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!
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 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?
The 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
Visit the original post from Officevibe
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.
When you find yourself in that position you really need:
- A stress management plan; and
- 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:
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!