Leading from Within

How exactly do we as managers and leaders, or even as parents, get people to open up and step up?

A few years ago I attended a user conference for a software company and one of their keynote speakers was Dr. John Izzo. I was so enthralled with the story he told about the origin of the Starbucks’ frappuccino and his message of “Stepping Up” and personal responsibility that I attended another session he gave at that conference and started subscribing to his newsletters. He always has several nuggets of leadership wisdom that I love to share on social media sites, and he inspired a blog I posted awhile back on my company’s intranet site. So I thought I would expand upon that and share some thoughts on finding our own simple ways to lead.

Continue reading “Leading from Within”

IT Leaders Rise to the Challenge

I find myself reflecting and considering what IT leaders are faced with and how we need to change to take on the challenges in this brave new world.

Originally posted on my LinkedIn profile under the title “IT Leaders Must Change to Meet the Future,” September 22, 2016.

I have just returned home from two business trips in recent weeks – the Smart Water Summit and Disaster Recovery Journal’s Fall World – and next month will be attending my seventh year in a row of Gartner Symposium (marketed as the “world’s largest gathering of CIOs and IT leaders”). Symposium is like a Woodstock for Geeks, as some of the brightest analytical minds gather to talk about technology trends and the technology and operational challenges these leaders face. The theme last year was “Rise to the Challenge” as analysts were talking to CIOs and IT leaders about the skills, tools, and mindsets the need to move into a digital future. This year they are promising to tie together that last several years to give a clear vision of what they have been trying to communicate, through the theme “Lead 360. Drive Digital to the Core”. As my thoughts are focused on Disaster Recovery, Business Continuity, and especially Cybersecurity and its ever-growing threat landscape, I find myself also reflecting on past Symposiums and considering what IT leaders are faced with and how we need to change to take on the challenges in this brave new world.

As Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.”

We are surrounded by connected technology both at work and home. Security breaches are all too common headline news, which threaten our personal and financial information. It is not a matter of “If” it will happen, but rather “When“; and it is not just an IT problem, but rather an enterprise problem which IT leaders must convey. At work we deal with legacy applications while trying to keep up with the changing technology landscape. What are these IT leaders to do to stay current? CIOs and IT leaders need more than just technical acumen. What are those skills, tools, and mindsets they need to move into a digital future?

The Top 5 barriers to Innovation have really remained constant: The lack of skilled resources, funding, enterprise culture, misalignment of IT and the business, and legacy challenges. IT leaders face these challenges daily, and must become creative to overcome them. CIOs must lead organizations that are able to be Guardians who look out for threats and provide security; Operators who deal with digital disruption and keep the lights on; and an Innovators who can transform the business. Big challenges to overcome, indeed!

But innovation can be hard to achieve when the relationship between IT and the business units has changed. IT used to control 70% of the technology budget. By 2017, it is expected that only 50% of that budget will be under IT control. Is that bad? Not necessarily, but IT needs to have a strong relationship with the business units to be able to influence the direction of that spend. Look to Business Relationship Managers (BRMs) to develop that trust and help yield that influence. They can ensure IT’s technology initiatives connect with the business’ strategy, and that business value is achieved.

IT leaders need to have a whole toolbox of skills to deal with the changing technology landscape and working with the C-suite. These leaders are looked to for stability and safety and for driving technology changes. They need to be:

  • Resilient – IT should act like an intelligence officer and not a police officer. They need to detect threats and respond to them.
  • Strategic Thinkers – Know the questions to ask to get you where you need to go. Strategic thinking provides a framework for leaders to focus and provide guidance. Leaders need followers. And they need resources who can be challenged to think as well, rather than just following blindly along.
  • Visionaries – They have intuition and imagination and they can solve complex problems in unusual ways.
  • Transparent – Leaders must be visible, explain the “why” explicitly, and demonstrate cultural values implicitly.
  • Engaging – Request and expect CEO involvement, as they are directly interested in changes to the business. Engage employees and ask questions. Engage the business so you can influence their point of view. Even spend time with competitors to drive industry changes.
  • Cultural Change Agents – The CIO has to focus on changing organizational culture in order to be successful at bimodal or any digital change.

A leader is not a leader without followers or a vision. Use strategic thinking to develop your vision and plan, as well as to empower your team. Use BRMs to help build relationships with the business and communicate the vision. Sharpen the tools in your kit, so you can be that Guardian, Operator, or Innovator with a strategic plan for the business’ digital transformation. By adapting our own skills and mindsets, IT leaders can shape the organization’s future and face the challenges ahead.

 

Are you doing something to take on a new challenge?

Cheers!

Cynthia

The End Results

One Day. Many Hands. Side by Side.

Last week I wrote about my week leading up to “Garland Gives” day with my leadership class GG-KickoffLeadership Garland 35.  To quote the program’s Executive Director, Jan Furtick, “I feel like a proud mom today. With about 140 volunteers led by Class 35 working 8 projects throughout the community, I am blown away! Lots of good things being done and lots of friendships being strengthened. GARLAND GIVES. One day. Many hands. Side by side.”

As a wrap up to the week, I just wanted to post a few pics from the day.  Although I didn’t do much physical labor yesterday, I was part of the team doing the overall planning for months leading up to the event.  There was a lot of mental exhaustion and anguish during that time.  Oftentimes people don’t realize what goes on behind the scenes when they only see the end product, which is hopefully a well-oiled machine, but I can tell you it was a lot of emails, phone calls, planning meetings, conference calls, shopping for supplies, and planning of every last detail.  Given everyone’s different strengths and weaknesses, some project leads were more detail oriented and others had more of a “wing it” style.  But in the end, everything worked out.  The weather cooperated.  The mulch disappeared.  And at the end of the day yesterday, I was as exhausted as if I were moving all of that mulch!

The Projects

Prize for the fastest project to finish goes to Salvation Army where the ladies moved playground mulch at record speed. An equipment problem prevented them from power washing the parking lot, so a group will return to finish another day.

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This is how you do it!
Prize for the most fun goes to Good Samaritans where there was plenty of food to eat, a DJ, some dancing, a very questionable “magic show,” and a Ford filled with canned food from a local dealership. They rebuilt the food pantry shelves inside the building and refreshed the picnic area outside the building.

Prize for the best yard decoration goes to Pawsibilities. They refreshed the grounds for the dogs and the volunteers.

Prize for slow and steady wins the race goes to Landmark Society. They were the last ones to finish, but had the tedious inside task of indexing and transcribing photo albums and scrap books. Not a lot of pictures taken because, as their project lead Marty commented, “There’s not a lot of scintillating work going on here.” Although I did hear they had quite a bit of fun with the stories about rising buildings and youth running off to San Francisco in the 60s, from the scrapbooks of Garland’s history.

Prize for best use of Police and Fire personnel goes to Hope Clinic where those guys built a beautiful prayer garden area. Be still, my project manager heart!

Prize for the best disappearing act for making 31 cubic yards of mulch disappear faster than anyone expected goes to Jonathan’s Place, where they did arts and crafts with the kids, planted flowers, collected flip-flops for summer camp, and distributed mulch to several playground areas.

Prize for the best swag bag goes to New Beginning Center where they helped people trying to re-enter the workforce write resumes and practice their interview skills, helped them pick out a new interview outfit, and provided them with a portfolio, a thumb drive, and make-up bags full of goodies. Unfortunately, no pictures were taken due to the nature of the clients.

And finally, the prize for the best workout before the workout goes to Get to Know Garland where a Camp Gladiator trainer warmed the participants up before they were set loose on a scavenger hunt around downtown Garland. The participants all got some swag in the end, as well as prizes such as a Chromebook and fitness trackers.

One Day. Many hands. Side by side. We had over 140 volunteers work on 8 projects for 8 hours on one day, making an impact on the lives of others. There were countless hours spent in the months leading up to this day. There were our share of missteps, differing opinions, and mistakes along the way (Lessons Learned), but nothing stopped us from achieving our end goal of giving back to our community. I am proud of my classmates and the work that was accomplished, and hope everyone that had a hand is proud as well. I am a proud member of Leadership Garland Class 35, we are “The BEST Class!“.

Cheers!

Cynthia

Garland Gives

One Day…Many Hands…Side-by-Side

I attended the Women in Water luncheon last week at Texas Water, where Ft. Worth Mayor Betsy Price was the keynote speaker. She made two comments that stuck with me: “You have to give back to the community where you live” and “Being connected to the community helped shape my career” since that was ten days before “Garland Gives.”  The “Garland Gives” day of community service demonstrates the central role of Garland’s leaders in building community vitality at every level.  To read about the projects Leadership Garland Class 35 (#TheBESTClass) selected, visit the Garland Gives page.

We started planning for this day in November, 2015.  Five months, various planning meetings and conference calls later, it is HERE!  My intention was to blog for the past five months about this journey, but that didn’t happen.  But I do intend to blog this week about our experiences and update the timeline along the way.  Cheers!

Friday, April 22 – The three “Project Overall Directors” (AKA the Tri-PODs – Rockin’ Robert, Persistent Patricia, and Can-Do Cynthia) have a conference call (we like to call them “POD”-casts) to discuss possible rubber chickens.  Right now we are facing the possibility of rain during most of next week and through the weekend, and not having enough volunteers to help move mulch at Jonathan’s Place.  We have ordered the equivalent of 500 bags of mulch.  The phrase “That’s a lot of mulch” is repeated no less than 10 times during the conversation.  We are all slightly worried.   That’s a lot of mulch!

Saturday, April 23 – Project prep work has begun at Good Samaritan’s as two team members prep the picnic area.
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Sunday, April 24 (Updated at 9:45PM) – I get word that the Good Samaritan project has a line on a DJ rather than just an iPod and speakers. Make mental note to update the special events permit and resubmit when I get to the office tomorrow. Better yet, email myself a note. There’s also more prep work being done for the Good Sam project as Epic Sernerick is prepping the wood. #bossup2016
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Weather continues to be worrisome, as I receive an email from the Office of Emergency Management about the forecast for the week. #fingerscrossed #prayforsun  I am now wondering: Will they deliver that much mulch in stormy weather? I text one of the other PODs so they can worry along with me….

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You know what they say about Texas weather? If you don’t like it, just wait an hour and it will change! #prayforsun

Monday, April 25 (Updated at 9:23PM) – I submitted revised permit (yay me!) and then came across an old Dilbert cartoon that reminded me of this week. With the little skull representing our project day, and all of those risk factors (“rubber chickens”) pointing at a us like rain, too much mulch, not enough volunteers or wheel barrows, T-shirt orders, rain, headcount to order breakfast, rain. Doom and Gloom, I say! Yes, the thought of moving wet mulch in the rain is bringing out the nervous nelly in me. Plans are made to buy tarps to try to keep it dry upon delivery.

Courtesy of http://www.dilbert.com

No blame will be placed here.  Lessons will be learned.  We succeed or fail as a TEAM and we choose not to fail.  Weather is a factor beyond our control.  We can choose how to respond.  We decide to proceed as planned with breakfast as scheduled.  A final Go/No-Go Decision will be made at 8:00 AM by each project manager on project day.

My day is spent at work, shooting off reminder emails to project leads, and trying to herd cats. I had two simple requests. Approximately 30 emails and 12 hours later, I have my answers. This day has worn me out. I feel my fibromyalgia may be trying to rear its ugly head. I do not have time for this right now. Get me through the next 10 days and then I will collapse.

Tuesday, April 26 – Relatively light day. The nightly conference call mainly consists of discussing how much breakfast to buy and the weather and possible bad weather plans. More doom and gloom.  On the bright side, instead of a fibro-flare (or maybe in addition to) I feel like I am coming down with something. Please, not now. I am speaking tomorrow at a regional user group day. Our project day is Saturday. And our Austin trip is next week. One week and then I will collapse….

Wednesday, April 27 – I check in with my two project teams (New Beginning Center and Good Samaritans) to see if they need anything. These two teams are ROCK STARS I tell you. They are busy with prep work and have begun executing their plans. It is great to work with teams that are so well organized and have great attitudes.  Rain or Shine, we are doing this! With a little humor and grace sprinkled in!

Thursday, April 28 – √Breakfast ordered.  √Permit and DJ for Good Samaritans confirmed. Volunteers, including some of the Youth Leadership Garland team, have been busy emptying the food pantry into a POD so shelving rebuild can happen on Friday. √Mulch delivery at Salvation Army. [NOTE: Jonathan’s Place will have 3x this much mulch. So when we say, “That’s a lot of mulch!” we mean it. Yikes!]

√9PM conference call wrapped up and so far no rubber chickens. √Email reminders sent. √Time to rest…I was under the effects of antihistamines all day.  Tomorrow will be busier. No rest for the weary!

Friday, April 29 – T-minus 24 hours! I wake up and set my alarm for tomorrow for 4:45AM, so I can get there to set up for breakfast. I receive more project emails. I send more project emails. I am still feeling the effects of the antihistamine I took yesterday morning. I am debating whether I give myself permission to take another day off from working out. Maybe if I work out the drugged effect will go away… I decide to suck it up.

On the schedule for today is √buying flip-flops for the kids at Jonathan’s Place, √dropping off professional clothing at New Beginning Center’s resale shop, √checking in at Salvation Army to get water donations dropped off and check on things for breakfast, √picking up canned food for Good Samaritan’s and √dropping those off, √printing signs and more details, √9 PM conference call.  While I am out during the day, I monitor the progress over at Good Samaritan’s, which is the biggest project of the weekend. It has been a week-long effort and things are coming along nicely.

I come home and collapse. I work on signs and goodie bags for each project manager. They have removed rain from tomorrow’s forecast, so we will only be dealing with wet mulch to move and mud to till and plant in at the outdoor projects.  “Yay!” to not working in the rain! It’s time to get some rest, because tomorrow is…

PROJECT DAY! – Less than 5 hours sleep and out of the house by 6:10AM to get breakfast set up. We had a great turn out, a few words from our Mayor and City Manager, and then it’s “off to the races”. Before I could get breakfast cleaned up, our first rubber chicken of the day. And off I go to Home Depot to try to get a new hose for a power washer. Overall the day was a success, all projects met their goals, finished early, and no blood was shed. There was even some dancing going on over at one of the projects. I will post the end products soon. Now, I rest….

Come back to see how the week unfolds, and tell me about the “rubber chickens” you have encountered this week.

Cheers!
“Can-Do” Cynthia

Making an Impact

“If you want to reach your goals…become intentional about your personal growth.” ~ Jim Rohn

Months before I watched Shonda Rhimes’ TED Talk on her year of saying “Yes,” I made my own decision to commit to my personal growth and development, and say “Yes” to me.  For years I had wanted to go back to school and get my MBA, but with kids of my own to get through college, I didn’t see it happening anytime soon.  College tuition is not what it was when I went to college back in the 80s.  So last year when I had an opportunity to apply for a 9-month leadership program sponsored by a local Chamber of Commerce, I jumped at the chance.  And little did I know at the first class I would literally be jumping….

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The program starts with a two-day retreat where we get to know a little bit about each other…and ourselves, as we are challenged with team-building exercises like the Spider Web and ropes course.  First thing at breakfast that morning, I was asked to stand up so the executive director could point out the T-shirt I was wearing.  It was one from work with one of our mottoes, “Better together.”  And as the program progressed, we have learned how much more of an impact we can make…together.

“If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.” John Maxwell

Rubber Chickens

One of the exercises was a simple game of catch in a circle of 35 people, which progressively introduces complications and distractions, such as tossing a rubber chicken instead of a tennis ball.  The rubber chicken is supposed to simulate how in life we need to learn to deal with the unexpected things that come up.  The retreat helped push me outside of my comfort zone to try new things.  Throughout this experience, I have made friends, honed my leadership and teamwork skills, and discovered what I was capable of…sometimes in the most unusual ways.

When I finally got the nerve to start this blog, my plan was to blog about the class and community service project along the way. But my plans became slightly derailed with life’s little bumps in the road.  I could easily be writing Part 2 of “When Life Happens” after the rubber chickens in my life the last few weeks, but I prefer to look on the bright side of things and focus on what lies ahead in the coming weeks.

“Life is best lived looking forward and looking up.” Richard Branson

What Lies Ahead

Leadership is about getting people to work together for towards a common goal. Our class wraps up with a trip to our State Capitol in May, but days before that we come together for a day of service called Garland Gives where we do projects for local non-profit agencies. Through the planning process we have learned how to work with non-profits to determine realistic and achievable projects we can accomplish in a day; we have learned to work together, push and help each other, step in and step up! In one week we will execute the months of planning.

We have several outdoor projects planned for next Saturday and the threat of rain in the long-range forecast.  While I am excited to see how it all comes together, I am hoping that the rain doesn’t become our major “rubber chicken.” So stay tuned for the project recap from Leadership Garland Class 35 – The BEST Class! – and hearing about the impact we are able to make in our community.

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“Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact last in your absence.” Sheryl Sandberg

Have you done something to make an impact in your community?

Cheers!
Cynthia