CFO asks CEO: “What happens if we invest in developing our people and then they leave us?”
CEO: “What happens if we don’t, and they stay?”
The Lesson: Train people well enough so they won’t leave. Treat them well enough so they won’t want to leave.
Numerous LinkedIn Postings
We see this advice over and over. As leaders, are we walking the walk? Or just more of the same. I talk to colleagues and training is still a problem. Fear of making the investment and watching that investment walk out the door cited as the primary reason.
In today’s economy, junior people are far more skilled than 10 years ago. I see the resumes. We live in times where candidates are highly competitive, highly motivated, and have goals. Financial goals.
Leaders: You are either a part of the solution. Or part of the problem. Invest in your people. Technical and professional. Hard skills and soft. Teach people how to win. Otherwise, your people will move on. And waiting till your top talent leaves you… is on you.
C-Levels: Culture starts at the top. Invest in your leaders. Values and culture matter. Establishes tone. What is and is not acceptable. Mentor the gaps, but hold the line on the winning culture: That you built. Otherwise, your leaders will move on. Waiting till one of your top leaders leaves the organization is on you. Money doesn’t solve the aggravation or feelings of having no support.
Let me give you an example: In my healthcare days, hospital nurses often have downtime in the overnight shifts. Nurses often loaded games and streamed videos on their workstation, which was against company policy. When we approached hospital leaders, they asked for a technology solution: Block the nurses from loading games and streaming videos. I argued overnight managers should keep an eye on nurses and keep them busy. Technology solutions shouldn’t replace people management responsibility. In the end, technology solution won. And in the long run, this technology hurt that hospital’s culture and relationships with IT as an enabler.
Our SOP for these detection’s should be to report these incidents to their leader and HR. Let people processes work and govern themselves.
Jonathan Merrill, 2018
Technology solutions shouldn’t replace people management responsibility, but it does. And often. And not much as changed in 10 years, other than information security awareness is now a mandatory thing. Which should have changed the conversation. But it hasn’t.
My advice on firing is simple: Treat that person the same way you’d want to be treated if you were in that situation. They’re still a good person, just not the right fit. So how do you help them move on in a productive way that allows them to maintain their dignity? – Mary Barra, CEO, GE
Letting people go is uncomfortable, creates anxiety, and often a dreaded part of people management. It’s not surprising that it’s often done poorly. Here is my advice for leaders who face this difficult task.
Don’t do it on Friday at 5pm.
Have a plan. Assemble a team.
Keep it short. And respectful.
Unsurprisingly, EntreLeadership has the best advice for this subject:
Ask any military leader the difference between winning and losing on the battlefront is effective battlefield intelligence. Hiring for culture is no different. This is why EntreLeadership lessons focus on extending the recruiting process, creative interviews, and not making decisions purely on skill.
For years, I’ve advocated either DiSC or Style of Influence (SOI) in lieu of the Myers-Briggs. I’ve taken all three in business settings and I would say each has strengths, but all three focus on approaching communication and collaboration. I found something different.
On September 21, I attended Security Advisor Alliance‘s conference. Arguably, one of the best conferences for information technology leaders in 2018. One particular break out session caught my eye: Using personality analytics not just for culture, but learning capability.
Here is the front page of my report:
Nevertheless, I was and still am throughly impressed by this tool. Not only did it eerily get me as a possible candidate, it perfectly got my strengths and weaknesses as employee. Things managers need to know as they give role and responsibilities, including things to look to ensure performance.
Today’s blog is from the mailbag of notables. The context of this email is when I was “leading by walking around” and overhearing a few employes not wanting to go to CAB. Not wanting is putting it nicely. CAB is “Change Approval Board”, which is mostly a call to talk about the changes happening to the production environment.
From: Jonathan Merrill
Sent: From My Desk
Subject: Why You Are Being Asked To Be in CAB
Just overheard “Why do I need to be at CAB. I don’t have changes”. Not the first time this has been said. And it’s not unnoticed those team members who don’t show up. Before you say, “busy”, I know everyone is busy. We are all busy. Nevertheless, here is why I encourage you to be at CAB every time:
1. If you do have a change, you need to explain to CAB what the change is, what it will impact, and allow architects and SMEs to chime in. We’ve had one over-ride since we started CAB, which saved us from an embarrassing situation.
2. You listen in on what’s changing in our environment. Operations teams must have the pulse on what’s going on. If you don’t know, how can you react? Putting things together is a skill, just like listening and comprehending. All three should be applied in CAB.
3. Opportunities to sharpen your saw putting in changes. Once we get some consistent muscle memory on non-standard changes, let’s talk about standard changes. Until then, let’s learn from each other and ensure we understand the why about change management. I’ll need your help to train other teams once they get incorporated into our change system.
If you’re working on a critical ticket, production outage in flight, or anything affecting a client ability to process, then your at least armed with what changed.
If your actively engaged in a production issue, clear it with your manager and let him or another team member represent your change in CAB.
Any other reason… eh, no. Knowledge culture, folks. Root word is “Know”. We need you to know. I need you to know. This is the culture we are building. Please participate. Everyone…
“Jonathan, you need to stop reading books. They are hurting your career. Read the email I just sent you.” – Name Withheld (Obviously)
I would bet in any career field, you run across people who say things that are incredibly damaging in multiple ways. Causes pause for how toxic or caustic people get into leadership positions. Nevertheless, the most outrageous comment I’ve ever been told is to stop reading books.
If you know my leadership style, then you know I perpetuate the knowledge culture, which is heavily based on DevOps’ CAMS (Culture, Automation, Measuring, and Sharing). Working with other teams who don’t embrace that philosophy can and does create friction. Which is where education is applied. Culture is critical, we all agree.
So, if your wondering what the email said, I’ve kept it in my personal journal. Sharing it’s entirety to you editing out business bits:
From: Director, Information Technology Sent: Long Long Time Ago… To: Jonathan Merrill Subject: Communication
I wanted to tell you something I learned a long time ago. What you did yesterday or last week or last year is almost worthless. I too have won [people] awards. They mean nothing. The business world is focused on what have you done for me now. The growth of teams is far more important than most anything else.
One of the main things that I desire is that I would rather make progress than simply prove that I am right. As long as the progress is in the best general direction then it will likely make things better. In time possibly it will convince people (that aren’t under me) that it was a good idea. Maybe it shows how it wasn’t. But I don’t try to emulate anyone.
The people you list (Leonici, Maxwell, Wooten) are mostly wrong in any approach they suggest. Each approach has to be custom tailored for the situation. I find that most of the books people write all say basically the same thing. Many of them are worthless and if they are good I take only a few points from each of them that I have found worked.
For example I remember when everyone said emulate Jack Welch and his leadership style. I started reading about him and it sounded impressive. Then I started learning that it wasn’t uncommon for the company to lay off people all the time just to improve stock price. I found that his words lacked practice. So he said the right things but practiced a form of management that basically resulted in turn over at all levels (forced or not forced). In time I figured out that in my opinion he was just another useless manager who had some good ideas but his ideas likely only worked one time in one situation and me saying I would use them was highly suspect.
So really I hate to say it (good or bad) but I don’t study anyone. I keep a list of things I have learned and try to put who taught it to me. Outside of that I don’t worry about it. Graduate school taught me that for the most part. Good management is 50% how you treat people and how they perceive you and 50% of your ability to define what you want. Combine those and you likely get progress.
Sounds seat of the pants I know but how I work.
Let’s dig into a few of these statements, as parts of his email is peppered with logic, and where it goes off road.
#1. What you did yesterday or last week or last year is almost worthless
Leaders are always judged positively by their achievements. Finding the achievement pattern leads to good hires. Not tracking your achievements nor having a track record of your achievements is a professional miss in self-development. I argue all people, from help desk to VP, IT should actively track achievements. Marry them up with your personal and professional goals. Minimally, present them annually during the evaluation process so the organization understands what your about and the value you bring.
#2. As for selling on approaches or styles I rarely if ever do that. Nor will I start.
Managing a team on democracy and goals is good, but if the culture isn’t set to create the operating context of expectations, then that team is no different than a mob. People want great cultures. People desire to know the boundaries so they can freely do their job. I would argue effective leaders have a style and actively sell/mentor approaches to their people. Ineffective leaders do not try.
#3. The people you list (Leonici, Maxell, Wooten) are mostly wrong in any approach they suggest. Each approach has to be custom tailored for the situation.
How can you argue with the results of those leaders who study and embrace good leadership principles versus those that do not? We take what is learned and apply it to any situation. Most situations require customization as no one things fits. I argue studying principles of success does far better to educate versus only depending on your last leadership experience.
#4. I remember when everyone said emulate Jack Welch and his leadership style… I found that his words lacked practice.
I too have read Jack Welch and found many things that didn’t align with my leadership philosophy or brand. I don’t advertise leading this way, but learning how he led isn’t less important. We should not read any book and apply it to our life prima facie. Books should educate us, challenge our thinking, and give us opportunity to change us, make us better, or just entertain us. I argue practicality alone shouldn’t be a reason to not read books about leadership.
#5. I don’t study anyone. I keep a list of things I have learned and try to put [into practice] who taught it to me. Outside of that I don’t worry about it. Graduate school taught me that for the most part.
I would argue that going to college should just be the beginning of your life long learning journey. Not the end.
#6. Good management is 50% how you treat people and how they perceive you and 50% of your ability to define what you want. Combine those and you likely get progress.
Of everything said here, this statement rings most true. And worthy of underscoring as working with this leader for over a year, I can say he wasn’t intentionally “toxic”. He was a grounded guy, with a family, bills, car, and problems just like us all.
However, looking back on what he got accomplished during his time, he achieved very little. Not many strategic things got done. He touched no one. Influenced little. And was quickly forgotten as he left. Does anyone enter a leadership gig with the desire to leave no legacy? I would argue no.
I ran across this comic today and it reminded me of that leader and his email.
If anyone knows the author of this book, please let me know.
“If there’s a big problem in corporate America, it’s that we say ‘Yes’ too much at times. There’s a whole lot of yes going around. The problem? Only about 1/2 of the “yes” responses are followed up with action that is representative of all of us living up to the commitment we made. That’s why you need to say ‘no’ more.” – HR Capitalist
You haven’t experienced all the fulfillment of service delivery management until your told something that is so foreign, so alien, that your first reaction is bewilderment. With a dash of astonishment. What the heck did this guy just tell me?
What could anyone say that would create such a reaction? When someone says someone represents the culture of no. Traditional help desk, engineering, and information security has thrived in a culture of “no”. To be accused of perpetuating the culture of no. Seriously? Let’s break it down…
“We have all met that wall. And when those walls exist, people find ways around them. The workarounds make their lives easier. They implement what they think is best. Their efforts are not intentionally destructive but can lead to unintentional vulnerabilities and, potentially, harm.” – Article from DZone
Let’s unpack the why…
First, is to acknowledge no one in management wakes up in the morning and says, “I’m going to tell 10 people no today”. Talk about a crazy goal. No is a often considered an emotionally negative word, so delivering it is avoided. Sometimes, at all costs.
Second, is often ‘no’ is grounded in policy and standard. Especially if it’s a politically sensitive subject. In my early career, I’ve been directed, a couple of times, to refresh my memory on a policy as the no was delivered.
Third, Leaders are often asked to get creative to say no without saying no. Wordsmithing ‘no’ is a career maker for many leaders, especially in the public relations functions. I’ve been told this falls into the “interpersonal savvy” characteristic, which is a sought after leadership trait.
So mix all that up in a information security or systems engineering context, and you have an explosive mixture pitting IT against business units and developers alike. It’s not surprising there are movements like DevOps to correct the cultures behavior.
Again, all that said, the why of the problem is commitment delivery and lack of clarity that is so succinctly described by the HR Capitalist’s quote above. It’s far easier to just slide into corporate ambiguity versus a clear response. Yet clear responses are sometimes not appreciated by types of leaders.
So, Who Is To Blame?
Many employees who are described as being a part of the culture of no are often swimming to stay alive in a toxic company culture. DevOps won’t solve that problem, nor any other service management framework. If CAMS represents DevOps’s core values, start with the first letter: C = Culture.
If your organization is mired in the culture of ‘no’, look hard at your company’s culture and how you are affecting it. This article isn’t about saying ‘no’. It’s about having the right culture so ‘no’ is not political, but academic.
“Everyone runs to technology for the answer” – Kristin Cox, Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget
I don’t think she meant that in a good way… Maybe if we used our brain versus technology to solve our problems. Wow! That’s crazy talk!
Nevertheless, I stumbled across her articles and posts in my Linkedin thread. An “Expert at Constraints”, here is the highlights on her video, which I would recommend you go watch: Kristin Cox’s “How to Ask for Money”.
1. What do you do? What services do I produce?
2. How well do you do that? (Quality – Couple of things: Faster, Outcomes better, etc.)
3. What is your operating expense? (What does it cost to make it)
4. What is my ambitious target? (What % quality for I want? Better Outcomes)
– Get clear on what we are really focused on.
Routinely, it’s easy to get into deep water with tickets and projects. Here is an email exchange between one of my team members, JC Foster, and I.
Where does this fall on my priority list?
Office 365 Project
Visual Studio Project
I am spinning plates as hard as I can here.
Thank you for asking. My own list is overwhelming. The organization is hustling. Projects are piling up and plates are falling as only so much can be done to keep those spun. Let me turn you onto a recent EntreLeadership podcast, #263 – Thriving in the Age of Overload. Skip to the Daniel Tardy’s talk about, “The Tyranny of the Urgent”.
Questions Needing Answered When Looking At Your Workload
Does it have to be done? Can we eliminate it?
If I can’t eliminate, can I automate it? ß This is where I feel the most work needs to be done.
If I can’t automate it, can I delegate it? Let someone else do it.
If I can’t delegate it, is it urgent? Is it a fire?
If it is urgent, how do we approach, getting the right people in the room? Most often, someone’s fire is not a fire to the organization.
Our temptation is everything is on the list is a fire. We need to prioritize on impact and urgency based on the most impact to the most people.
If you’ve listened to the pod cast, tasks (or WIP) should be limited 3. So, looking at this list, here is my recommendation where your head should be at:
Tickets – I agree. Although take care against this taking up 100% of your day. Handle Critical and Highs only. Sometimes, that means contacting customers, negotiating and adjusting the criticality.
Visual Studio Project – Most impact. Most urgent. Key to our business.
Office 365 Project – Most impact. Most urgent.
This is an exercise everyone can do. And should be aligned to what is on our team Kanban.
“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” – John C. Maxwell
It’s not very often you run into exceptional leaders who believe in what you believe, who care at the same level you too care, and execute at the same level and often better than you. I’ve been in this business for a long time and meeting Robert Britten was one of the high points of my career.
He took the reigns at Santander Consumer USA from another colleague of mine, Shaun Hendricks. The team he took on was troubled and when he got going, I admit I was skeptical. Robert is unassuming, humble, and eloquent. Something is wrong with this guy… After working with him for a couple of months, boy was I wrong. After six months, I knew I had a partnership that I would come to trust and rely on in both my professional and personal faith life.
Robert is a titan leader and I am proud to announce he has accepted the position of Director, Technical Services at Lanvera. Rob is going to head up a operations team which has responsibilities across multiple disciplines: application support, database support, and production services support. His team is central to service delivery, connecting infrastructure, development, and client services teams.