Daily Archives: May 25, 2010

Find yourself a mentor

Everyone needs a mentor, or coach, who can help you improve by sharing their experiences.

Let’s face it; it is easier to learn something when we can learn from someone who has already gone through this experience and can share what to do and what not to do.

I’ve been very lucky in my career because I’ve had some great mentors who have been instrumental in developing my management skills.

Doesn’t it make sense to minimize the pain of learning everything on your own? You need to make every effort to find a mentor or several experienced managers who can help you transition into a strong manager.

One of my earliest mentors was Bryan Hathcock, the first IBM manager I worked for. Bryan was a good bit older than me and I thought a lot of him as a manager and mentor, , , still do.

He gave me two pieces of advice that I’ve always remembered and tried to reinforce within my life and professional career:
#1  –  “Observe others around you and when you see something that works well, incorporate that trait into your way of doing things.”

I’ve been doing this for over 30 years and continue to observe, learn, and incorporate positive examples into my behavior.

#2  –  “When you take on a new responsibility, be sure to focus on the requirements of the new job and stop trying to do your last job.”

This is extremely important for IT technical people who want to transition from technical experts and become successful IT managers. You can’t continue to be the technical expert and also be a successful manager.

Managing an organization of any size is a full time job and takes considerable concentration. Letting go of the past and focusing on the new job is a difficult transition for many young managers, , , it certainly was for me, , , but you have to make it happen to be a successful IT manager.

A mentor can help you through this difficult process.

Win – Win

I was talking to one of my IT Manager Institute graduates a few weeks ago and he made an interesting comment. He said that he had never heard of the concept, “win – win”, until attending my class. He went on to say that he had incorporated this concept into his approach to things and was amazed at the difference it seemed to make as he worked with clients, vendors, even his employees.

Comments like this reinforce why I like this job so much.

If you aren’t familiar with the “win – win” concept, it means that in your dealings with other people, you need to seek ways so that both parties win, , , not just you or your IT organization.

Ultimately, if you win but the other party does not, , , then you lose. You may be able to get a one-up on your vendor for a time, for example, but in the long run you can only win if you establish a partnership where both parties win.

I approach a “win – win” even when I have to terminate an employee. You may wonder how this can be a win for the terminated employee, , , good question. Well, it’s pretty simple actually.

If you have an employee who isn’t performing and you have done everything possible to help the employee get his or her act together in order to perform effectively, but it’s just not going to happen, , , then, you owe it to the employee to get him or her out of your organization and allow them to seek employment elsewhere where they have the opportunity to be successful. In fact, I believe you have an obligation to help them in this regard, even though it means termination.

I very much look at this as doing what’s right by the employee and forcing the issue so he or she can be successful. It is unfair to allow them to continue to fail in your organization. It’s not only unfair to the employee, it’s also unfair to your other employees, your clients, and your company.

Oh yeah, don’t forget that it’s unfair to you as well.

There is a “win – win” option in almost everything you do if you look for it. What you will find is that when you start seeking ways for the other party to win in a situation (even a disgruntled client), your approach changes and people start noticing it. Before you know it, others start trying to insure that you are able to have a win, , , and that’s when it really becomes fun.

Start looking for ways to insure the other person or entity can get a win the next time you have a tough situation to handle or when negotiating with your vendor. Remember what they say, “the more you give the more you receive in return”. I can verify this to be true from my own personal experiences.

Best of success.

Business value is key

Business value is the key to job security!

In today’s economy, many of you reading this article will possibly become at risk in keeping your job over the next year. Some of you may have already heard the bad news as your company decides to reduce the number of staff.

This article is not intended to make you worry needlessly or to be a negative message. In fact, the message you should get from the content below is a very positive one.

Now, it is more important to have an IT organization that is appreciated and valued by your senior management team than ever. If you haven’t established this already, it may be too late to avoid the impending impact in your company from a souring economy. However, it’s never too late to start building a presence where you and your IT organization is appreciated and valued for what you do, , , so if it doesn’t already exist in your company, you need to get started RIGHT NOW !!

First step – understand the importance of business value.

Business managers want and need your IT help, but they do not and will not fully understand technology. There are exceptions to everything, but for the most part they don’t want to understand the technology. They just want to do their jobs and to support the company’s mission. They also want to keep their jobs as much as you do.

What business managers (senior managers and department managers of your company) do understand is business value. When you deliver business value, speak in business value terms, and do things that have business value implications, , , then, you get their attention and you gain respect and appreciation for your organization’s hard work.

However, if you cannot connect with your client (again, the senior managers and department managers of your company) on a business value level, it is difficult and potentially impossible to gain their respect and appreciation for what you and your organization do. They just don’t get it when you deliver technology.

It’s about the business. It is not about the technology.

Business value comes in many forms:
a. Increase revenue – Implementing technology that helps the company sell more of its existing products or services or sell new products or services.

b. Decrease expense – Decreasing a departmen’s expenses or avoiding costs by implementing technology.

c. Improve productivity – Improving a department’s people productivity so they can handle more work with existing employees and avoid hiring more employees or able to reduce staff.

d. Differentiate the company – Doing something that gives the company an advantage over its competition by differentiating the company’s offerings.

e. Improve client satisfaction – Retaining a client can be more cost effective than replacing a lost client with a new one. Improving client satisfaction can be valuable to a company.

In a “for-profit” company, there is a common theme in all of these elements. Each of these value propositions help the company become more profitable, , , and profitability is the name of the game in a “for-profit” company. Even in a “not-for-profit” company, increasing revenue, decreasing expense, improving productivity, etc. are important to help the company continue to operate and do the work of it’s mission more effectively. So, regardless of your situation business value is an important component in delivering technology support.

Your IT organization is the one organization in your company that can positively impact every organization or department in the company. No other organization in your company offers this much leverage to the senior management team.

The problem is that your senior managers won’t realize this much leverage is right under their noses if your organization has been delivering technology instead of business value.

Understand that most business managers see the IT managers of the company as technical managers, not business managers. You must change this perspective they have of you. And, when you do they will appreciate you for what you can do for the company and not see you as a “cost center”, or a manager who likes new toys, or an organization that simply likes to spend money.

An IT manager who delivers business value is viewed as a partner, , , a business partner to be valued for the positive contributions he has made in the past and can make to the company’s prosperity in the future.

Second step is simple: All IT initiative recommendations must be cost justified and provide tangible business value to the company.

You simply don’t work on things unless you can quantify the business value that will be gained when the project is completed and every recommendation is cost justified and easily understood by the management team.

This means you must be able to frame projects and discuss them in financial terms. Senior management won’t understand routers and switches, programming, and such technical things as you do; but they do understand revenue, expense, productivity and those type of discussions.

Your tendency is to discuss the issues in technical terms and when you do, you lose a business manager’s attention. Learn to discuss your projects in business value and benefits terms and you get their attention, , , and keep it.

When senior management has trust in you that everything you do provides business value and that you only spend money prudently (like a business owner would do), you will find they will appreciate their IT organization much more than you might imagine.

Let me give you an example, I’ve been very fortunate to have worked with some excellent senior management teams; I’ve also worked with a couple of weak teams. In my career, I’ve had two CEO’s ask me to spend more money in IT when they were cutting costs in other departments. The reason was the same in both situations, , , these CEOs understood the leverage value of an IT organization that delivers business value.

Insightful senior managers know that they can get much more cost savings from IT when we do things that reduces expenses or improves productivity in the bigger organizations. Sure, if they ask me to cut 10% from my budget in the 2nd half of a year, they will get something fairly tangible, , , but not nearly what they can get if I can implement technology that improves a much larger organization’s productivity considerably. Even better, this type of improvement is usually an ongoing benefit, not a one-time cost savings benefit.

You have to earn their confidence. To gain the trust of the business managers requires a third step:

Third step – establish a track record of success
1. All your recommendations are cost justified and have tangible business value
2. You deliver the approved projects successfully

Sounds pretty simple and it really is when you get right down to it. Business managers are looking for partners who help them achieve their goals and objectives. When you deliver what you say you will do and those deliverables include business value that helps a CEO or Department Manager achieve his/her objectives, you simply gain a lot of respect, trust, and value in their eyes.

They wouldn’t think of running the company without you when this partnership exists.

How much staff do I need?

Many IT managers are asking for a quick fix, a “road map” of what to do to manage their organization. One of the questions often asked is, “How many people should I staff in my organization?”

It would be great if there was an easy formula you could apply to determine the number of resources you need in an IT organization to support your business, such as:

  • Number of programmers per business application
  • Number of desktop support resources per “x” number of users
  • Number of Help Desk resources per number of support calls per month

Unfortunately, none of these measurements or other criteria you could come up with will be effective barometers for giving you exactly what you need to quantify the number, or even type of staff you need to support your business.

CLICK HERE to download and read the short Practical IT Manager Perspectives article for insight.

Calculate the cost of downtime

Getting funded for infrastructure projects can be difficult.

One of the best ways to help senior management understand a recommendation you make regarding infrastructure investments is to help them see the financial impact of downtime.

Use this Cost of Downtime tool from my IT Manager ToolKit to quantify the impact of virtually any server, network, or telecommunication device, , , even a printer.

CLICK HERE to download the Cost of Downtime tool

Need more insight – take a quick look at the 20 Minute IT Manager session titled, Justifying Infrastructure Projects.

CLICK HERE to view the 20-minute training session.

ROI Tool

Need help in calculating a Return on Investment (ROI)?

Use this simple ROI tool and take a look at a 20 Minute IT Manager session for more insight. Communicate in financial terms with senior managers of your company and you will be much more effective. Learning to develop an ROI for project recommendations is a key ingredient.

CLICK HERE to download the ROI tool

CLICK HERE to view the 20 Minute IT Manager session

There are 162 training sessions in the 20 Minute IT Manager that focus on:

  • IT management
  • People management
  • Project management
  • Leadership
  • Personal development

Details are at www.20minuteitmanager.com

Jumpstart your year with an IT Kickoff Meeting

In an earlier post, I mentioned holding an IT Kickoff Meeting to jumpstart your team at the beginning of your fiscal year.

I give you all the information you need to deliver a great Kickoff Meeting in one of my 20 Minute IT Manager sessions. In this 20-minute flash presentation, you will learn about:

  • the benefits of a Kickoff Meeting
  • what to include in the meeting
  • who to invite
  • making it motivational
  • tools to help

CLICK HERE to view the flash presentation.

There are 162 training sessions in the 20 Minute IT Manager that focus on:

  • IT management
  • People management
  • Project management
  • Leadership
  • Personal development

Details are at www.20minuteitmanager.com

Yes, I use my management tools all the time

I’m often asked, “Mike, do you actually use any of the tools you tell us about?” My answer is, “ABSOLUTELY !!”.

Let me give you an example and tell you why I believe in tools so much. It’s November, 2008 and I’m about to fly to Dubai in a few days to deliver my 32nd IT Manager Institute. One of the things that makes it easier for me is that I have a checklist that guarantees I’m ready for each class.

CLICK HERE to download the Class Preparation Checklist.

This little checklist literally eliminates the stress and concern as to whether I’m prepared, , , or not. It also guarantees that when I arrive at the class location, I have everything I’m supposed to have – i.e., no mishaps.

Let me emphasize two points – “It eliminates the stress of preparing for a class and improves my productivity in getting ready for the class.”


Basically, it’s just a simple project plan that’s organized by weekly completion time before the class, the week of the class, and the week after.

For example, I know that I have to order IT Management-101 paperback books at least 4 weeks ahead of the class if I need them; otherwise they may not get here in time. Same thing with reserving a classroom, etc.

On the other hand, there are many things that can be completed at the last minute – like the week before the class.

And then there are things that I can’t forget to do before leaving for the class such as:
– go to the bank and get money for the trip
– pack my passport if I’m going out of country
– pack the gifts I plan to hand out
– get a haircut

In the example, I’m showing you the status of preparing for the Dubai class and you can see that it is just a few days before I leave. Having this list allows me to quickly see what’s not completed (identified by a “/”) versus what has been completed (identified with an “X”). This totally eliminates the stress of preparing for class because I can see what I need to do and I never worry about forgetting something.

When this list is completed, all I have to do is go deliver the class, , , piece of cake.

You might find this type of tool helpful for many events or things you do like holding a meeting, delivering training, coordinating a User Group meeting, etc.

Good luck

Do you know what your team is getting accomplished?

In 1988, I was planning to hold a January Kickoff Meeting with my IT staff. To prepare, one of the things I wanted to share with them was our organization’s accomplishments for the previous year. I listed the immediate things that came to mind and then began to take a closer look by reviewing meeting notes, calendar events, project plans, etc. When I completed my research, I was literally blown away by how much was accomplished in the past year.

What this told me was that if I, the manager, was surprised and didn’t really know how significant the accomplishments were, then certainly my staff and my clients would be surprised as well. When I shared the information with everyone at the Kickoff Meeting, their surprise was visible.

You see, we all tend to focus on what’s not getting done, rarely thinking about what we have accomplished. It’s a normal tendency, but it doesn’t do justice for the hard work and commitment your employees put into their jobs.

From that point, I started maintaining a list titled Annual IT Accomplishments to track my teams completed work and successes so I can show others (senior management, department managers, and IT employees) how much is getting done.

If you don’t do this as a manager, no one will know!   

As projects get completed, I simply add the information to the list. At the end of the year, I have a nice record of what we worked on.

The approach used in this tool can also be helpful in gathering input for employee performance reviews as it gives you a quick look at who worked on certain projects, etc.

Download the Annual IT Accomplishments tool and start tracking your accomplishments.  CLICK HERE to download.

It’s important for you to share your organization’s accomplishments, , , if you aren’t, I can assure you no one knows how much your IT organization is getting done, , , and that would be a sad state of affairs.