Category Archives: Leadership

The Hiring Paradox

This article discusses why hiring good people is even more diffiucult during these rough economic times. Good read, it reaffirms my beleif that you should be striving to hire the A-team always and never settle for the B or C players.
http://blog.summation.net/2009/03/why-hiring-is-paradoxically-harder-in-a-downturn.html

Hard Realities for Soft(ware) Companies

I felt compelled to post this great article about leadership during a recession. I am definitely concerned about the state of the economy especially since I work in a small office. The upside is that I see this as an opportunity to compete against big organizations who do the same thing at a bigger price tag.


Hard Realities for Soft(ware) Companies

Pushing the envelope

We’ve just completed 2 back to back projects with tight deadlines over a 3 month stretch. This has been an extremely demanding period, I haven’t been through anything like this since Y2K! The team was asked to deliver on extremely tight deadlines and put in a substantial amount of over time hours and weekends. We we’re successful but it came at a cost, the team is tired and generally grumpy.

I’ve drawn some interesting observations from this experience:

1. When deadlines are tight you need to manage the team closely. You need to set daily objectives and make deadlines and priorities very clear. I found doing stand up scrum meetings with all stakeholders once a day very effective. Avoid the temptation to stand over people’s shoulders and nag them.

2. You need to let people vent. People are going to get frustrated or even angry. They will want to blame somebody or somebody’s mistake for getting them into a tight deadline. You just need to listen, let them get it off their chest. They will feel better and will appreciate your attention. Avoid telling them to suck it up, but instead give them the truth about why we need to do this and what happens if we fail. Be sure to cut them off if they get disrespectful, you need to make sure it stays professional.

3. You need to stay positive. Your attitude will be reflected by those in your team. If your team sees you being down or negative they will loose their motivation and work will slow right down.

I can’t say that I was perfect during this period, but I gave it my best. One of the big reasons I write this blog is to reflect on my successes and my mistakes and learn from them.

Nine behaviours that could wreck an IT manager’s career

I came across a great article in ITBusiness.ca about the behavior IT managers should avoid. The idea of focusing on talent vs resources really hit home with me. In the fast paced web dev / agency world the difference between good and great is not about how many resources you have but in fact what type of talent you have.

Check our the whole article here: http://www.itbusiness.ca/it/client/en/home/news.asp?id=49498

Do’s and Don’ts when you’re the new guy

There are some things you should and should not do when you are the new guy at a company. They seem obvious when you write them down but not so much when you are in the middle of it.

1. Storming the gates – You hit the ground at your new company; you’re on an adrenaline rush. You feel empowered and special; you’ve been hand picked to bring peace to this troubled place. You take aim at the easy targets and pull the trigger. You later realize that the thing you’ve just obliterated is a beloved tradition of the people. You’ve now gone from hero to zero. The compulsion to show immediate value to your superiors is very strong and hard to ignore. Remember you must win the hearts and minds of the people before they will let you lead them. Be careful what you do in those first weeks; your focus should be on building relationships and understanding the culture.

2. Knowing what to ignore – A beloved mentor from my past taught me this when I was a new manager (thanks Brad!). At any job there is usually more information coming at you in a day than you can possibly handle; email, meetings, walk-ups, articles etc… The key to success is knowing what to ignore. It’s OK to delete an email if it does not pertain to you or does not require any action on your part. Avoid meetings that you do not add value to, though you should be mindful of other people’s feelings (Remember: don’t storm the gates…). Have your priorities straight and focus on what you need to do. Managers often neglect key priorities and or their employees because they are spending too much time in pointless meetings, responding to email or doing work they should be delegating. David Allen wrote a book called “Getting Things Done” It’s all about “processing” the huge amounts of information that’s thrown at us in a given day. The author suggests having a system for managing all this input. Your job is to work the system and not to let outside things distract you from your core objectives.

3. Have a plan – I spent my first few weeks at my new job diagnosing the issues and documenting problems. I addressed immediate issues as best as I could. For the rest I formulated a 12 month road map that walked the team through where we were today and where we needed to be in 12 months. I distributed to the team and gathered feedback; it’s important that everyone buys into the vision. Having a plan helps you organize and understand your goals. It’s a great vehicle for communicating those objectives to everyone else. I review the plan weekly and asses whether I’m making progress and whether the plan needs to be adjusted. Finally, I review the plan once a month with the team and check off the completed milestones. The trick is staying focused. 4 months in to the plan things should be moving along quite nicely; it’s easy to loose focus at this point. This is probably a good time to refresh the plan and kick it off again.

Getting started…

I’ve recently joined a downtown Toronto digital media agency. It’s a very different place from the usual stuffy corporate IT shops that I’ve worked in throughout my career. It’s very creative, very cool and very manic. Don’t get me wrong, this place has some of the most talented people I’ve ever worked with. From the top down everyone is talented, creative and committed. The mania is a result of the evolutionary stage this organization is in. Bruce Tuckman proposed the “Forming-storming-norming-performing” model of team development in 1965. This organization was clearly in the storming phase. The company was about 7 years old and had grown from roughly 4 people to over 50. They had recently been acquired by a huge corporate media company and were in the process of transitioning to that companies standards and practices. Clearly the future was bright. My job is to run the software development team.

When I got here the team was in shambles; 2 people had quit in the 2 weeks prior to my arrival and 2 more quit in my first 2 weeks. I now had 3 developers and a tonne of work. Ironically, everybody’s reason for leaving was that there was too much work, too little time and too little appreciation for their efforts. On the upside the people I had left were extremely talented, passionate and had the support of senior management. There was some hope! Clearly I had a lot of work to do.