Your vision, strategy, and goals as a leader are only achieved when your team develops thinking, behaviors and relationships that allows each individual to effectively solve problems, focus on things that matter and achieve higher satisfaction in life. If we are to consider achievement as a muscle, what can you do to help the team learn how to flex and strengthen it?
Brian Haugabrook, CIO, Valdosta State University
Sanjog: Today’s topic is building your Team’s Achievement Muscle. And I have Brian Haugabrook, who is the CIO with Valdosta State University. Hi Brian, how are you?
Brian: I’m great, Sanjog. Thanks for having me on today.
Sanjog: Oh pleasure is all ours. And the topic we picked up today is around helping a team becoming the best they can by working on themselves from inside out, in short. That’s what we are hoping to discuss because of course when we build a team or any leader ends up assembling a team or inherits a team, they may also be working on a vision strategy and goals that they may lay out. But then we don’t always know if the team is ready for it. We start with those vision strategy and goals but is that too premature. How do we go ahead and make sure we’re proactively working towards building their achievement muscle, their thinking their behavior, the kind of relationships they are developing or have the capability develop. So we maximize what they can deliver as a team and as an individual.
So when we do this and this is a question for you, Brian, how do you know the team is ready? Do you have a litmus test, do you kind of continue it to check, what is your approach to knowing if the team is ready?
Brian: I will say at first even before, the vision order strategy comes in the place, you must really have a team that you trust, you must have other leaders whether they’re managers or a technical expert. Number one, you have to trust those individuals and trust that they’re going to be successful at what they do. When it comes to a new vision or new strategy, the behind of the scene of that that’s really you’re changing what you do from organization for the company over then IT or that individual IT professional is going to be something that they probably never done before so. You have confidence in them but you’ll never be 100% but you always want to push them to that next level so you always want to have that confidence. But also empower them that and be behind them to know that you believe in them and know that they can achieve those goals. So you’ll never be 100% certain that okay, this person is ready for this challenge but based on their passion, based on your involvement with them, you want to give them that support. But at the same time, you want to have a goal that’s just out of their reach. So you want them to have to work a little harder, to reach that goal, even if they’re not capable of it at that moment.
Sanjog: So if you like the way you said that you want to first make sure that the team is ready and they’re willing but the interesting part is it could be a catch 22. Imagine you inherit a team, you come into an organization you’ve got people. And you’ve got to test them out before you know who is at what level. Because there is no other way perhaps to really know what their level is still you see them perform. So what would you do in order for you to before you lay out that grand plan? Are you going to just sit and watch for a couple times? Are you going to go back and see where they are? Because if you don’t have a benchmark or you don’t have a– Yeah, I’ll use the word benchmark to which you will measure any of these people, how would you at all know?
Brian: In that case, if you coming to an organization, oftentimes you make– you’re going to face those challenges, particular organization the size of ours. And so at that point you do observe. But you also have to get more involved initially. So you have to sit down with them as a team but also with them as an individual to really understand their strengths. But also to understand who they are as a person, their mindset, their passions. And then you have the real observe their work. A lot of times, what I’ve seen in the past when you have teams that may not be where they should be or they’ve been underperforming based on others outside of that particular department, is a lot of times it just comes down to the process. Maybe they need to understand a different way of doing things, they need a new focus or they don’t have the skills, then you look at training opportunities or ways you can build that skill that within that team.
And sometimes that takes time, depending on the team, depending on the individuals. But you have to then really get them in alignment with the goals of the organization. But really identify the gaps, both in knowledge skills and in processes that they’re missing.
Sanjog: See among the three things that thinking that you want them to adopt or embrace, the behaviors and the relationships that they develop or know how to develop a relationship. Among the three, I think behavior is the only one which you can really control. Other things you have to influence. And you have to do it in a way where they feel it is their thinking and it’s their way off building relationships. How do you pull this magic?
Brian: You want them to feel empowered. And I say building relations– Building those relationships are definitely something that you influence. You also want to influence their creativity because once they feel that they are a part of something that’s going to impact the organization. Then that that builds their confidence levels. So one of the things I try to do so, for instance, we’re doing a new centralized calls center and concierge type service here. When I first came up with this idea, in my head I have the entire workflow how this thing’s going to work all the way down to the details. But when I meet with the team I rarely share details that I think should happen. I really want them to take charge of the part, I want them to come up with their ideas and how they think it should go. And really make them a part of it so that they feel that they have ownership in it, all of their ideas are heard. And when you do that not only did they feel empowered but when the collective, when they come together, you end up coming out with the process and the strategy that’s better than what any individual, person can come up with.
So they’re building themselves number one individually. But as a team they’re also going to collectively now come up with an even greater idea, greater strategy and a great outcome which is then going to further benefit the organization.
Sanjog: So when you talk about all of these things, no one– And maybe I’m making a bold statement here, that no one truly thinks organization first, they think themselves first. And their thinking and their reason to build a relationship will be, what’s in it for me? So what’s in it for them?
Brian: For them, so the way we look at it is, every role that we have in our organization, banning higher ed. We’re here to support student success, student outcomes, helping students graduate. So, everything we do, whether is building a great data center, an application, a network, a tech support team, everything we do is all about that student experience and that translate down say every role within the organization. So, I really enforce making sure that everyone– number one, understands what their role is in that process. And it goes down even to the person installing a network that has an impact to the overall mission of the goal.
So people have to understand their role within the organization, they have to understand what they’re contributing and how that’s going to benefit the organization. A lot of times, particularly in IT, a lot of staff don’t get recognized for their work. So you have to make sure that people are constantly aware, you’re constantly letting them know, “Hey, we’ve achieved this goal or if we see the university, if we’re doing a recruitment effort and we see that enrollment is up, then we know that– while we may not have a direct correlation to that or direct involvement, things that we do influence that in that person has an influence in the organization. And so that’s one of the great benefits being in education is, everything we do has a direct value to students lives.
Sanjog: Now you mentioned and you use the word enforce, right? Let me elaborate on that one, when you try to enforce something, there is a natural resistance to work. So and on the other hand, if you don’t enforce, things don’t automatically will get done. So if you had to build a team’s achievement muscle, which is what the title of this discussion is, then would you rather get it done by allowing them to try things their way and succeed and or fail and learning the process and embrace the thinking which will make them successful or getting them to do which you use, where you use the word enforce. What you want to see done?
Brian: I always want them to try. That’s why I say again, I mentioned earlier, a lot of times I have the exact steps that I want then the take. But I first want them to try that way, I get to see have they would creatively come up with the strategy or I get to hear the ideas that they have and them come up with their own strategy. Very rarely, do you have to enforce, if there’s a timeline slipping or decisions can’t get made. But when you do have to enforce those things, it should be rare. I really try to allow the team to be creative, to come up with their own strategies and ideal because that makes them have that ownership. They feel more responsible for the outcome. And they feel that they’re contributing to the organization. They are certain things of business if– for something a service is not being perform right or you getting complaints about this teams not doing, operate in a way they should. Then you do have to enforce those.
And sometimes when you enforce change particularly in IT, we’re always saying our in users or our clients, they’re not embracing technology or they’re not following the process. But oftentimes, IT professionals we get in the habits our sales and so, when a leader comes in, it’s really difficult to break those habits or break those traditions and you’re going to get resistance. As a leader, I’ll get resistance all the time when I make changes. But that’s what’s best for the organization and over time people see that change was necessary. Although, we like change and you see that in politics all the time, we always want change but when change happens to us we definitely want to resist it. But it’s something that’s necessary, especially if you’re in a technology profession.
Sanjog: How do you provide them a buffer? Because you mention that I want them to try. Tell me how many leaders, of course, I’ve spoken to many and not very many of them have that leeway or the buffer available so that you say, “Okay Team, we have this initiative, the business says get it done yesterday but I want you to have the luxury of trying it before I tell you what I want you to get done.”
Brian: When you have the sort of deadlines. Now, everything’s a short deadline with technology. The business and other organizational leaders, they want to see changes as quick as they can download the app to their smartphone. But you can’t force people to just comply to a certain way of thinking or they’ll always be in that mode. You have to allow those experts because one of the reason that’s important is to allow that buffer as you mentioned it, is because technology now is not followed anymore. You can’t just have a data center team and an app development team in a different area or a web team or client support team. Technology now brings in services, where you see the movements of a cloud and how you can now bring all of your services into one environment or it may be in different environments but so that user experience is one seamless flow of information.
So now the borders within the IT organization has pretty much eroded. And so you have to allow those individuals to blossom but also work across those sort of team lands and build relationships properly. And so even when a short deadline is approaching, allowing that creativity actually help achieve that goal a lot faster, versus just saying, I want this done, this done and ABC order. Very rarely again will that have to happen. But if it does, it should be just for meeting those deadlines but again you want to really force allowing those leaders to be creative. And over time again when you put the right people in place, you really let them lead those efforts and so. Building that culture over time of people process and technology, it really makes those initiatives and timelines a lot faster.
Sanjog: Let’s take a quick break, listeners, we’ll be right back. And let’s talk about the stretch goals. Because those stretch goals always, almost always has an individual or a group struggle with their self-image issues. How would you help develop or at least assess where the self-image is with respect to the next task that you’re assigning them. So you know that they’re confident that they’ll be able to run with it. Otherwise something is going to get undermined, it could be the very priority at which it’s gets done, the quality and maybe the timeline or the budget. So what do you do to be proactive with respect to your team, where for their self-image? Please stay tuned listeners, we will be right back.
Welcome back. Brian, when we as leaders or as managers are assigning a task to someone, we have the authority and they have to accept it but we do not always know if they’re ready for it. And that could lead to undermining what would get delivered and when at what cost. So what is the way when we are essentially going out and assigning a task, we know what’s the self-image that they have about themselves, so that we calibrate either the tasks given to them or have a specific way to elevate the self-image with respect to that task before assigning it?
Brian: We first have to really understand the individuals and the teams. And a lot of times, you really want to assign the task – people typically want to give the task to the strongest person on the team because that’s the person that they’re used to relying on. But you really should focus on the entire team, all of the individuals. Every individual in an IT organizations going to have strengths and weaknesses. Even within the teams, different individuals are going to have strengths and weaknesses. So you want to always promote their strengths but you don’t want to ignore their weaknesses, you always want to give them some of the weaknesses like we’re talking about you know building the achievement muscle. If I’m exercise and I’m trying to lift a hundred pounds, my trainers not going to come put 200 pounds on there because it’s going to be overwhelming, I’m not going to be able to do it, it’s going to hurt myself, damage my confidence in myself. But my trainer may put 105 pounds on and after a few weeks a 110. So you always want to constantly build on people’s strengths but also focus on their weaknesses but just slowly sort of push them further and further along. And over time, the entire team becomes better, the entire organization becomes better, as a result of that.
So you really have to first understand who your teams are, who those employees are at the individual level. And in education, there’s a new pedagogues like competency base, so you have to focus on the competencies and really build on those competencies within your teams, within those individuals. It helps the organization out, it helps them as an individual. And you achieve your goals faster over time.
Sanjog: I’d like your analogy about the muscle and putting weight. So now think about, you trying to as the coach, putting 105 pound on it. But then the person was struggling even to do 100 for that matter even 95. But if you don’t assess it, you’re going to break that guy down.
Sanjog: So what do you do to make sure that you don’t break them down, you might be thinking it’s a stretch goal, the guy’s not even ready for the regular goal?
Brian: And the best if that happens then that’s where you look at, why is that person not able to build a 100 pounds, what is the weaknesses there. And when you translate that from– actually physically working out to an IT profession, it maybe training, it may be having somebody else assist that person in conditioning themselves. It may be they need more practice. Just like lifting weights, exercise and you’re not just going to all of a sudden go to the gym and have a summer beach body, it takes– going to that gym day after day after day. And so if you have a staff member that’s not say performing at the same speed or being as productive as others, you have the number one, give them the training, give them the right practice. Because you can go to the gym every day and not see results if you’re not doing it right. So you have to make sure that your staff are being trained properly. They have the right team around them, to help them be successful without being too negative, breaking their morale in themselves. But it’s also about this constantly daily making sure they get the right support, get the right training, in venture measuring their progress. So you’re not just letting them fail or again, you’re not just instead of focusing on them, you just give the project or the task for the staff that you know can get it done. You have to constantly build those team members, build those individuals which at the end again strengthen the entire team.
Sanjog: When we look at – Einstein actually said, “Expertise is the enemy of innovation.” Which in a way says that, you got to know what you know but do not take that as a way to do more. So a lot of people have this issue about them getting stuck in a specific way of thinking or doing things because that’s what they have done and they feel they are an expert. So what do you do, so that their achievement muscle actually develops even more, is how do you get them to be unstuck in the way they had been thinking or the we had been doing things and unlearn what they think is the best way to do it, in order for them to become more adaptable and learn new and learn better?
Brian: Yes. That’s actually a big problem in IT surprisingly. Technology’s rapidly changing around us. But we typically get into the habits and getting to doing things the same way or the ideas in our processes remain the same within years and but technology all around us continues to advance at a fast pace. One of the things I do is, every year, I really encourage my teams and my staff to really be innovative, you have to push them to come up with creative ideas, creative projects. The only condition I put on that is that it must benefit the organization or one of our organizational strategic goals here at the university. So, if you really stretch sometime, you have to sometimes push people. Really what you’re talking about is thinking outside the box, thinking beyond what you’ve currently done. But again it comes back to the process. One of the things I’m constantly doing is looking at every process we have and how can we do this better. Is this the right way of doing things and not just because, oh this is how other organizations do it. Well, let us forget about what everybody else is doing. What is the right way to do it and can it be done, can we do it differently than anybody has ever done it before, maybe we’re going to be the first to do it.
And so I really push my teams to really think beyond just what other people are doing or what organizations are doing. And so you have to get people to think in that way. And also another challenge I see in that regard is, people sometimes think based on the size of your organization that we’re not as big as some of the more whale known schools in the country that have more funding, three times as many staff. And that really doesn’t matter when it comes to you as an individual, being creative, it doesn’t mean that you can’t come up with an idea that’s better than somebody with an organization with ten times our budget. And so, I really break down that that way of thinking and really promote that, you can create any task or any project or achieve any goal you want, so don’t just limit yourself based on what funding we have or what organization you’re in or what level you think you are. Really making sure that everyone is constantly thinking about what’s possible, what is the right we have doing it. And if we can’t have a magic wand and just wave and something happens, what would that be and how can we get to that point.
Sanjog: So the focus of this topic has been to make sure that while the business wants results and leaders would then take that pressure and say, “Okay, let’s rally the troops to deliver those results.” We have not exactly forget but then the focus moves away from what habits and mindsets are truly developing and on breaking. So if we become very result oriented, the journey that you create for everyone, could be perhaps creating wrong habits and wrong muscle. And that could really come and haunt you in due course.
What do you do to make sure that what we are doing becomes more important versus what we are accomplishing, which is counter-intuitive to what organization wants or maybe you as a leader want from your team?
Brian: You have to really focus on your industry. So again, we’re education so. Our industry is about academic success or building individuals to become lifelong learners. And within the organization, the process of doing that it can– you’re going to be pushing your staff. Particularly when we have budget cuts so. Our budgets are getting cut. We’re having to be innovative at the same time which is a huge challenge, being that you’re actually getting less funding. So people are getting– put more under stress, they’re getting tasked with more things to do. But you have to consciously remind people of why they are an educational or what goals that we’re trying to accomplish because when a person– when you’re focusing on just task alone and when you’re not allowing that creativity, then it can become just they ensure that you’re kind of constantly assigning people the task and that can really break the morale, that can break the team spirit. It really becomes some individuals teams will start not working well together. So you really have to focus, constantly focus on, what are the outcomes of us doing each task that we do. But also it comes back to that process, it becomes a process of being that we have to respond to the new business challenges, the new demands and the speed of technology. Our processes must be changed to become more agile and flexible. Because we need to beta respond quickly but at the same time keeping in mind that the end goal again is based on our industry education, achieving academic success for the students that come here.
Sanjog: See, what your answer was is to of course show them the vision. Now let me compare this to playing soccer or the soccer that my kids play in their local community. There the goal is not to win a game, they say we want them to inculpate habit off teamwork or be able to learn the right way of doing things or the right way of playing soccer. And many other things versus winning that game of soccer. So since they take the focus away from it, they end up becoming better players who will take on any bigger league later on. Is that approach to how you build a team’s achievement muscle truly been incorporated and adopted in an organization? Because are you really thinking people first or are you thinking the next deadline?
Brian: Yeah, that’s a great example. It’s always the people first because again, just basing off your example, it’s not about as an individual, how do I get this ball into that goal. It’s about how can I contribute and leverage my support team around me and leverage their skills and strengths and abilities to all of us– and that’s again that process of, is not just about me. But what can I contribute to the organization. In your case, to that team. And so by doing that that team becomes united, that team becomes one. You’re not just– each team then it’s not just in its own little silo, you’re working not only within your profession but other IT professionals within the organization. And so it becomes, everybody becomes as one in a sense in an analogy. And so you’re together moving that ball to that goal without even focusing on as an individual. And so that’s what it again, it’s about, you have to know the individual to focus on their strengths and weaknesses. But when you then build that across all the individuals in IT, that entire team has become strong, which then leads to more success or more games won based on your analogy there.
Sanjog: Let’s take a quick break, listeners, we will be right back after these messages. And let’s talk about the different ways you can help develop immunity where individuals and teams are allowed to fail. And they can then report– analyze and report. Now the interesting part of this is, that this is while it is fostering innovation, it could actually be weakening the achievement muscle because then they are saying, “Okay, if I fail, I can just give an analysis report and get away.” Versus somehow, somewhere working with each other, figure out to deliver the results. So which side do we tilt, which one, which particular strategy would work better? Let’s explore it when we come back, please stay tune.
Welcome back. So on one hand, Brian we could give immunity to people and that would allow them to fail. So that they are trying and failing and then analyze and report. Now while that’s a coveted approach for people to say, okay, this is how you can build innovation culture in the organization. But does it unknowingly has the potential to weaken the achievement muscle because when you give them the immunity, they’re going to come and report on their failures and analyze and say this is what worked, it did not work. But then at what point would they really take ownership to say, I’m going to make this work no matter what?
Brian: I think given that immunity, I think that actually helps build the achievement muscle because you’re allowing them to grow themselves, you’re allowing them to try to go a different path than what they’ve done before, what they’ve known before. And when you look at technology and innovation, when you want to do something that’s unique or that’s never been done before, you’re going to face value so, you want to encourage people– the number one they have to have the goal in mind. Okay. If I want to achieve X, then I’m going to take this approach to it, you want people to have the ability to go for that goal or try to achieve that new best practice or new way of doing things. Or even if just something that they see other industries do, they want to adopt for higher ed, you’re going to face those things.
So I think you have to allow people to fail. I think you have to do that, you don’t necessarily want to say, okay, you may fail at this, even though, you’re always going to fail when you’re trying to be innovative. But you have to constantly as a leader provide that support to say, “Hey, this can be done,” and encourage them to keep moving forward to keep pushing. But you do have to allow that in innovation. And I think that is what builds the muscle.
Sanjog: We can talk about one project get it done. Maybe you show them the vision that this is what you’re doing, in your case the education, the students come first and all that is great. Now in the life of a technology worker, like if that’s the context we’re talking here. Its one project after another after another and or one deadline met versus not met one after another. Where do you think– they find meaning in it, where do they see that, okay, while all of this is happening, they don’t see it as a burnt out or they don’t feel the burn out, how do you kind of throttle this and how do you present it and how do you manage it, so that it becomes more meaningful. This whole achievement muscle continues to build all along versus it weakens because off this incessant pursuit if you will?
Brian: I really focus on people first. And so, not only are they– yeah, they given a task and they have to meet the deadlines project after the project, day after day. But also focus on them as an individual professional development. Every team and every individual are really promote that professional development. I even myself have been open office hours and encourage, “Hey, if you want to come by, let’s talk about your career goals.” And almost half of my staff have taking me up on that offer and come and understand their career goals where they want to go. And I make sure not only are they getting these day to day task in making sure they’re getting those completed. But also help them with their career development, with career coaching. And that’s important because everybody is not going to stay in education or a person may build their skill up to a level to where they want to go off and start their own company. I want to make sure that I’m providing them the skills, the training, to help them be successful, not just for the organization. Even though the organization comes first, I also want to make sure that they have a path and they’re constantly moving down that path for their own personal success. Whether they want to one day become a CEO or go out and work for a private company. I make sure that I do that.
And even, and not just from my staff, even our student workers that have come under me. I do the same thing with them, understanding their career goals as a person. And so this way once they do come up that makes them a better employee, that makes them want to work hard because not only are they helping the organization, I try to align their role within the organization in such a way that it’s been affecting their professional and career goals as well.
And as a benefit of that, a lot of our students are now working at some of the major companies around, around the world. We have employees who have started their own businesses. And so we see a lot of success or I have seen a lot of successes will from doing that process. So you’re giving them that day to day task. And if you’re not focusing on them as a career, on their careers will, then they can burn out and they will lose that innovative ability and that will end up causing problems for the organization.
Sanjog: So the achievement to making more meaningful for the team and also to do build the muscle, you are stating that we just have them see the bigger picture is, that it or is there something else you’ve got to do?
Brian: The bigger picture is how we really translate that, we start from the bigger picture. But we translate that now to help them as an individual contributes to the organization being successful. And that way everything they do has value. Because some task in IT can become repetitive. It’s something you end up doing day after day. So you also want to make sure that they have something that gives them meaning as well, that’s building a skill that they don’t have. So that’s why I say, I try to assign all of our teams, things is going to be beneficial to the organization. But I also want to have a few projects on every team that’s really taken them to the next level, is going to challenge them mentally, it’s going to make them have to go out and Google different things or ideas of how can I accomplish these other goals.
So it is the big vision always has to be there but every level below that you really have to constantly reinforced them as an individual as a team but make sure you’re there and they know that you’re supporting them every step of the way. That way they employees don’t feel that they’re all alone, they’re not afraid of coming up with ideas. They feel their voice can be heard so they’re not afraid of coming up with the ideas or even disagreeing with me. That’s the one thing I really promote. If you don’t agree with what I say, please challenge me on it because when we challenge each other, it makes the entire process go better, it makes the end goal even greater. When people are able to share ideas, they know that they can share their ideas within the organization.
Sanjog: What if somebody feels that they are not able to find a sponsor within the organization, like a supervisor or a leader, who is actually sitting down listening to their concerns. And actually getting me in the right direction so that I can feel that my own achievement muscle is actually better than on a regular basis. Is that truly a problem of the organization being becoming too big and maybe too focused on results?
Brian: I mean individual– based on my career and they’re going to be managers and leaders out there, that’s not going to focus on individual. People who are in situations like that, you really have to– really as an individual you have to take the steps yourself to figure out which goals are next for you or look outside the organization for other mentors where this met another organization or just mentors in general, there are a lot of communities out there. But you have to then take the next step yourself to making sure that you’re constantly on a career path moving forward. But also you have to understand that it is not going to happen overnight. I think a lot of people feel that they’re sort of trapped in a box and stuck in a certain career or a certain job. But you have to as an individual then take the steps yourself to constantly improve, constantly doing training or doing leadership development yourself or outside that organization. But you have to know that it’s not going to be quick, it can take years, one, five or even ten years for you to see results but then you as an individual must be dedicated to that process and make sure you stay dedicated to that process for the long haul.
Sanjog: So your recommendation to an individual who has the situation to take that leap. But in many cases there may be a number of them in any organization who may be facing such a situation. But they have not developed their own muscle, if you will, right? Because of which they are not even able to look outside, even if they had to leave the company, they may not have been able to because they don’t know what options to explore. And this is not the show to explore what all options are available but how can someone take ownership of their own achievement muscle when there is no mentor, no supervisor available at an arm’s length.
Brian: If you don’t have one of valuable, again, if you’re building muscle, you have to do your own research. If there’s no– if your supervisors, not supportive which that can’t happen or if the leader of that company is not as supportive. And you’re really just kind of stuck in that role, you have to really then focus on– Number one, you have to complete your job, if you must be there. But then you have to learn how to put in more time and effort. Because if you’re in that situation, you can complete your job duties maybe if after work or after work you go to a gym to get to work out. But maybe after work you then focus on, how can you develop your skills further, there are plenty online trainings. But then you have to really again, it’s about the time you put in.
A lot of times if you’re just a person who just comes in at 8:00 and punches out at 5:00, then you’re just going to be stuck in that cycle. But what I see is individuals who come in and say 30 minutes before their start time and they just do extra work themselves or they stay late, I see them working on innovative projects. They’re the ones who are moving forward. So you have to become self-motivated, self-confident, in yourself to be able to– to then take the next steps yourself or learn the new skills that you need or if you have aspirations and dreams of being a CIO or a director in a leadership role or own your own company, go ahead and start researching that information. And putting out a plan, writing out your goals, I have really believe strongly in writing things out versus typing them or just printing something out. I try to write out all of my goals because at that point, is then real to me. And I constantly write them out, constantly keep them in front of me. But you have to become self-motivated at that point. If you don’t have the structure or leadership around you, it’s going to promote that.
Sanjog: What are the top challenges that you’ve seen, the leaders who are trying to build achievement muscle and the team respectively, outlining saying that this is what we’re struggling with in this process of building achievement muscle for myself and or for my team?
Brian: Change, I would say is the top thing. People resist change, even in technology. We want to do things the same as we’ve always done then, so that will be the biggest challenge getting people to change. And especially the direction that technology is going now where, you’re no longer– everything’s on premise you have technology in the cloud and on premise, and how do you integrate these, all of these different distributed data centers to get into one seamless experience. And that’s a huge change in the way we think about IT, how we operate IT and how we implement technology. It’s a huge a culture change across all IT professions. And so just getting that change in place has been a huge challenge that I’ve seen and any change in processes, where this is a different technology come out, upgrading those solutions. So just change in general.
The other big change I see is again, our business users and our leaders, they’re getting younger and younger or not necessarily young and younger but they’re more– they experience technology differently than the older generation. They know how to go to an app store and download an app and have new functionality. So they’re going to expect IT to operate at that same speed. So IT must change as well to be more flexible and more agile. And again that change comes with doing things differently, operating differently and how do we respond differently. And so that I would say is been the biggest challenge, is just managing the change of the organization and the mindset of people.
Sanjog: Let’s take a quick break listeners, we will be right back. And now, we will talk in the last segment, we’ll talk about how the team that needs to have a sense of ownership of the environment that makes them high achievers. So that they could help whole created, how do you make those individuals and teams actually articulate themselves. So one is to say, okay, they come and share only the problems that they’re facing. Another is to how do they want to see this happen. And then while they articulate that what they want, what do you do as a leader to align it what the corporation wants because that’s the place where the conflict could occur. Please stay tune listeners, we will be right back and explore.
Welcome back. So, any team which wants to get that environment which they really feel will be conducive for them to become high achiever, they have to perhaps take a– they have to have a sense of ownership. So that they can get what they want and in a way they co-create it. If you were a leader who wants to take that task of making them, take the ownership of the environment which is built for them and even have them co-created, while that’s a great one to take on. Because you don’t have to do much, they will take care of things but you have a bigger challenge there, is because what they may want may not necessarily align with what the corporation wants. How would you handle that?
Brian: The way I take on projects, you want the teams to take that ownership but you first document the expected outcomes of the achievement. For instance, we have a CRM project, Customer Relationship Management Technology. And I’m letting the team really be innovative, be creative. But the first step in every project is understanding what the outcomes are. So one of the things our outcomes is, we want to be able to accept more applications from prospective students. We want to automate our mailing so we no longer want to have to print and fold envelopes, we want to beta integrate that with the third party. We want applications to flow in and not have as many duplicates to reduce that workload.
So we list out all of the expected outcomes. And from that point, then we decide which technology to use, what’s going to be the strategy, the process. And so the team, the team managers and the staff can then be creative in how they achieve that goal but they have those outcome because at the end of the project, that is the checklist, that is the report card there of that we achieve this goal for the organization. And just go down that list. And so if you don’t just as a leader, you can’t just say, “Okay hey, we want to do this goal, go out and figure it out.” You have to list out the specific outcomes that is expected. And then allow people to be creative to meet those objectives. And oftentimes what you’ll see is, they make, they’ll come back with the ideas of saying, okay, not only can we automate letter generation but we can automate the entire email workflow and even do text messages and other things. They’ll come up with that ideas that really go far beyond what the organization was expecting that’s an even better greater benefit.
Sanjog: And so you’re saying, you’ll eat the cake and have it to where they created the environment at the same time, you have them in a way create that alignment which otherwise would have fallen on your back?
Brian: Yes, and I’m constantly monitoring the outcomes. So every day for our key projects, I’m getting updates on their projects, so as a leader you can’t just– you don’t just sit back and watch them go and where do they fail in the end, you’re responsible for that. I’m constantly getting updates and my updates when I ask questions, I’m asking questions based on the expected outcome so. How are we coming with the integration to do the automatic mailings or how we come in with the process to remove duplications from and do a master data management process. So all of my questions and I do that routinely is making sure that they’re making progress toward those goals. And once that– and I’m measuring the timeline. So, if I know that I have six months to achieve this, once we get to certain milestones and they’re not completed at that point as a leader, I can step in to see, “Hey, this task is not making the progress that we thought it would make, so what’s going on?” And then I can help reevaluate.
At that point, if their strategy is not working, then it may come down to where I do lay out a specific plan of, we’re going to follow A, B, C, D in that order and then that’s what we’ll do to make sure we meet that deadline. But as a leader you have to be involved particularly with your key project and just monitoring and that’s where the whole project management lifecycle comes in, knowing that those steps are getting made. But you’re also again, you want to reinforce as well that career development so that people have the input they need, they have a voice in the project. And usually, it’s rare that you’ll have to step in and really can enforce those measures. If you’re constantly monitoring, constantly getting updated on the progress. And they know the end that you’re supportive of them.
Sanjog: Now based on whatever you’ve tried in your organization and with your team. I’m sure you have achieved great results, you seem to be a great leader. I’m sure there is always things which you would want to do differently in order for you to get better at it. What would those be?
Brian: Things that I would do differently, I would say that one of the things is again, pushing the change, sometimes you don’t want to push too fast but at the same time you don’t want to push too slow. And so one of the things that I’ve learned over the years is, you really have to adjust to the individual or you have to meet the individuals where they are, as a leader with multiple teams and close to a hundred full time or part time staff. I can’t be the same leader to everyone so I have to learn the different teams, every profession IT, they typically have a different type of personality. So like your developers have a totally different mindset than the system administrators who are running your data center. So you have to really know how to be the right person at the right time. And that’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is knowing how to, in some teams give them more freedom to be creative or– as we’ve mentioned earlier, give them full flexibility to go out and fail to do things versus some teams and individuals, I have to be more specific and give more detail task on what they need to do.
And so I really have to find that balance of which teams can I give more flexibility to, that really want that flexibility versus those that want more structure and more specific tasks on what you expect them to do.
Sanjog: One last question for you, what is your message and appeal for those other leaders who are looking at helping flex and strengthen achievement muscle for of their own team?
Brian: I will say, it’s all about the people process and technology. Starting with the people, you have to build the right team of individuals around you and as a leader you have to be open to new ideas and new changes. Ineffective leaders, when you try to control every single task and project, then people aren’t going to feel like they have a voice and they can say things that they agree with or disagree with so. You as a leader, you always want to be open, you want to share idea, you want people around you, that’s going to challenge you. You want people to really challenge things that you say or things you do, that is going to disagree with you, it’s just like if you’re building muscle and working out at a gym. Your trainers going to constantly challenge you. If that trainer is just letting you do fire reps and stuff, then he’s not an effective trainer. He’s going to make you go six, seven, eight, nine and ten. As a leader you want people to number one, be able to challenge you because again that’s going to help you as a leader build muscle but it’s also building muscle in those around you, because you’re allowing them to be creative, you’re allowing them to exercise their muscle, is building up that achievement muscle.
And so those would be the top things I would say, process again, so people then process, how can you do things differently, you must always look at every process you do. Even if this is a process that’s been working for you, you have to reevaluate everything you do constantly because there are always better ways of doing things. We have forms that we fill out every year for budgeting and a check box as you know. Are you being as efficient with your budget as possible? And I always laugh, when I see that because you’re constantly can find better ways of doing things so that’s an ever evolving challenges to constantly review your process. So you don’t get stuck in the cycles. And finally technology, allowing people to be creative, innovative–
Sanjog: 15 seconds.
Brian: –keeping that voice. You can then allow them to be creative and the right technology to be implemented.
Sanjog: On behalf of the show and our listeners, thank you so much Brian for taking the time and sharing your thoughts on building your own team’s achievement muscle. Thank you.
Brian: Thank you.
Sanjog: And listeners, hope you got some value out of this discussion. Please like us on Facebook, search for CIO Talk Radio and be sure to follow us on Twitter. Thank you again for listening to CIO Talk Radio, this is Sanjog Aul, your talk show host. Till next week, take care and God bless.