The Other “F” Word

Quick thoughts for #FibroFriday…

I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in 2000 and have said/thought many a curse word since that time. Fibromyalgia. Fibro. Fibro-flare. Flare. FMS. Fatigue. Fog. Frustration. Failure.  All of these have become the other “F” words  to me. I try to live by the power of positive thinking, but until you live a day in my shoes it may be hard to understand why even sometimes it is easier to smile and put on a happy face rather than truly answer the question of “How are you?” Because trust me, you don’t want to hear about how I am tired, hurt, and oftentimes feel like a failure because I can’t do the things I want to do.

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The Blogging Chaos in my Head

Your head must be clutter-free in order to be productive and creative.

Several years ago I saw David Allen, the “Getting Things Done” (GTD) guru, speak at a leadership conference, and he said some things that have resonated with me:

  • There is chaos and clutter in your head. (I need to remember to get milk on the way home. Did I feed the dogs? Johnny has football practice today. That presentation is due this week.)
  • Your head must be clutter-free in order to be productive and use creative energy.

So I created a modified version of his system in OneNote for writing ideas and to-do’s down several years ago. I started a similar approach when I first started my blog almost a year ago, but over the summer I just quit writing. Now mind you, I recognize that this is really still a half-hearted online journal at this point, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, people! So after this prolonged writer’s block absence, this past week I decided it was time to write again, as I made a concerted effort to write AND post. So after several months, what changed? 

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What Am I Doing?

Do you ever find yourself wondering “What am I doing?” I do. A lot. Now I think I am pretty successful at my job, and I have always been pretty good at or knowledgeable about a lot of different things rather than really great at one or two things. But sometimes I just want to know what I am doing has significance and meaning and makes a difference. I feel like I am constantly seeking that one great thing I am meant to do in my life.

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I Am No Longer Superwoman

“Done is better than perfect,” according to Sheryl Sandberg in her book Lean In (one of many unread books on my list. More on that another time). It’s a philosophy I have tried to adopt this past year, as I have come to these realizations:

  • I am no longer Superwoman
  • I can’t do everything
  • The things I do manage to do are far from perfect

For a Type A perfectionist, that was a bitter pill to swallow. These realizations come after my years of suffering from Fibromyalgia. I find as I get older it is harder to recover from a “flare” and I really need to make myself a priority if I am going to minimize the number and lengths of flares and remain pain-free.

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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.

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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

Learn Something New

Expanding one’s mind keeps it healthy and active, and helps stave off the aging process.

I have said for years that I try to learn something new every day. I firmly believe that learning doesn’t stop just because you are not school. You should invest in yourself and your interests. Expanding one’s mind keeps it healthy and active, and helps stave off the aging process.

“The capacity to learn is a gift; the ability to learn is a skill; the willingness to learn is a choice.” ~ Brian Herbert

So when I wrapped up my nine-month Leadership Garland class, it was time to do something completely different. I have always loved photography and never taken enough time to really learn how to use my dSLR, so I enrolled in Basic Digital Photography at the local community college.  Learning how to operate the camera out of “Automatic” mode where I can control the shutter speed, ISO, and aperture is a bit daunting to say the least.

First class we were told to read the camera manual and familiarize ourselves with our camera. Well with a full-time job and fibromyalgia, I was quite frankly exhausted and two days wasn’t enough time. So I winged it. Second class we got our first assignment – bring in 4 photographs that are properly exposed. We had a weekend to do it. Sounds pretty easy, right? Well I took probably close to 100 shots to get a few that I liked. We had wind and clouds and nothing cooperated. Here’s my first submission.

I am excited about learning how to better control my camera and getting out to take some more pictures. I am trying to figuring out what I want to do when I retire in a few years, so photography will hopefully play into it some. The last few years I typically tweet inspirational quotes, and I have taken a few of my pictures and combined them with those, so perhaps I am on to something. But for now, it’s just a hobby and something new for me to learn.

So what do you think? Do you like any of these? Do you have a hobby or skill you are trying to learn?

Cheers!

Cynthia