Leaders & Managers are not the same

silhouette of person under blue and purple sky

The organization gives managers authority. Leaders earn influence with individuals.

Managers have formal authority. Leaders have informal personal influence.

A person can be a manager without trust of others. A person without trust of others can’t be a leader.

Managers cause action by directing. Leaders cause action by influencing.

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IT Leaders: How Technical Do We Need To Be?

dead tree against a darkened sunset sky

Do IT Leaders need to have a deep technical background? I don’t think the answer is always yes.

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Interns in the IT Department

Interns in the IT department are great. They bring energy and enthusiasm. I have had success using interns in two areas: Help Desk and Business Analysts. There are some challenges, but the rewards are great. Let’s look closer.

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IT Leaders: Trusting Your Team

Trust is an important part of the relationship between a supervisor and our team. Indeed, it may be the most important part.

When a new supervisor comes in, and this can be anyone from a front line production supervisor to a CEO, there is a critical moment that sets the tone. If we handle it badly, it can haunt us for a long time.

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IT Leaders: Reading Through Resumes

Leaders in management positions hire people. It’s part of the job. To hire, we must read resumes. I haven’t met many that enjoy this part. If you are fortunate enough to have an HR department screening out those that don’t meet basic requirements, you may only have dozens of resumes. If not, you may have hundreds.

When facing the (electronic) stack of resumes, it is tempting to zip through them and minimize the pain. That would be a mistake.

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Technospeak

This post if for IT people but applies to any field with their own jargon. Scroll down to see the video I’m talking about.

Gustav Holst write a brilliant piece of music call The Planets. In particular, the Jupiter portion has always been one of my favorite classical music pieces. I don’t know the creator of the video, but he seems knowledgeable about music. He dissects Jupiter in a very deep way, using tons of music jargon.

I don’t understand most of what he is saying… I believe he knows what he is talking about, but I don’t know that he knows what he is talking about.

If you are an IT person, I challenge you to start at 1:30 and sit through at least five minutes of this video (for the adventurous, start at 7:30). Make a sincere effort to understand what he is trying to say. Try, as if your business depends on understanding it. Unless you have musical training, you probably won’t get much further than I did.

This is what we sound like to people outside our field. The organizations that depend on us aren’t able to understand the technology to the level we do. This isn’t because they are dumb (I hate the “dumb user” trope), it is because they are experts on other things and haven’t put in the years of focus that you have.

It is our job, not theirs, to figure out how to communicate better. We need to be creative in using analogies, metaphors, and straightforward language to communicate.

If we don’t, they may wonder if we know what we are talking about or just faking it by using jargon they don’t understand.

Cover Photo by Alexey Ruban on Unsplash

What kind of wake are you leaving?

We rented a pontoon on Lake Itasca the other day (fyi a great state park in Minnesota). The lake was beautiful. Smooth as glass. The morning chill gave way to the warmth of the sun with the light breeze keeping it from getting too hot. A peaceful ride, with the steady hum of the motor, that gave me time to think.

As we cruised across the lake, I looked back behind me and saw our wake. Clearly, we weren’t going that fast, but the wake went side to side on the still lake.

As we go through life, we leave a wake. Wakes come in all shapes and sizes. I won’t bore you with the obvious metaphors of fast and slow boats, wakeboarding, watching out for canoes, waterskiiing, etc.

But I wonder if we would do things a little differently if we better understood our wake. We all have one. We can’t go through life without leaving one. We probably leave different wakes at different times.

So instead of asking “what’s in your wallet?” like the commercial, maybe we should ask what kind of wake are we leaving.

IT Leaders: Supporting a Staff Retirement

If you are an IT leader long enough, you will deal with a team member’s retirement. While similar to any person leaving a position, you may get more than two weeks notice, which can be helpful.

If you have a little more time, here are some things to consider.

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IT Leaders: Walkabouts

The organizations that our IT departments serve have lots of parts, pieces, and most importantly, people. Walkabouts are a good way to stay in touch.

Walkabouts give you informal chances to have conversations with others in your organization. You can learn a lot from these hallway chats.

Here are some other things to consider.

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Prioritizing IT Work: The Challenges

In a previous article, I described the work IT leaders need to manage: incidents, service requests, change requests, and projects. Since there is always a backlog of work to accomplish, prioritization is critical.

How can we prioritize effectively in the IT department?

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