Tag Archives: teamwork

How significant is positive attitude?

phoneI was in a non-business setting with several people I know not long ago. It was during the holidays and a young man who was in the group started commenting about a phone call he had with his manager that morning.

What I heard bothered me.

What he described was that his manager called him to ask some questions about a client situation they had. It was a normal work day but the young man was on vacation following a major holiday.

He then proceeds to almost boast to our little informal group that he made absolutely sure his manager understood, “he was on vacation”. The assumption seemed to be, “I don’t do company work when I’m on vacation.”

I don’t know what you think about this, but my thought was, , ,

WOW !!!

I immediately put myself in this young fellow’s manager’s shoes and thought about what he must be thinking if this kid actually made these statements and in the tone he stated he did.

Again, , , ,   WOW !!!

I want to see this young man succeed, but he is going to struggle with this kind of attitude. His whole demeanor came across as sarcastic and negative, , , arrogant even. That’s what I heard and I’m sure it’s what his manager heard, , , again if he used the same bravado tone and words that he expressed in our group.

Maybe he was trying to boast to us a bit that, “he is in charge” and didn’t actually have the conversation the way it sounded. Hopefully that’s what it was because I can assure you his manager made a note in the back of his mind about the young man “not being a team player” if he did.

Let me put in some context to all of this:

  • I know the young man but don’t really know much about what he does other than it has to do with technology.
  • I don’t know the manager nor do I have any idea as to whether he is a good manager or a weak one.
  • I know nothing about the situation that precipitated the call.

So, I don’t know very much about the situation, , , but what I do know a little bit about is managing people and how managers tend to view things.

My reaction is simple. The young man in question is making a big mistake.

I’ll give the manager the benefit of the doubt and assume he is a reasonably decent manager. If so, here are some thoughts from a management perspective:

  • We don’t call our employees when they are on vacation unless we have an emergency or maybe the employee is the only person who has information we truly need before he gets back.
  • Managers are looking for team players who “step up” when the opportunity presents itself.
  • None of us want to abuse our employees. We want them to take vacation and time off so they can recharge the batteries.
  • Calling someone on vacation is usually a last resort to an important situation.
  • We look for people with “can do” attitudes, not people who complain and make life difficult.
  • “Can do” people get ahead; difficult people do not.

I’m concerned that this young guy won’t advance as much as he could if he maintains this negative attitude. He seems to be capable technically, but the best technical people are not always the people who get ahead.

Positive attitude, teamwork and people skills are just as important, if not more so, than strong technical skills.

Part of what I heard in the discussion was that our young man knows the technology and feels empowered by it, , , even so much as thinking he can put his manager in his place and almost chastising him for daring to call him while on vacation.

This is a false assumption, , , eventually the employee loses if that’s the case. The reason is simple, , , we have a job to do and at times very challenging work that can be stressful. Managers are looking for positive contributors and team players. Ultimately, this manager will not be held captive by his employee no matter how capable he is with the technology.

I can tell you that I would do two things with an employee who responded the way this young man stated he did:

  1. Coach him on a few things:
    1. How this comes across, , , i.e., negatively
    2. There are business reasons why a call to him while on vacation might be necessary
    3. Explain what the business implications are if he can’t be reached
    4. Talk about how we get him out of being a “silo of information” so we don’t need to call him on vacation
  2. Start identifying my backup plan so we aren’t at risk if we lose him

Managers want their employees to be successful, , , but we won’t be held hostage by a great technical person who can’t be a positive force on the team. Teamwork rules because without it the entire organization fails.

In summary, positive attitude and teamwork are key, , , maybe two of the most important aspects of what helps you get ahead. It doesn’t mean you can be technically incompetent, but given the choice of two people who are technically competent and one that is positive and the other is negative and difficult to work with, , , who do you think gets further ahead?

Yep, , , the positive force and the person who understands the importance of teamwork.

Positive attitude can make all the difference.

IT people must be aware of something. Our personalities are often skeptical of others and we prefer to do things ourselves, , , not necessarily teamwork traits. It’s important for career success to be a positive contributor and avoid confrontation when possible.

When challenges occur, , , look for positives in the situation, , , not the negatives. It will reward you in the long run because people around you will notice the upbeat, consistently positive attitude you have even under duress.

Teamwork is not automatic in IT

21 SecretsThis is an excerpt from my new book, 21 Secrets Every IT Manager MUST Know

SECRET #8 – Teamwork must be developed

It goes without saying that you need strong teamwork to become a successful IT organization, but did you know teamwork is not a natural thing for IT employees?

Probably not, so let me explain.

teamwork1You see, over 90% of us in IT have two personality traits that actually work against teamwork to an extent.

First, almost all of us are technically oriented (a good thing), independent, goal oriented, and self-starters.

Most of these traits are good, especially as technicians or technology experts. However, this independent trait can be a challenge when it comes to working well with others.

In addition, over 90% (virtually everyone in IT) are high detail, , , also a good thing, , , you would think. For the most part, it is good, but one of the aspects of a high detail person is that they “like to do things their way”.

Let me get to the essence of what I’m driving toward. Technology attracts a certain type of individual and people with consistent personality traits. These traits summed up would describe an IT individual as someone who:

  • Likes to work independently and on his own
  • Wants to be precise and do things his way
  • Doesn’t like to communicate outside of his inner circle

The bottom line, , ,

teamwork is not a natural or easy thing for IT employees

High detail people can dig their heels in and become stubborn about how things are done. IT people are smart and they have strong opinions about things, , , it can be a real challenge to build teamwork for an inexperienced IT manager.

Don’t get me wrong here, , , IT people are conscientious and want to do a good job, but most want to do it a certain way, , , and that would be, , , their way.

What this means for an IT manager is that you have to build teamwork in your organization, , , that’s right, it is up to you to make it happen because it’s not going to happen automatically.

The good news is that building teamwork and camaraderie is the most fun aspect of being an IT manager, , , at least, I think it is.

I used to coach my teams a lot about, “We will succeed as a team; if the team fails none of us will be successful.”

The key is to create focus and coach your employees on working together positively.

Focus is provided by creating an IT strategy, running projects like projects, and delivering solid employee performance plans and reviews. When you deliver these, you always want to reinforce teamwork and the positive benefits of working together as a team.

Another opportunity to reinforce teamwork is when you have staff meetings. I like to hold them at least once a month and in every meeting there is something to reinforce the importance of teamwork.

I joined a company to run their IT operation of some 35 employees. They lived in two different cities and it was obvious there were teamwork issues with the groups.

Shortly after joining the company I held an IT Kickoff Meeting to bring them all together and to refocus everyone to our company’s mission and the IT strategy I built to support this mission. The meeting had a key theme – TEAMWORK.

To have some fun, we divided the groups into three teams (Managers, City#1, & City#2) and created a competition among them to stress the importance of teamwork. Each team had to do a short skit (a play of sorts) that emphasized the teamwork message. Our management team presented a message of,

canoe row together“Put your oars in the water and row together, and we will be successful.”

The bottom line here is that teamwork occurs when managers cause it to happen, , , it doesn’t happen all on its own.

Teamwork is difficult for IT employees

Teamwork is essential for your IT organization to succeed. None of us would question it.

But did you ever consider that teamwork is not a basic trait in your IT staff. In fact, working on and within a team is a challenge for most of your IT people.

Here is why.

90% are independent, self starters who are goal oriented. Did you hear me say, “independent“?

Also, more than 90% are high detail people who like to do things their way. They are control oriented people who like to do the work themselves and have things done “their way”.

These two issues are not exactly made for teamwork. In fact, they can work against good teamwork.

Does this mean IT employees can’t be good team players? Certainly not, , , but it is important for IT managers to understand that it’s not a natural thing for 90% of your staff who have these two traits  —  independent and high detail.

What this means is that the IT manager must work hard to ensure teamwork is created in your organization and people know how to become good team players. As an IT manager, you want to reinforce teamwork and client service  all the time.

Help your IT staff understand that “we will all be successful together”. If the IT organization (the team) is not successful, there won’t be any successful individuals. It’s about the team, , , not about the individual. When the team is successful, we can all achieve success.

In a functional team, people have very specific assignments and responsibilities. They know how to do their jobs and when everyone succeeds in their work, the team succeeds. Failure in any area can cause the team to fail so people need the tools and knowledge to do their job and you as manager must be certain all things necessary for success are addressed.

People need to look out for one another, , , and help one another. It’s very difficult for someone who is highly independent and goal oriented to want others to succeed or to be the hero. We want those accolades for ourselves.

Learning how to become cooperative and eager to help others succeed is a key strategy you want to reinforce with your team, , , even reward this behavior when you see someone exhibit it.

You have to teach your IT staff fundamentals, , , like a football coach teaches blocking and tackling. Fundamental skills like teamwork, project management, communication, and client service are essential for your success.

Don’t forget to look at yourself when you think about this, , , 90% of all IT managers are also independent and high detail people.

Put your oars in the water and row together

You don’t get very far in life unless you put all your oars in the water and row together.

You sort of have two choices, , , float along with the current and you will end up somewhere downstream, , , but probably not where you want to go.

The other choice is to put your oars in the water and focus on your destination to go right to it. Put all the oars in and row together and you will get there even faster.

My management team did a short skit (a play) many years ago to show our employees what we mean by “working together”. I even gave them a souvenir to remember the event, , ,  a short oar, actually a boat paddle , , , still have mine in my office.

Teamwork is not an easy thing for many of your people. Over 90% of them are independent and like to do things their way and do it themselves, , , not the best recipe for creating a team player.

It’s up to the IT manager to help your employees learn how to work as a team and discover how valuable it is when you do.

Go get ’em.