Manage & Coach

Manage & Coach
How do you hold your direct reports accountable for training/developing their reports?

Top Answer : Top down goals process tailored to each role

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IT certifications are overrated.

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What advice would you give IT leaders struggling to recruit talent?

Top Answer : When you look at the actual recruiting process internally, consider how the Marines approach acquiring talent. The Marines have all these recruiting centers dotted all around the country for hiring, and one of the greatest accomplishments that a Marine can attain is to be asked to staff one of those locations, and to recruit. This is considered one of the greatest honors. It is not considered the punishment that many other organizations make of recruiting. In other words, put in the right reward mechanism internally to communicate that there's nothing more important than attracting, identifying, and onboarding talent. That is a way that we can help move the needle. I've been in organizations where the recruiting was an absolute joke. And I've been in other organizations where it's been incredibly impressive and I've learned a lot from their recruiting process. And when you contrast those two organizations, the outcomes that they enjoy from the way they approach the recruiting process are dramatically different. There are ways to improve the process. When you have a candidate coming in, there's not enough thought put into getting the recruiting team organized ahead of time, and making sure everybody is aware of how they'll approach the recruiting process, and then afterwards, doing the debrief in a timely fashion. In some organizations, the candidate says, "I was supposed to meet with this person. They never showed up." No one even bothered to tell that candidate that the interview wasn't going to be there. So it's a multi-layered issue and we have a responsibility to take the process seriously.

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What strategies can IT leaders use to make a transformation initiative successful?

Top Answer : It's such a people-driven process, but it's our role as technologists to actually educate and drive it that way and I don't think we do enough. Enterprise customers—especially the massive Fortune 500 companies—are the ones that I see as having the biggest challenges, and it’s not because they don't have the talent or the money. Being a Fortune 500 company proves they have enough money; they just don't understand that it's a cultural change that is needed. For example, we have to start by changing how we do portfolio management and financials, so can we stop funding projects and start funding products with a roadmap? And can we change the conversation to business outcomes that are measurable instead of tasks being completed or the deployment of a new feature that has brought no tangible benefit to customers? It's definitely about focusing more on the people and process. As technology executives, we know that better than anybody else and we don't do enough.

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Leadership Under PressureLeadership Under Pressure

Leadership pressure: What are the causes and how do leaders cope, especially during a generational crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic?

What strategies have you used to cushion the blow when saying “no” to projects?

Top Answer : When you tell someone they can't do something, they get incredibly creative about doing it. So you need to be really careful about what you just say no to because by saying no, you might make it worse for yourself down the line. But it’s about having real relationships and conversations with your peers. You have to ensure that you also understand what's going on a level or two below you in those relationships, because you can say all the right things and if your team isn't doing it beneath you, it's not real.

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Do you have a mentor within your organization?

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If you have implemented an unlimited PTO benefit in your company, how did you roll it out? I am hearing more and more companies that advertise this to attract talent.

Top Answer : This question intrigued me so I decided to do a quick search on which companies offer unlimited PTO.  These companies are almost exclusively in the tech industry or are industry disruptors. Reading through some of the policies, this policy from Roku resonates most with me.  TL;DR "Get your job done and we don't care how much time you take off." “We believe you can be highly productive at work and still have plenty of time for life outside of the office. That's why we offer a generous time-off policy. In fact, for salaried employees, we don't track vacation or have official holidays. Instead, you can take as much vacation as you think is appropriate, as long as you get your job done and don't impact the team's work.”

What should IT leaders consider when trying to increase retention of their remote workforce?

Top Answer : One thing that will be different about remote/hybrid working in the future is that hopefully we won’t be in a pandemic. Right now we speak about remote working as if we'll never see each other in person. But the truth is that's not 100% true, even if you are a remote employee. I plan on meeting my team periodically. It will be interesting to have these conversations in a year when things are back to normal or almost back to normal.

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Pulse Flash Read: Morale-as-a-Service?

There’s a lot of talk about IT leaders transitioning into business leaders, especially as the remote workforce situation gets dragged on into what’s starting to feel like forever. Classical representations of IT leaders tell us that emotional intelligence has perhaps not often been identified as their standout ability. While CIOs have been (hopefully) busy working on their emotional intelligence (by watching
TEDTalks, presumably), IT has increasingly turned to SaaS and outsourcing for many of the processes that used to be handled internally. A savvy CIO might be tempted to ask, could there be a SaaS that can help with the well-being of my remote team? It turns out that there are, and yet no one seems to have coined this obvious new marketable tool category: welcome to ‘Morale-as-a-Service’.  There’s an old adage that too often goes overlooked: customer service begins with employees. A motivated and enthusiastic team, driven by a positive mindset, translates to every customer interaction; it’s company culture personified into touch points. This feeling has recently morphed into the idea of ‘employee experience’, and, indeed, even the ‘Chief Employee Experience Officer’. But how do we know what the employee experience truly is?  We’ve become better at measuring the conversions of touch points and engagements into sales through click-throughs and open rates. Can we also measure morale? Some vendors think so. Culture Amp basically offers a continuous deployment platform for overseeing employee engagement and development, offering internal ‘Pulse’ (ahem) surveys that dive deep into employee psychology. Officevibe offers something called ‘Conversation Engine’, which saves managers time by outsourcing talking points, plus a suite of other features designed to engineer interaction into ‘actionables’—and they also offer ‘Pulse’ surveys (what is going on here?). There’s also TINYPulse (seriously?) that comes right out and promises that you’ll be able to “read employee thoughts and feedback in real time” (which we can only hope isn't actually true, but give the tech a few more years). Meanwhile, Achievers has trademarked something called ‘Culture Continuity’ as part of a three-pronged platform that assists teams to build a culture, ‘activate employee engagement in real-time’ and apply ‘data science’ to improve performance.  These vendors all promise metrics that sound desirable to team leaders, such as the ability to measure ‘happiness’ along trend lines. Who wouldn’t want that? The thing is, all the testimonials advocating for the software come from the team leads. It'd be interesting to hear more about the employee experience. Regardless, capturing employee morale should pique the CFO’s interest... When wellbeing metrics can be lined up against conversions and performance, they can be used to convince the CFO and the board to invest in measures that keep morale on the up; if there’s a demonstrable upswing on ROI, the checkbook may stay open. But there’s some murky potential here. If morale comes to be viewed solely as a metric of performance and ROI, the classic capitalist switch can be flipped to demand growth of that metric. Morale must be optimized. Morale-boosting factors must be iterated on. Those employees whose morale is lacking must be… let go? It’s logical to see a 1984 situation playing out with this. If employees can smile through physical/Zoom meetings they’d rather not be in, they can keep up that facade when they know the company wants to ‘measure’ their happiness. If morale can be accurately measured, that’s awesome. But the focus of those measurements should remain on the employees’ genuine well-being. If the business becomes obsessed with optimizing and rewarding morale for business gains, employees may learn what the stakes are and game the system—to the detriment of themselves and the organization: keep smiling through the grimace of another sleepless night hitting those KPIs until companies start wondering why morale scores are so high but the employee churn rate keeps spiralling upwards.  If metrics are what it takes to land some investment for improving employee experience, so be it. And if it actually helps identify employee pain points and improve on them, fantastic. But at the end of the day, the biggest factor that keeps morale up might be remembering that employees are humans—and humans need to feel crappy sometimes. They need to rest. They need to spend time making and eating nourishing food. That can be acknowledged in-house, at zero cost. Technology might be able to augment our understanding of morale, and even provide a framework for how leaders can manage it. But making morale-building an entirely tech-led process might end up missing the simple human requirements of what ‘employee experience’ is aiming for. Keep watching those Ted Talks. 

Have you invested in any ‘Morale-as-a-Service’ tools? Share your morale-boosting success stories, tech or otherwise, in the comments.

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