Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: leadership

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

Fix the Poor Attitudes and Negativity That are Destroying Your Project

Picture this — you just started a project with a client you’ve been looking to get into for years. The rate is fantastic, the contract is the perfect length, the work is exciting and the entire experience is going to look amazing on your resume. But when you meet your team for the first time, you quickly learn that it is a toxic mess filled with negative attitudes, childlike behaviour and terrible moods.

As this detailed infographic from Quill.com points out, there are a variety of behaviours and attitudes that can foster such an environment. Not only do they lower productivity, they destroy the morale in a team and drastically set a project back. Fortunately, the infographic also has some great ideas for both dealing with bad attitudes, and also preventing yourself from falling into the same trap.

Fix the Poor Attitudes and Negativity That are Destroying Your Project

5 Ways to Lead an IT Team When You Have No Authority

5 Ways to Lead an IT Team When You Have No AuthorityHave you ever started a contract tasked with overseeing a project and leading some of the client’s employees, only to have no authority whatsoever over those people? It’s a common scenario for IT contractors, especially Project Managers. You’re accountable for a project and are required to motivate individuals to complete tasks on time and to specific standards, but have no official pull over them.

Leading without authority is no simple task, but there are strategies to master it. Here are five tips to consider next time you’re stuck managing a team in the capacity of an independent contractor:

1. Accept That You’re Not the Boss

You must come to terms with the fact that, no matter how much it feels like it, you are not the boss. You have no official authority and cannot dole out consequences, so don’t act like a tough manager. Instead, you’re a leader. Provide logical reasons for why tasks need to be done a certain way and explain the natural consequences of what will happen if they’re not (ex. the project will fall behind). The team does not need a micromanager dictating how to do every little thing, but rather an expert who understands the situation and can clearly communicate the objectives and outcomes.

2. Communicate Regularly

Speaking of communication, that is the next key to leading with no authority. Communication is a two-way system and it needs to happen regularly and positively. While you may lead the conversation, ensure that you are not completely driving it and others have a chance to speak. This is how you can ensure the team is all on the same page and following the same goals. You can work together to set expectations and make agreements on when/how work will be completed. When these are created as a team, they are more likely to be adhered to.

3. Lead by Example

Actions speak louder than words and if you want people to follow and listen to you, you need them to trust you. It’s important to take action and show that you’re as committed to the project as they are and working just as hard. On top of that, offer to help your team when they’re backed up or going through a crisis.

4. Be Humble

Your extensive credentials and massive amount of experience compared to other members on the team is irrelevant… at least to them. While it is alright (and necessary) to demonstrate your qualifications, there is no reason to regularly remind people. It’s important to publicly thank people, give credit where credit is due and, most importantly, recognize when people are smarter than you.

5. Get Ahead of the Negative People

Regardless of how much you follow tips 1-4, you are going to end up here at #5, dealing with the negative person who resents you and refuses to respect your position and your efforts. The good news is, if the person is openly resisting you, it’s often a sign that they care about the project. Embrace this individual’s passion but don’t let them waste your time. If somebody has no desire to work with you, do the minimum you need to with them, and work closer with those who are willing to work as a team. When you meet with your client, you can discuss the performance of the employee and develop a way to better engage them.

Leading is not an easy task in any role, and when you have no authority, it is a completely different challenge. As an independent contractor, you must remember that employees have invested themselves into the organization and the project.  They are passionate and want to know it is going to work. When you display that you want to work with them, towards the same common goal, leading starts to get much easier.

Strategies to Start Having More Productive Meetings Today

It’s time to take unproductive meetings where your team is constantly wishing for it to end and leave them in the dust! As a leader, ensuring meetings end with specific action items will keep your team members productive and create collaborations that result in beneficial new ideas.

And while you may be thinking that it is easier said than done, Wrike has it all laid out for you with 9 proven strategies to make your meetings highly actionable.

9 Proven Strategies to Make Your Meetings Highly Actionable (Infographic)

2017 in Review: Being Awesome at Work

2017 in Review: Being Awesome at WorkWe frequently provide advice and tips for performing better at work. These softer skills may not be what brings your rate up, but they will be the differentiators that get you positive references and more likely to get you your next gig.

These posts are fantastic for time management…

And these will help you work better with and manage others…

Are there any other topics you’d like to see more of to help you improve soft skills and perform better on the job?

Those Non-Technical People Who Work on a Tech Project

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

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

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

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

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

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?