Another Example of Difference Between a Manager and a Leader

While reading about project management, I saw this diagram helping to illustrate the differences between management and leadership. While many people don’t understand the difference, as a person assigned the task of management you should understand the difference.

In my earlier post of this subject, I laid out the logic that helps illustrate the difference.

A manager threatens punishment for poor behavior, and provides rewards for good behavior. A leader inspires people by telling them what can be accomplished, and helps guide them to a common goal, pushing those people to stretch their abilities so they can do great things to help the team reach that common goal. A leader lifts their followers by building on their abilities and guiding them toward the right direction.

Tips for Leading IT Remotely

As the remote workforce has become the “new normal”, IT leadership has had to adjust to the new requirements around how they must continue to lead an effective technology team from home. While things will continue to change as vaccines are administered and people are allowed more freedom to return to the workplace, things will probably never be the same as before a global pandemic forces millions of people away from the traditional office workspace and they began working full-time from their homes.

An effective leader must learn to identify changes and determine the best techniques for dealing with change.  Successfully adapting to change is something leaders must do all the time, and the recent work-from-home mandates are just another change to navigate to keep the business moving forward.

When employees are unsure about procedures, processes, and requirements it is imperative that leaders step forward to provide guidance and instruction to help people successfully navigate changes with minimal stress and uncertainty.  As a member of IT leadership, you must provide strong leadership in times of uncertainty and confusion.

Here are some tips for helps you team stay productive in a remote work environment, even if working remote is no longer temporary.

Continue reading “Tips for Leading IT Remotely”

11 Things A New IT Manager Must Do On The First Day

11 things a new IT Manager must do on the first day.


Updated: Includes notes for COVID-19 Protocols for remote working

Congratulations, you have found a new job as an IT Manager. This new job could be leading a software development team, managing a group of system administrators, leading the cybersecurity team, or any other management position in the IT group. How you approach your first day at the new company will make a huge difference, putting you on the path to success or making your new role a struggle. You may not have been promoted to a management position at your last company, so you might not have any experience starting at a new company as a manager.

Don’t let you title go to your head. Don’t begin ordering people around and watching their every move. Act like a professional, observe team actions, and strive to understand before you recommend any changes. Many people have made career-killing mistakes by failing to adapt to a different way of doing things at a new company. Even if you have been with your current company for a long time, you are now at a different organizational level at a new company and you will need to learn about the new management culture to be truly successful.

Continue reading “11 Things A New IT Manager Must Do On The First Day”

11 Things An IT Manager Must Do On The First Day


Congratulations, you have found a new job as an IT Manager. This new job could be leading a development team, managing a group of developers, or any other management position in the IT group. How you approach your first day at the new company will make a huge difference, putting you on the path to success or making your new role a struggle. You may have been promoted to a management position at your last company, so you might not have any experience starting at a new company as a manager.

Don’t let you tile go to your head. Don’t begin ordering people around and watching their every move. Act like a professional, observe actions, and strive to understand before you recommend any changes. Many people have made career-killing mistakes by failing to adapt to a different way of doing things at a new job. Even if you have been with your current company for a long time, you are now at a different organizational level and you will need to learn about the management culture to be truly successful.

Continue reading “11 Things An IT Manager Must Do On The First Day”

Output is Better

You work hard. You know you work hard, your co-workers know you work hard, and your customers know you work hard. No one cares that you are working hard. What really matters is output. What have you gotten done? It has been shown through numerous studies that people will feel more value in a process that seems more difficult. People feel vacuums are more powerful if they are louder, cars are more powerful if the engine makes more noise, and that software must be really powerful if it took you more than a couple of 10 hour shifts to develop.

But the key to happiness is getting work done without so much effort. One of the things that is supposed to be a benefit of experience is things are supposed to get easier with age. Don’t fool yourself into believing that working harder is working better. What lessons have you learned that can make your job easier? If it is still taking you the same amount of time to do most of your tasks, you have to ask what you are doing wrong.

Continue reading “Output is Better”

10 Things An IT Manager Must Do On The First Day


Congratulations, you have found a new job as an IT Manager. This new job could be leading a development team, managing a group of developers, or any other management position in the IT group. How you approach your first day at the new company will make a huge difference, putting you on the path to success or making your new role a struggle. You may have been promoted to a management position at your last company, so you might not have any experience starting at a new company as a manager.

Continue reading “10 Things An IT Manager Must Do On The First Day”

13 Skills Every Manager Needs

If you have attended any classes or seminars on leadership or management, you have been trained on how to manage people and time, but you probably didn’t get much content on how to actually be a leader of people. Leadership is primarily providing an example of how you want people to behave by demonstrating integrity, high self-esteem, and overall confidence in purpose.

If you are interested in becoming an effective leader, look to demonstrate these skills to persuade and guide your team.

Continue reading “13 Skills Every Manager Needs”

5 Reasons Your Best People Might Quit in 2017

As a manager, you have to be thinking about the people that work for you all year long, but the first of the calendar year can be a time when some of your people decide to make a career move.

Understanding their motives and reasoning for this thinking, you have to look at the most common reasons for moving to a new job.

  1. Lack of Communication – Good communication can mean different things to different people. Some people might need much more face-time than some of your other people. This is a significant risk at the end of the year when the traditional holiday season might distract your team and prevent the same level of communication as they might get during the rest of the year. If you’ve been neglecting your team, apologize to them explain how you plan to be a better communicator this year.
  2. No Transparency – We all say we value transparency and make everyone to be authentic and honest. We need to look at how we communicate with our team and make sure we are keeping them in the loop about what is happening in the company. While everyone understands their must be some information they just can’t know about today, your team must feel you aren’t keeping secrets from them. Verify you use clear and open communication with everyone on your team, and stress that they can come to you about any concerns they have.
  3. Boredom – It can be easy to keep your best people assigned to perform the the same tasks every day. You can’t wait for someone on your team to request new or challenging tasks. You should be constantly nudging your team members to do something new or something that makes them unsure about their skills. Great employees want to be challenged and you want great employees. Look for ways to force individuals to expand their skills or use their skills in a different way.
  4. Flexibility – People are always looking for more flexibility in the way management deals with them and their relationship with the company. This includes the ability to work remotely, the ability to use new tools, or a desire to explore more workplace perks. Talk to your people and make sure you understand what is important to them and them work help make it possible.
  5. Stagnation – While some people are perfectly happy in their current position, many want to grow and learn new skills so they can seek promotion and greater responsibility. You will need to find a way to help them grow by providing constant feedback and, when possible, a mentor to help your people realize their dreams.

5 Tips for Dealing with Project Manager Stress

Most people know that the role of Project Manager is one of the most stressful jobs, because they are directly responsible for the success of a project and accountable for any delays. Some Project Manager actively cope with their high level of stress, but there are still someProject Managers who are ignoring the problem. Stress can impact you ability to perform at your best, and it can have a negative impact on your personal health and family life.

People might not able to alter the amount of stress a daily basis, but they can change how they deal with it.

  1. Prioritize – Determine what is truly important by creating a priority matrix and assigning every task an urgency and importance. Focus on the tasks that are urgent and important, and learn to let the little stuff go until your attention is required.
  2. Measured Reactions – Don’t react to events and allow your emotions to control your personality. If something bad happens, force your mental reaction to truly match the severity of the event. Not everything is a disaster, some events are just annoyances, and you should deal with them that way.
  3. Exercise – There are numerous studies that show exercise can help reduce your level of stress, and it has positive health benefits. Don’t look at exercise as as an option when you have time. You should schedule time to exercise just like any other project task.
  4. Stop Endless Debates – Discussing the pros and cons of an issue can be helpful it determining the best course of action or your project team. If you find yourself in an endless debate on what is best, surrender the battle and move on to the next problem. This will help lower your stress and conserve your energy to fight a different battle on another day. Know when to say when and stop fighting.
  5. Don’t “Over Think” Events – Don’t allow your mind to churn through all the “what ifs” or possible options, because that will just keep you stressing over events and worrying if you choose the best option. Focus on right now and them move on to the next issue so your mind doesn’t get stuck wondering about possible actions and building useless stress.

10 Ways Project Manager can Earn the Respect of Their Team

As a project manager, you may not care if you are liked but you do care if you are respected. How do you earn the respect and trust of your team?

  1. Acknowledge Ignorance – If you don’t know the answer to a question asked by your team, don’t make up an answer.  Your team will respect you much more if you tell the truth and offer to find an answer than if you are caught lying about knowing something that later turns out to be untrue.
  2. Treat People as Adults – You team members my act childish at times, but you are not their parent. You are the project manager assigned to get business done. If you feel like someone needs some constructive feedback, treat them as you would want to be treated and show them respect.
  3. Don’t Stereotype – Don’t assume you know about someone based on prior experience or by grouping all people together as the same because of they have the same job, same skills, or same background. Nothing kills respect faster than you assuming everyone is the same and acting like you have someone figured out without getting to know the individual.
  4. Make Yourself Useful – People respect someone who adds value to the project. If all you are to the project team is someone who shows up asking for a status report, you don’t have any perceived value to the team. When meeting with the team, start by asking them about the work they are doing, what tasks they need more information about, or what you can do that will help them get their work done on time. Be someone they know they can call if they need help, someone who cares about their problems, and the person who can offer possible solutions.
  5. Allow Wasted Time – No person can work at 100% all day everyday and not burn out. If you expect your team to do that you should also expect to never hit your deadlines and have a high turnover rate. Don’t expect your team to work at 100%, except when it is absolutely required. Allow people time to think, research ideas, talk to the team about non-project items to build morale, and time to work on non-project related tasks.
  6. Solve Problems before the team is impacted – This is related to item #4, but don’t go to the team and tell them requirements have changed and we need to find a way to get the new work done on the old timeline. You, the project manager, need to have formulated a plan to get the new work done on an acceptable timeline and present the new plan to the team in a way they understand this is the best possible plan with the least impact to their tasks. They will respect you as a problem solver looking out for their best interests.
  7. Facilitate Communication – A a representative for the company and the customer’s problems, you need to bring ideas and facts to the conversation about how to handle problems or resolve team conflicts. Amplify the best solutions, bring everyone to the discussions, and embrace good alternate ideas. You shouldn’t care if you had an idea first, just who has the best idea. Give credit to the team member with the idea that solves a problem, even if you had to do most of the work to turn the idea into an actual solution.
  8. Embrace Success – If you only focus on the tasks that are late or the budget overages, the team will always have the sense that they can never be successful or will ever meet your tough expectations. Make sure you know what is going well and you communicate that success to your team and to your management. There will always be those times when things don’t go well and the team needs to do better, but don’t always focus on the bad news.
  9. Stick to Your Guns – You know what is right and what is wrong, and don’t do something wrong for the wrong reasons. Work with your team and always be looking for ways to help your team do more, but don’t allow someone to talk you into taking a shortcut that will eventually make you or the team look foolish. This includes illegal or unethical actions. The Project Manager is supposed to stand between the team and corporate management to protect the team from stupid ideas, just make sure you are fighting for the right reasons.
  10. Have Fun – Don’t forget that you need to have the ability to enjoy your job and have fun. If you are stressed and hating your job, the team will detect that unhappiness and start emulating your bad attitude. That can destroy the team and even make them not respect you.

Did I forget to put anything on the list? Let me know in the comments.

10 Things An IT Manager Must Do On The First Day


Congratulations, you have found a new job as an IT Manager. This new job could be leading a development team, managing a group of developers, or any other management position in the IT group. How you approach your first day at the new company will make a huge difference, putting you on the path to success or making your new role a struggle. You may have been promoted to a management position at your last company, so you might not have any experience starting at a new company as a manager.

  1. Greet Everyone – Say hello to everyone you meet, making sure you make eye contact with each person and don’t forget to smile. You will certainly want to greet everyone on your team, but you have to acknowledge that you will meet a lot of new people and it may be impossible to remember all the names and match them to faces later.
  2. Start Asking Questions – By talking to the team, you will start your discovery into what each person finds important. Your team needs to know that you are interested in what they do (professionally and personally) and that you are open to their comments, ideas, and suggestions.
  3. Listen – As you talk to each person, don’t forget to listen to what they are saying. To demonstrate you are listening, make eye contact and use supportive body language. Don’t be quick to offer suggestions or make recommendations for any changes. There will be plenty of time to think about improvements and recommend changes in the coming weeks or months.
  4. Be Positive – Never be critical about any other employee (this is your first day) or make any negative remarks about any previous employees. Sure, it will be easy to blame any issues on the last manager, but you want to convince your team that you are responsible for things going forward and you are not someone who will blame someone else for any issue. Acknowledge possible shortfalls, but remain positive.
  5. Identify Strengths – Look for what is being done correctly. Listen to what your team is doing and what you find impressive. Make sure to recognize those items as you discuss your first day experience with your boss so they can see you respect the hard work done by the team before you have arrived, and aren’t just looking for things you want to change.
  6. Solicit Ideas – As you meet people, including those not on your team, ask them what they like or dislike about IT in general, or your area of expertise specifically. One idea is to ask them if there is one thing they would like to change about the way IT provides service or about the job they perform. They might not have an answer, but they will see you as someone open to ideas and willing to talk about what isn’t working well.
  7. Talk to the Boss – If you haven’t already done so, make sure you set aside some time with your boss to review their expectations and understand how they will measure your success. Don’t assume the discussions during your interview included everything you need to know, so make sure you start on day one with a clear understanding of how they will determine if you are doing your job properly.
  8. Schedule Work Time – Don’t let being an manager, and performing management teaks, prevent you from scheduling time with your team to watch them perform their daily tasks, looking at the tools they are using, and reviewing how they utilize policies, procedures, or checklists. This will also give you a chance to see first-hand if they are swamped with telephone calls, the volume of trouble tickets, etc. Work with each member of our team to schedule a follow-up work observation session, being clear you want to observe a day-in-the-life for a hour or two to better understand their challenges.
  9. Have Fun – As difficult as it might seem on that first day, you need to enjoy the day. Don’t forget to smile, and if something funny happens you should laugh with everyone else. Even if you do something embarrassing, you have to laugh it off and keep a positive attitude.
  10. Say Goodnight – Make sure you say goodnight to your team, even if you are leaving before them. This will help in your team-building effort by bonding with your team.

While these are just general guidelines, some specific IT-related items you might also need to collect on that first day:

  • Organization Chart – This will be helpful later to identify those people you met on your first day. You might not remember their name, but you might know it was a manager in Marketing. Look up the position on the chart and how you have their name.
  • Telephone List – You need to get a list of office telephone numbers for the entire company, and the private numbers for your team members and boss. You will be expected to have the ability to contact everyone on your team at any time, and you may need to contact your boss at home during an emergency.
  • Network Diagram – This might be a little tougher to get depending on you position, but it will help you understand the size and scope of the infrastructure. You might set a substitute based on your role, but ask for everything and accept what you can get.
  • Server List – List of all servers, including names, ip addresses, purpose, operating system, etc. This is helpful in your effort to understand what systems are supported by the entire IT Department.
  • List of Applications – This includes third-party applications, custom applications, and cloud-based applications. This will be helpful in understanding what applications are important to your business, what support requirements exist, and what training opportunities might be available.
  • Process Documentation – You need access to all policies, procedures, guidelines, and checklists used in IT, but you may only get access based on your specific role. Ask for everything and accept what you can get. This will help you understand how things are supposed to be done, and when the documents were last updated. This will help you understand how important the documentation is to the team, which is important knowledge as you learn more about the team.
  • Keys – You need to make sure you have any physical keys, key codes, parking pass, or badge permissions you and your supervisor determine are important. This might also include the lobby doors, server room, storage areas, or off-site locations.
  • Network Permissions – Make sure you can log into your new computer and that you have access to email. If there are specific network folders, servers, email groups, or systems you need for your position make sure you verify you have access as soon as possible. It would be very embarrassing to announce you haven’t been getting any emails after you have been in your new job for over a week.
  • Work Schedule – If there is a published on-call or vacation schedule, make sure you have access so you can better understand everyone’s schedule and when your people might be out of the office.

Don’t forget to take lots of notes and try to make new friends.

Creating a Collaborative Team Culture

Building a successful team is the greatest thing a manager can do in business. You can’t have innovation without collaboration. To have a team that collaborates you must have an environment that encourages open and honest communication, transparent leadership, and using the correct tools.

Use the Proper Tools

People fear and resist change. Don’t let fear of change in your team, department, or company disrupt progress and true innovation. Get the correct tools that allows everyone to work together and make sure everyone uses the tools, which means making sure everyone gets the proper training. You know what tools they need, and it is your job to get those tools and make them available to your entire team.

Communication is Essential

You need to encourage you team to talk amongst themselves, but also with other people. Don’t be so quick to judge them when you seem them talking in the break room while getting a cup of coffee, or joking around with their co-workers by the copier. This communication can build friendships and emotional bonds within the company that makes formal project communications easier and helps fortify trust with their co-workers.

Transparent Leadership

People distrust people who keep things secret from them, and that is just human nature. If you want people to trust you, then you have to bring them into the conversation and share as much information with them as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have secrets, it just means you have to trust them before they can trust you. Tell your team as much as you can, and if they ask you about something you can’t discuss with them you just have to be honest and tell them you can’t talk about that right now.


Lead by example. Don’t ask your team to do anything you aren’t willing to do, and that includes collaborating. Be the example you people use when deciding how to collaborate. Listen to the concerns of your team and address those concerns with open and honest feedback.

Importance of Teamwork

We have heard about the importance of teamwork since grade school gym class. We all know that a team that works together is better than a group of people working towards their individual goals. As you look toward the impact of teamwork on businesses, the importance is usually measured in dollars. Numerous studies have been conducted to accurately measure the impact of teamwork on business profits, and the value of teamwork is well established.

More recently there have be studies as to what kinds of teams are most effective, and in this article by Denise Cummins PhD, we learn a little more about how important it is to have both males and females on an effective team. This is relevant because many technical teams are usually predominantly male. Teams that are diverse have been shown to outperform teams that are not diverse by a significant amount.

The research in this area seems to point to the following conclusions:

  • Teamwork improves output productivity and morale in work settings.
  • Gender-balanced teams routinely outperform men-only or women-only teams.
  • Both men and women devalue women’s contributions in teamwork projects.
  • Men’s careers benefit from collaborations with women because team successes are more likely to be attributed to men’s efforts, whether this is true or not.
  • In order for women to ensure that they receive fair credit for their work, women should work solo, collaborate only with other women, or ensure that their contributions are explicitly documented and acknowledged when working with men.

Creating Your Future Today

People have said “You can’t create your future with the tools of the past” to explain why technology is important. Unfortunately, most people can’t visualize what technology will be important for tomorrow, much less what technology might be invented to solve business problems in 10 or 20 years from now.

I have spent many years talking to non-technical business people, and they are sometimes trying to catch up with the technology of the past so they can’t be bothered to understand the latest and greatest technology of today. I find many non-technical people are still trying to figure out how to effectively use their smartphone, as an example, and can’t even begin to wrap their minds around augmented or virtual reality devices like Google Glass or HoloLens devices.

I was talking to a guy charged with understanding the technology options for his company so he could help communicate the changes to his 800 field managers, and he considered a new analysis service too complicated because it required him to access the service using his network username and password. He couldn’t jump the mental hurdle of logging into the service, something most of us have been doing for many years, to even evaluate the service to help determine if it was useful to his field managers.

Some of you might ask how this guy got into this important position if he finds logging into the network too difficult. I think you need to accept this isn’t that uncommon and then explore the not too obvious: his company is not unique or alone in this leadership problem. He was honest enough to share what he really thought, but the people you work with may not be so honest. Maybe they tell you the technology is unproven, too expensive right now, will require too much training to justify the cost, or isn’t powerful enough to meet their business needs. Are those just excuses because they can’t understand the technology?

When you go to your doctor, do you want him to use the technology and techniques he learned while in medical school, or do you want him to use the latest technology and techniques of today? You want a business to look at all the technology available today and select those items that are useful and important to make their business grow and be successful.

My point is that the people making the technology decisions for your company need to be prepared to use the technology of today to create the future of their company. Maybe you work at a company that embraces technology, but maybe your company is stuck in the past for a reason. Maybe the decision makers are unable to adopt new technology that might help their company be more successful.

What is a technology-focused person to do to solve this issue? What can you do to uncover this issue and solve the problem at your company?

  1. You need to identify the people standing in the way and help remove their metal barriers, educating them on why technology is important, and informing those that are reachable about what is possible with new technology.
  2. Target those people that you think are willing to learn about technology and then boost their access to the technology.
  3. Use your access to technology to get identified leaders access to the technology you think would be helpful to them and will be used to solve business problems.
  4. Tutor co-workers on why you think a specific new technology is important for solving the problems of today, and demonstrate there is a path to the future using a new technology.
  5. Be honest with yourself and the business leaders about any proposed technology.

Do you have any thoughts on solving this problem?


When to Terminate an Employee

Leadership means making tough decisions, even when it isn’t obvious to everyone that a decision needs to be made. While a lot of people hold onto employees way past their usefulness, a leader has to weigh the value of an employee against the risk of continuing their involvement with your team. You spent a lot of time picking the very best people to add to your team, so it can be a painful decision when it comes time to cut someone. What are the signs that tell you it is time to terminate a troublesome employee?

1. Argumentative

It is fine for an employee to feel passionate about a position that is important to the company or to their team, but it is a sad and destructive employee who argues because they have grown weary of their environment and argue for the simple act of releasing aggression. You have someone on your team likes to argue just to argue it’s a very good sign that it’s time for that employee to find a new challenge at a different company. This doesn’t mean you don’t talk to them first, coaching them towards a better attitude, but this is the type of employee that needs to quickly on your radar.

2. Indifference

Apathy is a huge problem that it not only prevents people from doing their jobs, it’s also very contagious. If the someone on your team has a problem, then you need to help them solve that problem or move to a new job.

3. Secretive

Sometimes, when you think they are talking about you they really are talking about you. If people get quite when you approach, or scatter when they see you headed their way, there is something secretive going on and that needs to stop. This could be the start of dissension and it tends to spread too quickly to manage. It’s best to get to the heart of the matter before that false information leads to problems on your team, so track down the source and put a quick stop to the troublemaker.

4. Hard to Find

If an employee is hard to find, and dressed up more than normal, it could mean he’s already looking for new employment. It could just mean someone is too busy with other activities to be effectively focused on working with the other members of your team. Either way, dodging regularly scheduled tasks is a sure sign you have an employee who feels he’s above and beyond the job. You risk other employees assuming unscheduled disappearing acts are allowed, or feeling they are held to a different standard. Everyone must follow the same rules or they must go be someone else’s problem.

5. Coasting

Sometimes it is your fault that someone is less productive than normal. You team members might be overloaded with projects or you have assigned them tasks that they unqualified or unable to make progress. Sometimes a drop in production can happen for no apparent reason, and that is when your attention must be focused on the culprit. If you can’t coach the slacker to increasing their output, it is time to move them off your team.

6. Disgruntlement

When you have someone on your team is disengaged and starts removing personal items from their desk, it is time to focus your attention on that employee. If you have someone who has decided they are unhappy and ready to leave, you either need to solve that problem quickly or cut them loose. This is a scenario that can turn from bad to dangerous quickly, and you need to protect your team from people with a bad attitude.

7. Demanding

Sometimes, when an employee becomes dissatisfied with either their assigned tasks or work environment they will start requesting things that aren’t realistic. You will need to judge these requests and decide if they are reasonable and possible, or things they are asking for to justify quitting. Cut your losses and stay focused on the members of your team focused on output.

8. Headstrong

It is fine to be sure of your position and argue that your choice of direction is the best possible solution, but sometimes you have to admit defeat and move to the next battle. There are those people that can not and will not surrender the battle and will want to continue the fight long after a victory is possible. Those are people that put the team solidarity at risk, tend to distract the team from priorities, and make you question if they are a positive influence to the rest of your company. If that problem can’t be resolved, you will have to let them go to their next challenge.


5 Leadership Tips for Managers

It doesn’t matter how great your people are, if you have employees you need to manage them. Effective leadership is one of the most important skills for a manager.

1. First Impressions

Effective leadership parts on the first day. You have spent a lot of time and effort to find and hire the perfect talent, so make sure their first day goes smoothly. How they see your company and your leadership will start that very first day. Will someone greet them on their first day with a smile and positive attitude? Who will provide their new-hire orientation, show them the first-day ropes, and make sure they get to lunch? Who will make sure they have everything they need to get going during that first day?

2. Clear Expectations

To prevent expensive turnover it is important to set crystal-clear guidelines for what you expect from your employees. Your team should always know what is expected from them at all times, and their annual review should contain no surprises. Clear and frequent communication with your team will make sure they stay on track and know exactly how well they are performing.

3. Delegation

The reason you have hired a new employee is to add a new set of hands so your team can do even more for the business. While there is a tendency to want to have your hands on everything, this is a recipe for burnout and ineffective leadership. Start by determining which tasks can only be done by you (say, forecasting or budgets), and then assign everything possible to your staff. Remember, when you delegate these tasks to your team you must consider your teams workload and skill sets so you don’t overwhelm them. Once you strike a balance between regular communication and micromanagement, you can really empower your team to own processes and take more responsibility. This will allow your team to feel more ownership in the company and that will translate into them doing a better job.

4. Development

Most people want to feel like they have growth opportunities at their place of work. This can be driven by adding more responsibility to each team members list of daily tasks, offering a promotion or bonus for exceptional performance, or additional training to improve their ability to do even more. You should also consider paying for additional certifications for employees who want to advance. It’s an investment, but it can lead to better educated workers.

5. Remove Obstructions

The easiest way to make sure your team is successful is for you to remove as many roadblocks as possible. Regularly ask your team what they need to do their jobs better or more efficiently. Removing roadblocks tells your team that you care about making their work experience as favorable as possible.

15 Scary Signs of Lousy Leadership

Leadership is something you must learn to be really good at, and it seems it is difficult to find someone who is naturally good at being a great leader. In this post by Matt Monge, we learn 15 signs of bad leadership.

  1. They bully.
  2. They’re passive-aggressive.
  3. They’re emotionally abusive.
  4. They harass.
  5. They scheme.
  6. They lie.
  7. They manipulate.
  8. They leech.
  9. They serve themselves instead of their team.
  10. They never take responsibility for anything.
  11. They’re quick to throw others under the bus.
  12. They divide, rather than unite, people.
  13. Their ego is incessantly out of control.
  14. They’re obsessed with status.
  15. They take credit for their teams’ successes, but blame the team for their failures.

I recommend you read the entire post to get all the details. Have you been exposed to this type of leadership? Are you guilty of any of these traits as you lead your team? I have written on this subject before, and listed some reasons I have seen leadership fail.

How Do You Show You Appreciate Hard Work?

In business, the primary focus is often getting important things done quickly and correctly. The part that is often forgotten in the rush towards the next challenge is the task of showing gratitude to the humans that allow us to get so much accomplished. It is important, as a good leader, to make sure we tell those people around us that the contribution they make towards corporate success are appreciated. Happy people want to do an great job, and knowing they did something you appreciate will drive them to do even more great work.

How do you acknowledge the contributions of those professionals around you? Sometimes we communicate our appreciation to subordinates the same way our supervisors communicate with us. This is not the best way to convey this important information to our people, because people are our most valuable corporate asset. You have to communicate with each individual on your team and understand what directly motivates them. Some people are motivated by a simple “Thank You” spoken while passing in the hall, while others expect a written response listing exactly what they did so well. Some people equate job titles or pay grades as symbols of appreciation, while still others want you to publicly announce their importance to the entire team or department during a meeting.

The key is to understand what makes each person tick, what they desire and value, and make sure you take the time to show how much you appreciate their contributions in a way they will cherish.

Top Reasons for Leadership Failure

Leadership is a process, and the process of leadership is difficult. Even great leaders sometimes fail to lead successfully, but knowing what you did wrong is the first step towards getting better. In this article by Alison Brattle, we learn there are standard skills that a leader can fail to execute, causing failure.

The world’s greatest leaders know that success is fleeting and that no amount of success in the present can prevent a future failure. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that it can’t happen to you, but the truth is, it’s much easier to fail than you think. An essential part of leadership development is understanding the warning signs that indicate potential problems; learn what they are and how to combat them to reduce the risk of a leadership failure.

  • Your Focus Shifts
  • You’re Communicating Poorly
  • You’re Afraid of Failure
  • Your Personal Integrity is Slipping
  • You’re Not Taking Care of Yourself
  • Your Work is No Longer Fulfilling

Read the entire article for more details on how to become a better leader.

5 Characteristics of an IT Leader

When thinking about the strengths of technology professionals, you usually list their ability as programmers or system administrators.  You can’t ignore the fact that those things known as “soft skills” are also critical parts of what makes a great IT leader. Many non-technical professionals rely on their “soft skills” as their primary skills, so they find it difficult to work with someone who depends solely on their technical skills to earn a living. In an industry that depends on reliable and dependable technicians, corporate leaders are often looking for employees who others can count on,  and you also must have those “soft skills” before they can trust your leadership skills.

Lets talk about the common “soft skills”, and why they are important to an IT leader.

  1. Consistency
    It is widely understood that inconsistency is one of the worst traits any leader can have. A person who is in a position that makes him responsible for long-term, or short-term, projects must be someone who is reliable and consistent.When a strategy is being created, it’s fine for him to make changes and adjust their strategy for conditions around them. However, when a leader informs his subordinates that a course of action has been finalized, it’s imperative that he sticks with the plan and provides his team with the resources they need to get the job done.
  2. Listens 
    It’s easy for communication to be adulterated as orders go up and down the corporate ladder. No matter what your level of management, it may be that some of your direct subordinates may be sugar-coating situations that are worse than what they want you to know. Listen to the real workers – the people working at the very bottom of the corporate ladder. They’re not stupid and they probably have a better idea of the status of the project than their direct superiors.
  3. Have a Vision
    You can’t always be solving today’s problems today, sometimes you have to think about solving tomorrows problems. As a leader, you have to think about technology changes and how they will effect your company before they become a problem, or before you competition beats you to the technology solutions that gain market share.
  4. Likable 
    Walking around the office with a overbearing attitude isn’t going to earn you respect. The trust and loyalty your subordinates have in you will only grow stronger if you’re amiable and approachable. You should never be so busy you can’t spend a few minutes with someone to make sure they have to succeed what they are happy.
  5. Accept Criticism 
    If a decision you made didn’t work out, then accept the criticism and move on to the next problem . This kind of attitude shows integrity and humility – two characteristics your subordinates will admire quite a bit. Also don’t be afraid to defend your decisions, even if other people want to argue that your decision was wrong. Listen to the critique your peers and those below you are giving you and make reasonable arguments to defend your decision. If their arguments don’t make sense, then explain why without getting angry. Everyone should feel comfortable discussing your decisions, asking questions, and understanding why you made the decision without fear of repercussion.

What are the older “soft skills” that you think are important?

10 Tips for Better IT Project Management

So you are managing a project, and want to make sure you are doing the correct things to make you project successful? Here are some tips to help you do a good job.

1. Stay Focused on the Big Picture

There will be a thousand small things that can go wrong at any moment in time in an Information Technology (IT) project. Assigned resources can become ill, project requirements can be missed, incorrect technology may be selected, and computer systems can go down at exactly the wrong time. You can count on something going wrong almost every day.

You challenge is not letting minor setbacks distract you from the big picture. Keep your mind focused on the end goal and what the project team is supposed to accomplish. Doing this will allow you to overcome the minor issues, make the proper adjustments, and continue to drive everyone toward a successful project completion.

2. Keep Your Eyes on the Details

This may sound contradictory to “stay focused on the big picture” but it makes sense if you think about it. It is complementary to keeping your eyes on the overall project plan. When it comes to IT projects you need to work with both the big picture and stay focused on the details.

3. Create Corporate Allies

Two things happen when you work with other departments in a company.  You will either build friendships or the relationship may deteriorate and they could develop into enemies. The creation of enemies is the last thing you want to happen. You need to make it your mission to constantly look at everyone in the company as being on the same team and not opposing each other. This takes hard work and time on your part, and may not always be reciprocated by the other person.

4. Never Assume

I won’t even say the fact that we all know the expression about making assumptions…however, it’s true. You do not want to EVER make assumptions. You can’t assume that just because someone said a deliverable is complete…that it is. You want to take people at their word; however, people have different definitions of “complete”.

5. Keep asking “Why?”

Just because something has been done a certain way for years does not mean that it has to be done that way for years to come. It’s your job to always ask the question “why does it have to be done this way?” Never assume that things can’t change, starting with the current project.

6. Be Extremely Clear and Precise

Take the time necessary to make sure your project team is 100% clear about what needs to be accomplished and that they have no questions. If you find yourself being vague or general about a task that is to be accomplished then you may find that you don’t understand it very well yourself.

7. People deserve Respect

Some managers have a tendency to look down on their resources or just see subordinates as  people that just need to do what they they are told to do when they are told to do it. Never allow yourself to get caught up in this way of thinking. Always view your team members as subject matter experts in the areas they are working in and you are tasked as a project manager bringing experts together to accomplish a complex set of tasks to complete an assigned project.

8. Be a Leader

You wear many hats if you are an IT project manager. Two of the biggest hats you wear are that of being a manager and a leader. Many times you’ll find that you have to fill both roles concurrently. This will allow you to see the big picture as well as pay attention to the details that was discussed earlier.

You need to motivate your team enough that they can see the goal line, but then you also have to provide them enough management direction that they know exactly how they will reach the goal. Keep them inspired and driven at the same time, and lead them to victory.

9. Catch People Doing Things Right

Do you like how one of your team members just performed or how they completed a task? Do you want them to do the same thing again? Then call it to their attention. A great way of predicting future performance is telling somebody what a great job they just did. This will also make it easier to tell them what they need to work on if they are not performing to your expectations. They’ll know your motive is not to be out to get them but rather to help them improve themselves.

10. Watch Your Attitude

Have you been around the person that is overwhelmingly negative? When someone asks them if they can help do something they say they can’t. When someone asks them if something is possible they say it isn’t. When someone asks them to change their disposition they say they won’t. That type of person will bring anyone down in just a matter of days. There’s no room for this type of attitude when you are dealing with project management in IT. You need to become a “can do” person that will at the very least look into the possibilities of what can be done to make something work.

5 Things That Will Kill Your Project

Project Management is a difficult task that has risks to success that have to be monitored and managed to insure success. There are 5 major risks to your project, and you have to understand each risk and be prepared to immediately address each risk to prevent putting your project in danger of failure to delay.

  1. Project Risk
  2. Complacency
  3. Lack of Leadership
  4. Unclear Objectives
  5. Lack of Resources

You can read the details of each item here.

Another Example of Difference Between a Manager and a Leader

While reading about project management, I saw this diagram helping to illustrate the differences between management and leadership. While many people don’t understand the difference, as a person assigned the task of management you should understand the difference.

In my earlier post of this subject, I laid out the logic that helps illustrate the difference.

A manager threatens punishment for poor behavior, and provides rewards for good behavior. A leader inspires people by telling them what can be accomplished, and helps guide them to a common goal, pushing those people to stretch their abilities so they can do great things to help the team reach that common goal. A leader lifts their followers by building on their abilities and guiding them toward the right direction.

Key Leadership Traits

So you want to effectively lead a team. What are the traits that will help you be successful as a leader that people love working with? There are some basic traits that are common it great leaders.


You have to demonstrate true passion to inspire your team. Your team is probably capable of extraordinary accomplishments if they are shown the passion to do what might seem impossible. To build an truly extraordinary team, you’ve got to use your passion to inspire them to feel passion about the company they work for and to connect to the leader’s vision. Your passion is such an important part of being a great leader that if you don’t have it, you can’t be a great leader.

When you talk about your vision for the direction of the company or your department, let your passion for your vision shine through and inspire your team.


You have to stand for something in our life. Standing firm when it comes to your company’s policies and procedures is good, but it doesn’t speak to having a vision as a leader. As a great leader, you have to learn to convey your vision or the vision of your company to all the people you want to follow you. But how can you do communicate that vision?

  • Learn to expressive with your thoughts using words to paint a picture of your vision. Write and speak about your vision in an consistent and honest way, every single day to every single person.
  • If the vision changes, make sure the team understands the change and are involved in the process.
  • Ask each member of your team to tell you, using their own words, what they think the overall vision of the company is and how they fit into that vision. This is a sure way to verify the team on the same page as you.
  • Your vision should be something that you talk about frequently and openly. There is no mystery to your vision and what it means.
  • Listen to the team if they ask questions or if  they have concerns about the vision. If one person is concerned enough to ask questions, others may have questions and aren’t comfortable in speaking up about those concerns.

Decision Maker

You have to be willing to make decisions and provide the direction your team needs. Your team has to have confidence that you will make the correct decisions that lead the team forward. Even if it isn’t a great decision, you have to be seen as a decision maker and someone who will acknowledge your mistakes. The only person to have never made a mistake is the person who has never made a decision. You need to formulate a decision making process that works in your environment, helps the team feel involved in the decision, and generates decisions that the team feels comfortable in supporting.

Make sure your decisions are made quickly, are thoughtful, based on facts and not emotion, and are decisions that you are committed to supporting. Your team must feel comfortable that you aren’t going to change your mind every couple of hours or days. They should feel comfortable that your decisions are based on thoughtful consideration and not raw emotion.

Team Builder

A great team is an obvious indicator of a great leader. Delegation of responsibility is the first step in building a team that feels empowered and in control of their actions. Don’t look over their shoulders and don’t micro-manage, but make yourself available if problems come up or questions need to be addressed. Teach your team how to be leaders, and mentor them to use established leadership traits to become a leader of their own teams.

Be strong and support your team at all times. Even if they fall behind schedule on a project or make silly mistakes, offer assistance and be the source of ideas that enables the team to fix their own problems. Be seen as a person with solutions or assistance, not the guy who scolds failure or points the finger of blame.


A great leader does what needs to be done, even if it is uncomfortable. Evaluate your leadership style and verify you are comfortable with those character traits as it applies to how you lead your team. Are you a perfectionist, a procrastinator, a poor communicator, etc. What are your strengths or weaknesses? You have to do a personal inventory and identify what you are good at and what you aren’t so good at, then attack your weaknesses as you would any other professional assignment. Be honest to yourself and to your team. No person is perfect, and you should recognize your flaws.


Are you a manager, a great leader, or do you want to become a better person? You must develop a clear vision of what you want your team to accomplish, communicate that vision with passion, make good decisions that inspire the team to do a better job, while you inspire the team to become better at what they do well. You must do all this while not over managing their efforts or even standing in their way of true success. Your strength of character must also help guide your team to success in good times and bad times, without faltering from the original vision. And you should be continually evaluating your own character and never stop growing, personally or professionally.

If you can apply the five traits of great leadership, you’ll soon be a great leader surrounded by great employees that will one day also be great leaders themselves.

Differences Between a Manager and a Leader

If you want to be a leader, you have to know the difference between managing you people, and leading a team. There are some simple things you can look for to help determine if you are a manager or a leader.

Create Value

Managing is about counting value, not creating value. You might even reduce the potential value by over managing those that might actual contribute to the value of a company or project. If you are asking a programmer to report the lines of code every hour, or explain the purpose of several lines of code each day, you are potentially reducing his ability to produce more code in a given day. If you are distracting the programmer, you are deducting the value of the programmer to the company. Leading by example and leading by enabling people are the hallmarks of action-based leadership.

Influence over Power

Everyone knows managers have subordinates, but did you know that leaders have followers? As a managers you create a circle of power. A leader will create a circle of influence. How do you know if you are creating a circle of power, or a circle of influence? Count the number of people outside your reporting hierarchy who come to you for expert advice or your opinion on a subject. If you have people outside your department or company seeking your expertise, then they probably see you as a leader.

Leading People

A manager is someone who controls a group of people to get something done. A leader has the ability to influence and motivate a group of people to contribute to a common goal. Your ability to convince people to contribute to a common goal by inspiring and enabling people to want to get something done marks you as a leader of people.

If you think about the great leaders throughout history, you will see great people that convinced groups of people that they have a common goal and walked shoulder to shoulder with them to complete a common vision.  The ability to work with someone until the common goal was accomplished is important to leadership.


A manager threatens punishment for poor behavior, and provides rewards for good behavior. A leader inspires people by telling them what can be accomplished, and helps guide them to a common goal, pushing those people to stretch their abilities so they can do great things to help the team reach that common goal. A leader lifts their followers by building on their abilities and guiding them toward the right direction.


You and I both want to work with people who lift us up instead of dragging us down. A leader makes sure to seek out the positive traits in their people, helping to spread optimism throughout your organization by using positive reenforcement.


You have to have a rigid adherence to impeccable integrity. The top thing that employees want from their leaders is integrity. That means you have to be honest, candid,  forthright, and fair at all times and to all people. You must always treat people in the same way that you would want to be treated, and never violate your integrity for immediate gain.

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