Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: leadership

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian technology contractors relating to leadership.

Those Non-Technical People Who Work on a Tech Project


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Those Non-Technical People Who Work on a Tech ProjectUnderstanding the basics of technology is a must for any employee or contractor who wants to be involved in an innovative organization. Regardless of a person’s role, if they want to be on board with the organization’s latest tools and use them efficiently, they must be somewhat savvy in the high-level technology skills.

According to Undercover Recruiter, the most basic tech skills every employee should have do not require intense code training or learning how to take apart a computer. In fact, they’re skills that most of us take for granted, including:

  1. Social media savviness
  2. Spreadsheeting
  3. Presentation skills
  4. Word processing
  5. Touch typing
  6. Keyboard shortcuts
  7. Emailing
  8. Staying with the times

Still, we often come across team members or even leaders who have not bothered to learn or update these skills in years. They end up misunderstanding situations or slowing down projects.

Dealing with a client’s employees who do not understand technology, or even technical contractors who don’t understand the subject at hand, can be a frustrating ordeal; however, it’s also a reality that we need to adapt to. While there is little we can do about teaching people proper typing skills or how to use LinkedIn appropriately, you can control how you explain details to them to ensure better comprehension. In a recent article, The Muse shared four ways to explain tech concepts to non-tech co-workers. Here’s a brief summary:

  • Bring Out Your Inner Shakespeare: Compare the concept to something where the person does have a thorough understanding.
  • Let Your Co-worker Take the Lead: Let them guide the discussion so they can ask questions at their level.
  • Opt for Curious, Not Condescending: Avoid tech jargon or explaining in too much depth to avoid making people feel inept.
  • Add a Dose of Empathy: Understand a person’s situation and pay attention to how they’re reacting, then form your explanation.

How do you deal with non-technical people when they’re an integral part of your IT project team? Share your tips for other contractors in the comments below.

Giving Feedback within Your IT Project Team


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Giving Feedback within Your IT Project TeamGiving feedback to your peers, or even direct reports, can be a tricky road to navigate for anyone. It can be awkward and uncomfortable, and there may be a fear that you’ll offend someone, destroy team dynamics, and seriously harm your project. When successful, feedback can build trust in your team, build solid relationships and, ultimately, create a better project outcome. How can IT professionals give feedback that provides the latter? Here are a few basic tips for giving feedback:

Remember the Two Types of Feedback

Strike a balance between both reinforcement (positive) feedback and corrective (negative) feedback. Positive feedback points out a job well done and encourages a person to continue the same behavior, where negative feedback highlights a need for improvement. Unfortunately, too often we only give negative feedback, eliminating the massive motivational benefits that come from the recognition in positive feedback.

Keep Feedback SMART

The acronym can be used when setting goals, answering job interview questions and, yes, when giving constructive feedback. Rather than a simple “you could do this better”, provide a person with Specific details of the situation and how they can improve. Make it easy for them to Measure their progress and Achieve success in a Realistic manner. Finally, make feedback Time-bound, so a person has a specific deadline to work towards.

Be Careful How You Give the Feedback

Even if you’re providing SMART feedback, the specific words you choose and tone you use will affect how it is perceived. Ensure your language is not judgmental and your voice is not condescending. How you communicate is especially important when you’re working in a team where there are language and cultural barriers. Although you may think your message is coming across politely and clearly the recipient may not fully comprehend your tone.

Is the Feedback Really Necessary?

Before providing your input, make sure it is necessary, it will be helpful, and it’s your place to give it. If you don’t know the complete circumstances of the situation, if the person has no control over the situation, if you’re angry, or if it’s simply none of your business, then don’t saying anything at all. It’s also wise to “pick your battles.” Too much feedback can be overwhelming, frustrating and counter-productive. Therefore, ask yourself if it’s really that important.

Plan Your Feedback

Feedback should be given sooner rather than later (it’s common for peers to provide feedback when a project is over, which does not help improve the project), but also avoid jumping on it immediately. Plan carefully to understand the person’s situation, what you’ll say and where you’ll say it. For example, a public setting is great for positive feedback, but not appropriate for negative feedback.

Feedback is a two-way street. You have to be great at providing it, but the other person has to be willing to accept it. When some people hear feedback, they immediately think “you need to change” or “you’re terrible at what you do.” This is beyond your control, but ensuring you’re as good at accepting feedback as giving it will help others accept it too.

How does feedback get given and received on your teams? Do you have any secrets for giving it? If so, please share them with our readers in the comments below.

10 Crucial Tips for First-Time Managers


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It is your first contract that requires you to manage people, and you are both excited and nervous. There are lots of new skills you will need to learn in order to manage your team to achieve primary goals without wasting resources, and undermining on your team’s stability. This may see scary, but with these useful managerial tips you can keep on top of your tasks.

In this infographic, Acuity Training emphasizes 10 tips for first time mangers to follow in the workplace that will ensure optimal team performance. Discover what it takes to be a successful leader, prioritize your goals, and motivate your team.

10 Crucial Tips for First-Time Managers

Quick Poll Results: Leadership is Important for Independent Contractors


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Last month’s contractor quick poll dove into the subject of leadership, specifically its relevance to IT contractors. We asked our readers how often they require these skills while working on client projects and the results are clear: independent contractors need leadership skills!

More than 3/4 of respondents stated that they always or almost always require leadership skills during their contracts, while the remainder of respondents said sometimes. Not a single person answered that they rarely or never require leadership skills.

What does this mean for you? If you’re not confident in your leadership abilities, it’s time to brush up on them to continue your success as an independent contractor. Do you want to see more posts with leadership advice in the Talent Development Centre? If so, are there any specific areas? Add your requests to the comments below!

Quick Poll Results - Do independent contractors need leadership skills?

Contractor Quick Poll: Leadership Skills for Contractors


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Leadership is a widely studied topic and a scroll through your LinkedIn feed will prove that it’s discussed by nearly everyone. While some would argue it’s over-talked about, others would argue it can’t be spoken of enough.

While this post isn’t going to argue whether or not we need more leadership articles, we are curious to know how relevant they are to IT contractors. Specifically, does it play a part in your everyday work? This month’s contractor quick poll asks independent contractors how often they require leadership skills to succeed.

Building Relationships with People More Senior Than You


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Building Relationships with People More Senior Than YouBuilding a relationship with any colleague can be challenging, especially if you don’t immediately click. Even more challenging can be building a relationship with somebody more senior than you. There are many different scenarios that this may come about, and we scoured the internet to ease you through three of them: Getting to know a new boss, building a relationship with a CIO, and managing people who are more senior than you.

Getting to Know Your New Boss

Having a positive relationship with a new boss is crucial for a successful contract.  This HBR article provides some helpful advice on dealing with a new boss coming into an organization that you’re already at:

  • Look for Common Ground: Try to find out who they are and what interests them before even meeting, using tools like LinkedIn.
  • Have some Empathy: Remember that they’re under a lot of pressure and, as much as they’d like to, getting to know you right away may not be possible. Give them space and it will be appreciated.
  • Don’t Lay it on Too Thick — or Too Thin: Good managers can spot a suck-up or political operator from a mile away, so don’t even bother.
  • Ask About Their Communication Style: Knowing how they like to receive communications and make decisions will prevent misunderstandings and help get work done faster.
  • Help Them Achieve Early Wins: Show you’re a team player by helping them get some wins.

Building a Relationship with a CIO

What about somebody who isn’t necessarily your boss, but the most senior in the organization. A recent Dice article provided 4 tips for building a relationship with a CIO which is a great start for building relationships with any C-level executive. Here’s a brief summary:

  • Have something to Say: Tech leaders are often looking for feedback and want to know those under them are thinking strategically.
  • Don’t complain without a solution: Refrain from armchair quarterbacking. If you don’t have a good solution, don’t bother the CIO with your complaints.
  • Keep Customers Happy: According to the article, “technology executives are paying increasing attention to how their department is perceived by end users inside and outside the company.”
  • IT is About More Than Tech: Show that you also bring business knowledge and soft skills to the table.

Managing Tech Pros with More Experience

It’s one thing to build a relationship with a senior technology professional who is above you in the hierarchy, but there are also times you need to manage people who have more experience than you. This provides more challenges. This Dice article helps with that task with these 3 simple tips:

  • Get Off on the Right Foot: Avoid throwing yourself at the team and barking orders, and watch out for “unintentional ego clipping.”
  • Ask for Advice: Older employees like to know that they are being consulted. Understand how the team works and don’t make any assumptions that can lead to a bad decision.
  • Share Knowledge and Context: Share knowledge with them so everybody can learn, and keep the in the loop to give context when things must change.

As a senior professional, these situations may seem simple and obvious; however, they can stress out junior IT professionals new to the work world. What additional advice would you give to them on this topic?

How Contractors Can Deal with a Technology Crisis


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How Contractors Can Deal with a Technology CrisisThe best independent contractors are the ones who clients see as experts in their field and the truly dependable, go-to person. They develop the best plans, troubleshoot the hardest problems, and come up with the best solutions to the most complex requirements. Above all, the most reputable and trusted technology contractors are the ones who navigate a crisis so smoothly that, even if the end-results are far from ideal, the client still feels they were supported by the most capable IT professional.

For the sake of this post, we’re considering “crisis” to be a situation when a technology breaks or malfunctions to the point that your client’s day-to-date operations are in jeopardy, services are drastically impaired, and/or money is being lost. The way in which you handle such a crisis to bring operations back on track impacts your reputation as an independent contractor significantly. So, when faced with such adversity, it’s in your best interest to roll up your sleeves, step up to the plate, and lead your client and the entire team through the turmoil. Great… so how do you do that?

  1. Stay in the Right Frame of Mind: Before you even talk to people or start tackling issues, the first step when entering “crisis mode” is to be in the proper frame of mind. That means taking a step back to remain calm and positive, without letting emotion get in the way.
  2. Evaluate the Situation: You still aren’t physically doing anything. Now that your head is in the right state of mind, you need to carefully evaluate everything that’s happened and is still happening. Know clearly which stakeholders are being affected, what’s needed to fix the problem, and who will need to be involved. It should be noted that these first two steps need to be completed as quickly as possible. Time is always a factor and it goes by quickly in a crisis, so you need to act quickly so things don’t spin further out of control.
  3. Take Control: People act differently in a crisis. Some will do absolutely nothing except panic. Others will do far worse — they’ll do absolutely everything (usually unhelpful things). Your job is to take control to ensure people are doing what they need to be doing to get through the crisis — nothing more and nothing less. Show your understanding of the situation, explain your plan, and exude confidence so that people want to follow you.
  4. Start Delegating: Assuming you’re in an environment where you’re the most senior person with the most knowledge of the affected technologies, doing all the work means others are sitting on their hands. You may feel like you’re not contributing, but organizing different people and coordinating outcomes is the task a leader needs to focus on.
  5. Stay Realistic: If you’ve properly evaluated the situation, then you should know what the best outcome is going to be. The crisis will end in a worst situation than when you started, so prepare for that and don’t try to fix everything perfectly quite yet. At this stage, you’re still trying to stop the bleeding, regain control, and get everything working well enough so daily tasks can resume.
  6. Evaluate the Situation: We loved Step 2 so much that we’re bringing it back. Once the problem is solved and business is back on track, it’s time to evaluate the situation. What went wrong? What’s still wrong? What was the impact? Who needs to be informed? These are all important questions to discuss with your client to ensure that the crisis is over and that it doesn’t happen again.

Sometimes, your job as an IT contractor in a crisis situation is to follow the delegated person on the client site. In these cases, follow protocol; the organizational structure of your client site will dictate if you’re the right person to lead or not. If you are required to step up, how you react in a crisis will have a direct effect on how those around you also deal with the situation. By leading calmly and rationally, people (especially those who are panicking) will want to follow you. When you maintain a level head and follow the steps above, your followers will too, resulting in a successful end to the crisis, so you can start putting pieces back together and move your project back on track.

So Now You’re a Manager


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David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Vice President, East Region & Government Services at Eagle

So Now You're a ManagerFor many of us, after toiling in the trenches for years, aspiring to move up and into Management is a natural progression; in fact, we all probably know of the coworker who would say “what took you guys so long to promote me?” That, however, is a topic for another day.

Technology contractors generally benefit from being independent, but they are more often than not working as part of a bigger team. At some point or another, you may find yourself at the head of that team and managing a group of contractors or your client’s full-time employees. While such responsibilities tend to come with higher rates and valuable experience for a resume, it isn’t always sunshine and roses.

No matter the field, most professionals are thrilled with their first opportunity to manage people, but may be painfully unaware how their new job will change so drastically. When one goes from doing whatever it is you have become so adept at — programming, sales, accounting — to assuring others or a team of your peers accomplish what you may have seemingly mastered, well… now the “fun” begins.

Many organizations make the assumption and sometimes serious mistake that the star developer is the next Team Lead or Project Manager, but often that path is not natural. The business world needs look no further than the sports community. In sports, it is widely accepted that the star or legendary athletes very often do not make good coaches. Wayne Gretzky holds every NHL record there is and many that will likely never be broken, but suffered a post-playing career to a very unimpressive sub 500 record while coaching.

There are likely many reasons why the “star athletes”, who often have an extraordinary skill set at doing what they do alone (ex. sales, healthcare, programming), are abject failures in driving others to excel and accomplish the way they did. We can reasonably ask why those who are so accomplished inherently fail in the ability to coach, motivate, develop and truly lead others on a Team. Is it that different from managing oneself? The short answer is yes.

Star performers have an intense focus and ability to perform and accomplish at the highest level. They control their single most important resource — themselves. A Manager or Coach, on the other hand, must prioritize, multi task, coordinate and motivate a multitude of others, often like a Symphony Conductor and his orchestra with the hope the end result is sweet music. First time Managers will often struggle with this lack of “control” and will mistakenly try to do the job themselves, reverting back to their “me” instincts or micro-manage their way to success. Their new job, though, is a “we” job that requires an entirely different skill set to manage a team of people. An ability to delegate and empower others is not natural to the recently promoted “star”.

While we know the micro-manage scenario is a morale killer that often diminishes productivity on teams, it is a leap for many new managers to understand how important communication is to a Team. They may know what to do inherently but are poor at communicating that skill or ability. New managers or Team Leads will need time to acquire these skills and in the interim will likely need a ton of resiliency and perhaps a thicker skin as they take on the added responsibilities of other people’s actions.

8 Entrepreneurial Skills to Teach Your Kids


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The skills possessed by entrepreneurs aren’t limited to those starting a business or running a small company. They’re transferrable to every role in every profession and those who embrace them are inevitably going to be more successful in their career.

That’s why this infographic from Pumpic Mobile Monitoring encourages you to teach these core entrepreneurial skills to your children at a young age. As an independent contractor, you no doubt possess most, if not all, of the skills, so how are you passing them on to your children? See below to find out how to inspire your kids to learn these eight entrepreneurial skills.

8 Entrepreneurial Skills You Should Teach Your Kids (Infographic)

8 Merry Leadership Lessons You Can Learn from Santa (Infographic)


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This jolly man makes his way into many homes over the holiday season, spreading cheer and bringing presents to children around the world. Along with his bag full of gifts, Santa Claus also carries some of the best leadership traits one can have. Don’t believe us? Just skim through this infographic from Officevibe and see what you can learn.

8 Merry Leadership Lessons You Can Learn From Santa #infographic

Visit the original post from Officevibe