1. Not everyone in the office is working: I clearly remember being in a leadership meeting a couple of years ago which had a glass wall, and watching a contractor from a different department spend almost an hour and a half watching shark videos on YouTube! Also a significant amount of shopping goes on in the office and it is not for office supplies. The first reality is that just because people are at a desk in an office, it does not mean they are being productive. The above examples are extreme but not uncommon. On the other end of the scale how many of us find that we are spending our time managing our email, or sitting in endless back to back meetings that are not primarily focused on driving the business forward? We all know people that appear to be very busy but don’t have a great deal to show for it!
Sunday morning the temperature was great and the skies were clear, perfect weather for a bike ride and a spot of geocaching. Being a goal orientated kind of person, I had in mind to cover about 20 miles and find 6 geocaches. Geocaching is a hobby/sport which gets me out of the house and active if you want to find out more check out this site www.geocaching.com
After about a mile my front tyre developed a puncture. Now normally I ride with a spare inner tube and did on this occasion, unfortunately it had already developed a split so was of no use. It would have been easy to head back home to watch the Grand Prix as there was no chance of me covering the miles, and getting all the caches at that point. However, I decided that as it was such a nice day I would lock the bike up where it was and head out on foot.
Changing my method of travel also had some unexpected advantages. Travelling at a slower pace than normal and not having to concentrate hard on avoiding rocks and tree roots gave me the chance to take in the scenery, and think of other things. For example I normally blast past the bridge that is in the photo at the top of this post. Today I had the time to enjoy it and take the photo.
The slower pace also gave me a chance to think through a problem at work that had been evading me for a few weeks and come up with a solution. Had I been on the bike then I am certain I would not have come to this revelation. Further into my walk I reflected on the leadership lesson that I was learning and one I have repeatedly experienced. So often with a project/programme something will happen that derails progress and things don’t go exactly according to plan; people talk about cancelling; effectively giving up. But when you hold people and yourself to the original objectives then you find ways to still deliver. Now it may not be exactly what you set out to achieve a reduced scope maybe but deliver nonetheless. Also so often in these scenarios you learn something through the tough project either about a better way to deliver, a more ingenious use of the technology or perhaps something about yourself. What I repeatedly learn is that giving up or staying still is not an option it does not help with progress.
With my bike ride I could have turned back and not achieved anything. It would be easy to look at it and say I failed as I did not meet all of my goals but I don’t believe that the goal is always what you start out to achieve.
The best leaders are the ones that don’t give up just because things don’t go according to plan because they have the awareness to recognise that staying still is not an option and chances are they will discover something important along the way.
As for what I achieved; yes I found 3 geocaches and covered 10 miles, but I also got to take in the scenery and solve a big problem. What leadership lessons have you learnt on the journey?
Would you be interested in joining Vodafone’s UK Technology team? We are looking for talented individuals from graduate through to senior management levels to help drive us forward on our transformational technology journey. To bring the opportunities alive, I’ve attached some URLs linking through to our careers site of some current requirements and hope they are of interest either directly or perhaps amongst your wider network of contacts…
Delivery & Operations Vacancies
Infrastructure Operations Authority
CM Delivery Authority
BI Operations Authority
BI Delivery Authority
Service Operations Manager
Technical Performance Analyst
IT Performance Analyst
IT Performance Specialist
IT Release Manager
Lead Business Analyst x5
Desktop & Virtualisation Specialist
Desktop & Virtualisation Authority
Business Intelligence Architect
What do you consider to be the right ingredients for a great team? That is a question occupies my thoughts frequently. Many of the corporate IT departments and their related HR teams that I have seen typically want a standard set of skills, experience, capabilities often with a particular technology set to differentiate them from others in the IT department.
For a long time I have been uncomfortable with this approach and it is not just because I have an unconventional background. It is because I have a fundamental belief that building teams doesn’t happen by standardising but requires variety. So here are the top three things I look for when building a great team:
1. Diversity of thought: In the mix of my team I want a varied education and business background. Not everyone needs to have a computer science degree and not everyone has to have worked in the industry that the team is occupying. I want perspectives that come from different ways of seeing the world and not through the same lens. I can’t imagine a football team full of Wayne Rooney’s; on so many levels, but not least because it simply won’t work. A team built like that would have answers that tend to be the same and predictable. The results of which are not always the best and most creative. I want some people with an Arts or Humanities background from different walks of life that won’t always follow the same path as everyone else. I also need people that will complement my own thinking, and keep me in check because as much as I like to think I always see things clearly, and get decisions right the truth is I don’t always, and I need the input of the team.
2. Commitment to the team: I need team players not just star performers. It is vital that people do work as a team rather than a collection of talented individuals. They must demonstrate hard work and commitment to each other not just their own individual role. Being in a team can be tough, things won’t always go your way and that is especially true in IT but I am looking for those that will keep going, and keep committed to the team through thick and thin, and also know who to celebrate the successes when it does come. Along with this comes consistency, loyalty and ultimately results.
3. Flexibility: Things change it is a fact of life, I look for people that are comfortable with that and the reality that sometimes things will be uncertain and woolly. On occasions people will be asked to play out of position for the good of the team, and I respect and reward those that will do that for a time even if it is not always playing to their strengths. Flexibility is also about covering another person when they have had to step into an area of the field that is not their natural position but is helping the team achieve its goals, and another team member has taken on the accountability to protect their colleagues position albeit temporarily.
These are the things I look for in a team not necessarily every individual and people have varying abilities in these three. Obviously once you have the right people in the team then there is a whole bunch of things that need to follow such as having a clear goal, but that is more about what you are going to make with the ingredients than the individual ingredients themselves. My job as the leader is to blend these ingredients into something that is valuable. The other stuff that might be on a standardised recruitment check list very much comes secondary for me.
I am sure you may have a different list, so please comment below and let me know your thoughts…