Elevating your leadership | If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. – John Quincy Adams

Why Educause matters to me

Each industry has a number of organizations that unify professionals and enable them to network, collaborate, communicate and exchange ideas and knowledge. For me, one of such organizations, is certainly Educause. Educause is an association that unifies all of us who are in higher education (higher ed) information technology (IT) and provides opportunities for collaboration with colleagues and vendors.

When it comes to Educause and their annual conference more specifically, two areas of value stand out ahead all others:

  1. Networking with colleagues
  2. Partnering with vendors

Both of the above areas are important with respect to sharing strategies and tactics in addressing common challenges we all face which range from talent management, enrollment, cyber-security, customer service, instructional design, enterprise applications, networks, systems…and so on. If you are in higher ed IT, get involved in the community via list-serves and knowledge management and give their local and annual conferences a shot, you will be surprised of what you may learn.

Job interviews and acronyms

Job searches and everything they entail can be challenging, time consuming and a bit unnerving at times. The crowning moment and the one you are really after is an in-person interview. Once you get there it’s all on you to demonstrate value, share ideas and “sell” your vision.

Now, once you are seated in front of the search committee it is essential to relate to them, their needs and experiences. In doing so, don’t use acronyms without explaining what they stand for. Generic acronyms such as IT (Information Technology) or HR (Human Resources) are OK, but other, industry specific terminology shouldn’t be used if possible. The reason for this lies in the fact that you will almost always have folks in front of you who have different backgrounds and experiences and you don’t want to lose them and talk down to them. Speak clearly, plainly and save functional jargon for those who really want to hear it and ask you about it. Good luck!

Why leaders are not experts

As a leader one must motivate, inspire, set standards, coordinate, improve, communicate, collaborate and so on, but they should never mistakenly believe and act as if they know everything.

There is a multitude of reasons why teams are built with people of diverse backgrounds, experiences, knowledge and education in order for them to complement each other and cover all responsibilities. Leaders are not the only resident experts in all areas they lead and should be honest about that and promote the knowledge and expertise of others across organizations.

Be honest, compete on value, not price

Honest and transparent approach will go a long way in customer acquisition and more importantly, customer retention. When it comes to your services and products it is important to be honest, sincere and transparent with respect to your strategy, cost and pricing that they may need to incur.

Be honest with your clients and tell them the truth, tell them what you can and can not do for them and stay behind said decisions. Furthermore, if you can’t help them, go above and beyond to suggest alternative service providers should you be aware of any. Always give people options and opportunities to have their needs addressed. Finally, always compete on value and quality, not on price alone.

Be passionate, yet remain cool, calm and collected

Passion is one of the most important attributes that influences what we do and act on each day. Loss of your passion and your drive will unavoidably result in a decrease in commitment, attention and quality of output. Once you stop caring about a project, process, job, organization…you check out mentally and it is noticeable to those who are observant and detail oriented.

Most importantly, it is noticeable to your team. You, as a leader, must set the tone and levels of expectations and must lead in meeting them before you can expect others to do the same. Lead by example, be passionate about organizational vision and mission, yet remain cool, calm and collected…especially, under pressure.

Negativity has no place in your life

Negativity is pointless. Simple as that, there is no point or value in it. Instead, one should reflect on their current state as well as on past achievements and even more importantly focus on future endeavors and potential opportunities. Negativity is not your thing, let it be someone else’s problem.

Surround yourself with positive and supportive people who have your best interests at heart and push away all negativity, naysayers and those infused with jealousy, negativity and envy.

Once again, let negativity be someone else’s problem. Stay positive and keep your eyes on your goals as you work tirelessly toward them.

“Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” – George Carlin

Attract the best talent, then do your best to retain them

Talented people are hard to find and they are even more difficult to retain long term. They have options and they know it. Having this in mind, it is important to invest in people ahead of anything else. Get the best folks you can and focus on quality over quantity. Once a team is built, then shift your focus towards processes, policies, technology, operations and partnerships.

While we all have talents, my statements are made with respect to challenges of finding individuals whose knowledge, education and passion perfectly align with the mission, vision, strategy and functional needs of your company, business or organization as that is a difficult match to find. However, once you find it, do all you can to retain it for as long as possible.

CIO: one of the most rewarding positions

In my humble and somewhat biased opinion, one of the most rewarding positions is that of a CIO (Chief Information Officer). I say this based on their potential to influence positive transformation, change and growth within organizations. CIOs are uniquely positioned and have exposure and partnership opportunities with all business areas (finance, legal, marketing, operations…you name it, technology is involved in some way) which should be strategically leveraged for the benefit of the entire organization.

Having said that, technology leaders need to have a blend of abilities at their disposal in order to successfully navigate through organizational currents. They must have leadership skills; they must know how to effectively manage; the need vision and the ability to motivate and inspire others within IT (and at times beyond IT); they must be diplomatic and strategic…they must be valuable. This is no small task for most and as such it is not easy to be an effective and influential CIO, no matter what some might think. Becoming one generally requires years of positive outcomes and a track record that one can build upon.

Like I said, there are very few positions that could be even more rewarding, one of those is certainly that of a CEO (Chief Executive Officer), but that is a story for another time. 😉

Cyber security is a full-time job

As more and more products get connected online in this Internet of Things (IoT) “revolution” of sorts, it is important to take information security strategically, seriously and proactively.

To start, your systems and networks need to be redundant, backed up and up to date (properly configured, patched and tested); your users need to know what NOT to do online (at least top 10 fundamentals) and you need to have a security team (or at least a full-time employee) that is focused on security as their primary responsibility.

Once again:

  1. Security is a full-time job – each organization must have someone who is focused entirely on information security and data loss prevention
  2. Awareness is key – develop a security awareness program and if possible make it mandatory for all employees
  3. Detailed response plan is a must – you need to know who must do what and when should a security breach occur

Furthermore, you need to proactively work on establishing relationships and partnerships with local law enforcement agencies, including the FBI’s Cyber crime division (fortunately for us they have a location in Newark, NJ) who are generally very welcoming of collaboration, conversation and partnerships.

Partner, plan, share information and knowledge and layer your security technologies and methodologies in order to minimize potential exposure.

Lessons from T-Mobile and Experian partnership and data breach

Cyber security, information security…call it what you want, but it must be taken seriously and proactively in every organization. Furthermore, your plan and attention must extend beyond the confines of your own networks, systems, applications and walls. You need to collaborate with your partners on join strategies to strengthen your connections, secure your data and protect your intellectual property.

As you move forward, keep two things in mind. First, you are as strong as your weakest link. Second, the question is not if, but when you will be hacked. With that in mind, enjoy your Friday and have a wonderful weekend. 😉