR), money (Finance), and technology (IT). These departments understand the details of their areas and how their work contributes to the success of the organization. The Information Technology (IT) department lives at the intersection of the organization and the technological world.

It is often a thankless job. The criticisms are many. IT is too slow to roll out changes. IT is too rigid with its rules and processes. IT is too expensive. IT has a huge backlog. IT is working on the wrong things.

Or so the organization believes.

As leaders of the IT department, it is our responsibility to run the department to meet the needs of the organization. Unfortunately, even with the best of efforts, the perception of the organization never matches our own. Even worse, sometimes the perception is correct.

There are a lot of books, magazines, websites, and individual postings aimed at the IT professional. But few of them address the larger problems organizations care about. There is significant information about specific technologies, but not much on how to lead an IT department.

Since I couldn’t find such a book, I wrote it.

Monkeys Everywhere!

Be careful about taking tasks accidentally…

In the classic Harvard Business Review article Management Time: Who’s Got the Monkey?, William Oncken, Jr. and Donald L. Wass present the idea that tasks can be considered as monkeys sitting out our shoulder. We have to feed them and take care of them. The more tasks we have, the more monkeys on our shoulders. As leaders, we need to be very aware of our team’s monkeys and make sure they don’t jump to our shoulder.

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Advice to IT Interns

One spring a few years back, I was looking through a stack of intern resumes. Wanda (not her real name) was not selected and received an email notification. She then, to her credit, reached out and asked for feedback on her resume. Awesome move on her part. This drive to improve will take her far in her career. Here is my response to her.

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Ask The IT Director: Confusing Metrics

Spanish Car dashboard. Photo Credit: Joyce Bredesen

Dear IT Director,

I know metrics are a good thing. But metrics need goals, right? I have some metrics that don’t make any sense to have goals for. Like number of Help Desk tickets coming in. If I set a goal, it will make me and my team take the wrong kind of actions.

Waffling in Wauwatosa

Dear Waffling,

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