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

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. 😉

Market your products and services, don’t spam people

Marketing is a blend of science and art and it should be approached very carefully and strategically. One of the most frequent methods of marketing and awareness building are mailing lists to which people sign up in order to receive promotions, discounts, free products or services and so on.

However, when it comes to populating and building your e-mail lists it is extremely important to allow people to choose whether they want to subscribe on their own. No matter what, DO NOT add people to your lists WITHOUT their knowledge and explicit permission to do so. Build integrity with your community where your actions and words match each other and are consistent across the board. People need to be able to trust you before they invest any additional time or resources. Respect their time, privacy and always be professional.

Identify problems with questions, not statements

To solve problems one must first identify the core reasons of those issues and must accept their existence. Once ownership is established it is essential to ask proper questions as to how did you get to your current predicament and what can you do to make progress and move towards solutions.

Don’t make vague statements, but rather take change of the issues that lie ahead of you and approach them head on with great focus and determination. Get stuff done!

Leaders think and speak clearly

Leaders listen to ideas, consider them, and then make their own decisions based on collective experience, knowledge and available information. While you should always be considerate, professional and respectful to your colleagues you should not agree with ideas and courses of action that you don’t believe in.

If your experience, education and knowledge advise you against a particular idea then please speak up and share your reasoning and explain your position. It is essential to build your own credibility and integrity on the foundations of truth and your beliefs. No matter what it is, don’t simply follow the majority and make decisions based on the least amount of friction. Think for yourself and share those thoughts with your colleagues.

Invest in people

Education, training, growth and other opportunities are among many responsibilities of leaders to provide for their teams and staff. Make sure people are trained in their area of responsibilities and that they have opportunities to continue learning, growing and advancing. It’s always better to have a smaller number of high performing people on your team than a larger number of average employees.

Invest in people and focus on their growth ahead all else. Once that is done, everything else follows in due time.

Creative thinking required

Creativity and originality are at times challenging to come by in most organizations. Way too frequently folks follow the same path that was cut by those before them without considering all available options. It is imperative to consider alternatives and ensure that you and your business are using the best available solutions and are not simply maintaining status quo.

At times, this will mean going down that road less traveled and exploring new ideas. Obviously, during this process one should avoid creating unnecessary work and duplication of services, but should commit to exploration of ideas with an open mind. Consider your options seriously, reach out to your colleagues across the industry and decide with the best organizational outcome in mind.

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them” – Albert Einstein

Best leaders are approachable and welcoming

If you were to take a moment and think about some of the great leaders you have worked with (hopefully you were fortunate enough to work for a few) what are some of their characteristics that were common across the board?

One that comes to my mind, without a doubt, was their approach-ability and willingness to be there for staff. They still made their decisions and stood behind them, but they were available for a conversation, they listened and they took my ideas, concerns and suggestions seriously. This consideration for all team members and fairness when dealing with them made a huge difference in the motivation, performance and results of our team.