Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: leadership

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

How Contractors Can Deal with a Technology Crisis

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

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

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)

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

The Secret to Climbing Africa’s Highest Peak

Frances McCart By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle

The Secret to Climbing Africa's Highest PeakI just returned from one of the toughest, but also one of the best and most memorable experiences of my life. A little over a month ago, I posted about my preparation and challenges for my upcoming climb of Mount Kilimanjaro. Now that I’ve completed the journey, returned home safely, and had a chance to reflect on the past couple weeks, I’d like to share with you one of the most important take-aways I brought back with me. Something I always knew, but this trip made me see it in a whole other light:  When taking on any major challenge, a solid team with an exceptional leader will make the difference between success and failure.

Overall, our trek up Kili was a very difficult climb — harder than we expected due to some horrible weather conditions. Fortunately, we were accompanied by a team of experienced climbers, including a Chief Guide. Our Chief Guide informed us from that start that every day would be a challenge. She would give us instructions to follow that seem simple, but were critical to making it to the peak (like eating food when we did not have an appetite due to the fact the altitude had killed our appetites).  She kept us on a very short leash, yelling instructions from the minute we got up at 6am until we fell asleep exhausted in our tents at 9pm.  Twice a day we were given information about what lay ahead and what was to be expected.  She was tough on us but we knew what was expected.  She told us over and over again that she and the rest of the team (all 93 of them) were there for us and that everyone wanted to see us at the top!

The most gruelling part of the trip was Summit Night, where we set off to reach the summit starting at midnight. Forming a long conga line of people up the mountain, we had only our headlamps and the night moon to light our way.  As a team, we had to work slowly and take one small step at a time, as anything bigger was dangerous due to the slope of our climb, the darkness and the fear of hitting someone in front of us.  We all had to work as a team to get to the top and we were kept in spirits by Fuso who sang to us to help keep us awake and positive.

It was tempting to let the overall toughness of the challenge consume us but, as our Chief Guide told us, the key is to focus on the step in front of you, and don’t get overwhelmed by the day and its challenges.  It is easier to cope with any problem or task one step at a time. What kept us going was thinking about all the little steps that need to be taken in order to achieve the overall goal of reaching the summit.

Overall, it was a team effort that got us to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. Every day had its challenges throughout the journey, but we were well taken care off.  We knew what we had to do and it was one step at a time that led to the ultimate success!

Leadership Should Be Uncomfortable (and it is)!

Kevin Dee By Kevin Dee,
CEO at Eagle

This post originally appeared on the Eagle CEO Blog March 16, 2015.

Leadership Should Be Uncomfortable (and it is)!There are many reasons why people are in leadership positions, and you would hope that they are for the right reasons.  People earn their positions because of their knowledge and experience, in many cases they earn the position by proving their worth and they are in the position because they truly want to be the boss.

 “Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.”  Vince Lombardi

The demands on leaders are relentless and there is nowhere to hide.  They must make the tough decisions.  They must deliver the tough messages.  They must walk the talk.  They must always remember that they are the leader.  Because of all of this, all leaders will find themselves beyond their comfort zone at times.

Even when they are prepared to make tough decisions, deliver tough messages and do the right thing, they will not always be right, and will invariably be second guessed!  It never gets easy.

 “Don’t necessarily avoid sharp edges. Occasionally they are necessary to leadership.”  Donald Rumsfeld

Here are 12 things for leaders to remember:

  1. You need to be decisive! That does not mean be rash or impulsive but you must make “the call”.
  2. You should be fair, as much as you can be. Life is not fair, so sometimes you need to make a choice but it should be made with a compassionate view.
  3. You will find yourself outside your comfort zone, that is just a fact! Do NOT “turtle”; take a deep breath and do what you have to do.
  4. Own your decisions. We all make mistakes, which is one way that we learn, so own your decisions both good and bad.
  5. You know when people need to hear tough messages, so deliver them. Be professional, it is business not personal.
  6. It is very hard to be friends with your direct reports. If you choose that route, make sure they know they will not be treated any differently than others.
  7. Always walk the talk. You cannot have a “do as I say, not as I do” policy and retain any credibility!
  8. When with your peers and bosses you need to use your out loud voice! Keeping your concerns and issues inside will help no-one, and makes you look like a weak leader.
  9. Look for ways to bring value to the organisation. It should not be all about you.
  10. Look for ways to help your people develop and grow, and to give them credit for their work. Never take credit for your people’s work.
  11. Hire the very best people you can find. You do NOT need to be the smartest person in the room!
  12. Look at the big picture. Success comes over the long haul, and sometimes we get so wrapped up in the daily “battles” that we don’t notice we have won a few wars along the way!

The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.”  Jim Rohn

When the Stress is High, Slow Things Down!

We all go through periods of time when the stress levels are a little more than normal. Sometimes things are so tense that they really test your limits!  If you live life to the fullest then you are continually making commitments in both your personal and your professional lives (which are invariably intertwined) and every now and then you find yourself stretched beyond your comfort zone.stressed out person

When you find yourself in that position you really need:

  1. A stress management plan; and
  2. Good time management skills!

It is your time management skills that will help you to take control in identifying everything that needs to get done, prioritizing contracts, delegating wherever possible, and creating a series of tasks to accomplish all of those projects.  Once you have that plan in place and start to knock off the tasks, you will invariably feel better.

Before you get to that point it is likely that your brain will go into overdrive, you will feel out of control, you will lose sleep and be short tempered and that is when you need to manage that stress.

We are all a little different, but there are some basic principles that you can apply:

  1. Breathe!  You need to pay attention to your body, and if you do you will notice your heart rate is up, you are having trouble focusing on any one thing and your breathing is quite shallow.  You have to physically slow things down, breathe deeply, take charge of your mind and focus on the task at hand.
  2. Look after yourself.  It is important that you don’t succumb to the natural tendencies of eating and drinking to excess, cutting back on sleep and not exercising!  All of that is the exact opposite to what will help you!  Take time to work out and get those endorphins flowing through your body.  Eat a healthy diet, don’t overdo the alcohol and get your full night’s sleep!  Looking after the body will always help the mind!
  3. Don’t take it out on those around you!  Your temper will be shorter than normal and as long as you recognize that, you can control your reactions appropriately. Remember the old adage, “engage brain before opening mouth”!  You will need to be just a beat slower in what you say, to avoid the inevitable “foot in mouth” syndrome.

If you can manage to do all of the above, without it being obvious to people that you are under extreme stress, then you will be mastering techniques used by great leaders everywhere.  Not a bad skill set to cultivate!

Do you have any other stress management techniques that you use? Share them with our readers in the comments below!