Daily Archives: May 26, 2010

Dead chicken award

Do you award the dumbest mistake of the month with a “dead chicken award”? This works well with a younger team.

You’ve seen the rubber chicken that’s all swiveled up and looks dead that they sell at novelty shops – right? They are inexpensive and make a great gag award to the person on your team who makes the dumbest mistake in a month.

The winner gets to hang this “dead chicken” above his cube or outside his office for all to see, , , for a month or until the award is passed onto someone else. No doubt who made the biggest blunder with this little prize floating around.

When I introduce it, I usually award it to myself first, , , for a couple of reasons:
1. I make mistakes just like everyone.
2. I’m part of the team and have to earn that membership.

I mention this award to most of my IT Manager Institute classes. So far, I’ve never had anyone tell me that they know about it.

One class had a little fun with it as you can see by the picture below. Ed O’Kelley from Tennessee awards the “dead chicken award” to Heitor Miguel from Angola AFRICA because he was having trouble understanding just exactly what the “dead chicken award” was all about.

We told Heitor that he might have some explaining to do as he went through airport security.

It’s true – a picture really is worth a thousand words.

Interviewing tips

Getting ready for an interview? Here are some interviewing tips that might help.

– Identify your accomplishments before you go on an interview.Think of the company benefits and results you have achieved.
– Don’t let your guard down.
– Answer the interviewer’s questions in a direct and concise manner.
– Dress in a manner that your position calls for.
– Maintain direct eye contact with the interviewer; this shows confidence.
– Develop questions that demonstrate interest in working with the company.
– Send a thank-you letter to all individuals with whom you interviewed.
– Be aware of your language. Avoid vocal fillers such as “you know” or “um”.
– Answer questions within 60 seconds or you will lose your listener.
– Be prepared, but don’t sound rehearsed.
– Expect to answer the question, “Tell me about yourself.”
– Remember that you are interviewing the company as well.
– Be prepared to expand on the information you provided in the resume.
– Always show up on time.
– Be honest but careful of what you are saying.
– When filling out a job application, be sure to read and follow the instructions.
– Be polite and positive.
– Research interview techniques and prepare.
– Listen carefully to the questions that are asked and answer the question.
– Maintain a positive and upbeat demeanor.
– Don’t go off on tangents.
– Be aware of your tone and body language.
– Establish rapport with the interviewer.
– Don’t interrupt the interviewer when she or he is speaking.
– Expect to be nervous.
– At the end of the interview, ask the interviewer what the next step will be.
– Know the organization’s needs and culture before the interview.
– Be yourself.
– Don’t speak negatively about your present or past employer.
– Be prepared to answer, “Why did you leave your last company?”.
– Wait until you are offered a seat before you sit down.
– Interact with the interviewer; don’t react.
– Pace yourself; if you need extra time to think of an answer, take it.
– Write down your thoughts of the interview immediately after it is over.

We need well rounded professionals

I read an article yesterday that made me think. I know, , , those of you who actually know me are saying to yourselves, “It’s about time you started thinking.”

Well, anyway, , , the article was about mentoring your employees.

It made several good points, but the essence of the message was that you need to develop your people in more than one or two areas, , , not just technically. What you ultimately want in an organization is a staff of well rounded IT professionals.

What this says is that they need the following investments from their manager:
1. Technical knowledge expertise (goes without saying, I guess)
2. IT organization mission and expectations you have of them
3. Company knowledge and why our company is so good
4. Industry knowledge and the part our company plays in this industry
5. Communication skills (IT people need help here more than most)
6. Client needs and issues (after all, we have a job because clients need us)
7. Client service skills (traits that creates great client relationships)
8. Vendor insights and how to work with vendors
9. IT policies and procedures (the things that help us support the business)
10. New technology trends
11. Project management skills (successful projects lead to IT credibility)

This is just a list of 11 areas where you need to develop knowledge and understanding in your employees. Believe me, IT people are hungry for information, , , it is hard to give them too much.

Invest in your employees and develop their insights and you will see great things come from them, and remember, , , don’t just focus on one thing, , , you need well rounded professionals to be highly successful.

Teach your employees how to troubleshoot a problem

You may be surprised to learn that many of your employees may not know how to troubleshoot client problems.

Let me give you an example. Many years ago I inherited a new IT organization to manage. When I got the responsibility, I knew of one client account that apparently had problems every month, , , their problems were sort of a legend within our company.

Sure enough, at the end of my first month the client CFO calls and asks for the support manager (that’s now me). They were encountering another problem, , , something that seems to happen every month from what he told me.

I asked questions to try and understand what was happening, but couldn’t get any real insight as to what the issue was, , , so I ended the phone call and called in my senior IT people.

I asked them about the situation. In a similar fashion, I heard a lot of generalities but nothing of substance that helped me understand what the real issues were.

We visit the client and conduct a simple assessment at the end of the next month and the problems occur again, but this time we are able to see and understand the cause and effect of what is going on.

The result is that we are able to identify 4 key issues that contribute to the problems this client was having, make recommendations on how to prevent them from happening, and when the client implements these preventive measures it solves the problems from occurring in the future.

The point with this is that my staff was an experienced group of technical people, smart, and conscientious. The problem is that they weren’t using a process to troubleshoot the problems and get to the root issues.

You can’t deal with problems if you do not know what the issues are.

Once we understand the specific issues, we can usually solve or prevent the problems. So, , , observe your employees and verify if they are actually troubleshooting problems so they get to the issues. If not, you probably need to teach them how to get to the bottom of the circumstance.

Positive energy

I’m a firm believer that positive attitudes create positive energy and that those around you feel it. Likewise, I think negative attitudes create negative energy and people feel that as well.

I’ve always tried to look at the “glass half full” as opposed to “half empty”. It’s the same situation, the difference is just how you look at it.

When our son had his car accident in 1993 and we almost lost him, it was the most terrible experience a parent can go through, , , but Dorine and I kept looking and thinking about the potential, , , and not about the terrible challenges Eddie was facing.

Today, it’s 17 years after the accident and Eddie still has physical challenges and a significant short term memory loss, , , he can’t remember something that happened 30 minutes ago. But the upside is that his long term memory is intact and strong.

Eddie never has a bad day, , , something that is amazing to us considering his physical challenges and pain he deals with. But it’s true, he is the most positive person I know, , , maybe it has something to do with short term memory loss.

The point is that Dorine and I stayed positive and kept encouraging Eddie during the darkest of times. I could tell you hundreds of stories that still give me chills of joy and some that caused grave concern at the time.

We believe that our positive attitudes are what helped Eddie recover to the level he has and why he is such an inspiration to so many. Everyone who meets Eddie seems to be drawn to him because of his positive attitude, , , he truly has an aura of positive energy.

Positive attitudes really do work. We have seen it over and over again in our personal and professional lives.

As an IT manager, it’s important for you to stay positive and to encourage others. Your attitude sets the tone in your organization. If you are not positive and positive energy doesn’t come from you, it’s very hard, if not impossible, for your team to be positive.

Treat every day as a new day and a fresh start. Go into work with positive thoughts and look forward to the challenges that will come up today. Remember, if there weren’t challenges and problems, they probably wouldn’t need you and your position in the company.

Positive energy is a contagious thing, , , create positive energy and watch others respond to it.

Best of success.