This year I engaged a fitness coach to assist with my strength program for the first time. One of the values I learned from this, is education about how our body works. The complexity of the human muscular system is mind-boggling. It is fascinating how each muscle group works together with the “core” to achieve strength, balance, and endurance.
It is the same way with teams. I had the pleasure of spending two days with our IT leadership team this week during our quarterly meeting. This is the third time we have started it with a reflective discussion. We call this section #Perspectives. This week’s topic was Complementary Leadership.
We shared our leadership strengths and development opportunities (others called it needs). We became aware of our diversity; from our upbringing, experience, domain expertise, and leadership capabilities. We gave examples of where we rely on other strengths:
How leaders who are great in coordination help facilitate and co-lead initiatives between teams
How new leaders rely on the veterans for institutional knowledge and a breadth and depth of relationships across the business
How we learn from new leaders who are technical thought leaders; bringing new and emerging skills that don’t exist across
Our conclusion: We have diversity in leadership, and there’s nothing we need that we don’t have in this team and our extended team and network. With this conclusion, we challenged ourselves to deliberately empower our leadership compass to expand multi-dimensionally:
Up: find mentors and role models
Down: mentor others, give back, and help the next one in line
Out: find leader partners to support and complement your needs as well
Within: improve leadership self-awareness, discover our strengths, and needs
Much like the muscular system of the human body, developing the core allows different muscle groups to work in harmony to achieve the best performance. If you do it the wrong way, you can risk injuries that can set you back. Fitness training is an intentional program. With our reflection on complementary leadership, we want to make that team leadership development purposeful to benefit the whole. “Complementary leadership is the intentional partnership between one leader and one or more leader partners to share leadership responsibilities based on complementary skill sets.”1
1– Use Complementary Leadership to Develop Future Ready IT Leaders – Gartner March 2020
My 10-year-old son came to my home office. He saw two books about leadership on my desk and immediately shared a blunt observation that stunned me. He said, “You are reading leadership books and yet you are not a good leader.”
Surprised by what he said, I began to probe what he meant to say. My son, who is a prolific coder at his age, amused me with his explanation. He said, “Dad, if you are a good leader, as CIO you should be coding with your team, you are more of a boss, because you just tell them what to do.” I got a good reminder on servant leadership!
That’s right, since I don’t get to code anymore, I am merely overhead unless I bring out the best in my team and develop leadership qualities in them. Leaders must find ways to have meaningful engagements with their team. I believe that leaders that engage their people get to know what they think. They have a finger on the pulse of the organization and can lead effectively.
A few years ago, in an annual performance calibration meeting, our CIO explained why a Business Relationship Manager (BRM) from my team should get an “exceeds expectation” rating. To drive his point, he went on by saying, “If this person asks the pilot of our corporate plane to turn around while in mid-flight, the pilot will turn around.” He was probably more figurative in his argument, but what he really meant to say was that this BRM established such strong and trusted business relationships that he has gained power of influence.
I believe that Power of Relationships is one the greatest factors in determining an organization’s success. “If the results are not there, I go looking at what relationships are broken,” said Darrel Popowich as he opened 2021 World BRMConnect. Relationships is “the state of connectedness between two or more people which dictates the manner in which they interact, communicate, and behave with each other in pursuit of a shared organizational purpose.”1
Smart vs. Heart
The breakout show of the pandemic has been Apple TV+’s “Ted Lasso,” and it has gotten an additional boost from its multiple Emmys this year. Ted Lasso is an American college football coach who improbably finds himself coaching the fictional English football club AFC Richmond. The premise is that the owner hired an unqualified coach to spite her ex-husband who loves the team. The owner assumed that Lasso didn’t have enough “smart”, meaning knowledge of the game, strategy, and tactics to succeed as coach. The owner underestimated the “heart” of Ted Lasso. He ended up building a stronger and more cohesive team that brought the best in everyone. Ted Lasso led with empathy by letting each person he interacted with feeling cared for. He stayed grounded and humble to accept feedback and let others fill in where they could. More importantly, he built powerful relationships with the owner, front office, coaching team, team captain, players fans, media, and community.
One of the best explanations for this comes from another comedy sitcom from the 50s, I Love Lucy. Ricky, Lucy’s husband, came home and found Lucy looking for one of her earrings in their living room. Ricky then asked Lucy if she lost it in the living room. She replied, “No, I lost it in the bedroom. But the lights out here is much better.” “Most leaders prefer to look for answers where the light is better, where they are more comfortable. And the lights are certainly better in the measurable, objective, data-driven world of organizational intelligence than the messier, more unpredictable work of organizational health.”2
“The power of relationships in an organization provides the groundwork for leadership and culture. In turn, leadership and culture provide the context for strategy, execution, and continuous development.
Begs the question: Why are there not enough leaders that embrace power of relationships?”
Leadership and Culture
Unlike management systems and processes that tend to be linear, “leadership requires a more nuanced view of the world because it involves people: what motivates them, what their interests are, and how engaged they become”.3 Leadership and culture involves deep understanding of the power of relationships that underlies the state of connectedness between people, their interaction, communication, and behavior in pursuit of a shared organizational purpose. It requires leaders to go out of their comfort zone (SMART) and embrace people leadership, and the power of relationships in pursuit or organizational health (HEART).
There are few universal competencies and behaviors associated with leaders, such as integrity, judgement, resilience, decision-making capacity, analytical ability, charisma, and communication skills. These timeless leadership competencies still apply today. As I reflect on the shift in leadership that is needed in today’s world, I examined other leadership competencies needed in the light of major changes we are currently experiencing. Leadership competencies that leverage connectedness, as well as drive agility. Competencies that bring more focus to HEART side of the equation.
Humble: An ability to accept feedback and acknowledge that others know more than you.
Adaptable: An acceptance that change is constant and that changing your mind based on new information is a strength rather than a weakness.
Vulnerable: Being vulnerable doesn’t make leaders weak, it allows them to show people their authentic self.
Engaged: A willingness to listen, interact, and communicate with internal and external stakeholders combined with a strong sense of interest and curiosity in emerging trends.
Leadership is the ultimate lever to evolving culture. An organization’s culture doesn’t just materialize, and it isn’t random. It reflects human behavior, which is why it is often defined using human traits. More specifically, culture is an echo of all the interactions and relationships between any people having anything to do with the organization, past or present. Leadership and culture do not exist as independent things, they overlap or combine. Those unseen connections (relationships) are fundamental ingredients and key determinants of everything. Thus, the power of relationships in an organization provides the groundwork for leadership and culture.
This culture pyramid derived from the book, Change the Culture, Change the Game, is one of the best frameworks to define culture. “Leaders create experiences. Experiences foster beliefs. Beliefs drive actions and actions delivery results.” The combination of experiences, believes and actions is the culture of an organization.
Most initiatives that are heavily biased on the SMART side of the equation tends to focus on the top part of the pyramid: actions and results. This is when leaders take the short cut when trying to improve results. By just calling the team to action: “sell more to increase profit”, “streamline production process to increase throughput” or “standardize processes to improve economies of scale”. I am not saying these are bad initiatives. After all, these actions deliver results that are tangible, measurable, and more predictable. However, it more likely will result in short-term progress or quick wins.
As early as 1990s, few thought leaders and authors were starting to write more about leadership than management that ruled the “Peter Drucker business world”. Change was becoming normal, and life was moving faster. This translated even more so in the business world with advancement in technology; where cycles of innovation and transformation led to the disruption of industries, and the creation of new ones. Unprecedented events in human history, like the current COVID19 pandemic brought the complexity of our world come screaming into view. It is changing the way we live and work.
Leaders who balance SMART with HEART will consider all the elements on the pyramid – company experience, employee beliefs and ingrained practices – and then ensure that what you change is sustained. The right experiences and belief foster powerful relationships between different people in the organization, that in turn build commitment and lasting impact. The actions then initiated by change initiative delivers results that is sustainable and resilient.
I have been CIO with Mark Anthony Group for barely three months and it’s been an amazing ride already.
My story as CIO is still being written.
In preparation to be a keynote storyteller I asked myself, how has Business Relationship Management (BRM) impacted my journey?
Well, let me tell you…
I began volunteering in 2013, the year BRM Institute was founded. It was my way of giving back and supporting the global BRM community. Little did I know, this experience would transform me as a technology professional, as an individual and as a leader. Through BRM, I found my purpose and built lasting relationships. BRM changed my mindset which ultimately strengthened my leadership capacity. Let’s dive deeper into the themes which have proven most important in shaping my story – purpose, relationship, mindset, and leadership.
After an unusual turn of events, I ended up in a technology career and, ultimately became a CIO. However, this was not supposed to be. When I was growing up, my dream was to have a successful career in finance and accountancy working for the biggest conglomerate in my home country, the Philippines. This company is the San Miguel Beer Corporation. As a kid, that was my goal. After high school, I was accepted to one of the best finance and accountancy university programs in my country and I was ready to get started on my dream.
In 1993, my parents went to the university in Manila to enroll me. In those days, you had to physically enroll at the university and my parents were doing this for me. Soon after, I got a call from my mom. She said, “We forgot your birth certificate at home and it’s a mandatory requirement for enrollment.” Long story short, I lost my accountancy slot which was a quota program and was relegated to Information Technology (IT). I went into the program thinking I’d shift to Accountancy the following semester, but here I am in IT 27 years later.
Ironically, my younger brother is a finance manager in San Miguel today. He is very happy, but I can’t imagine doing what he does. I am happily where I’m supposed to be.
Declare Your Dreams
At BRMConnect 2018 in San Diego, I shared a framework used to find purpose which is centered around reflection and actions within three concepts: story, beliefs and aspirations.
Story – is the context of who you are. It’s your personal journey. Your story evolves as you go through life and professional experiences. Your stories shape who you are. Beliefs – is what you believe in, your ideology will give you the compass you need to remain consistent and likeable over time. It drives your behavior and mindset. Aspirations – are what you want to be, it is the idealistic view of what you want.
Deep reflection and determined action toward one’s story, beliefs and aspirations are when purpose-finding becomes self-sustaining and powerful. Deep reflection can sustain inspiration for your purpose but without action, it can’t sustain itself; without action, the purpose is just an inspiration.
In San Diego, I called out my aspirations and my dreams to become CIO. Visualizing your goals and desires solidifies your intention. Solid intention opens your heart and mind to the people, resources, and the help needed to realize them. There is amazing power in visualizing your intention, it is the origin of action! For me personally, discovering purpose is accomplished through reflecting and acting on your stories, beliefs and aspirations. If you get lost, do it again and again.
Roughly 11 years ago, I started to venture into some serious blogging. At the time, I was working for CEMEX, a global building materials company, and I remember attending a townhall meeting hosted by CEMEX USA’s EVP, Ira Fialkow. After his talk, Ira came over to me and said, “Hey, I read your blog and I love it.” Ira was the boss of my boss’s boss so, you can just imagine what it was like for me. Our interaction started a mentor-mentee relationship which continues to this day.
Months later, I met Vaughan Merlyn, a sought-after management consultant online and one of the co-founders of BRM Institute. At first, we were just collaborating and engaging with each other through our respective blogs. Simple collaboration led to emailing, and to phone calls. One such call, Vaughan told me, “If you ever need anything or would like advice or talk about IT, you can call me anytime.” Through my relationship with Vaughn I found free consulting, a mentor and a friend.
Vaughan invited me to join BRM Institute in 2013 as one of the founding members. A year after, I took on a role at Constellation Brands as VP BRM. The executive recruiter discovered me through BRM Institute with CEO Aaron Barnes’ recommendation.
This year, I found myself in countless calls with many of my mentors to explore the CIO opportunity with Mark Anthony Group. There are many others I learned from in my vast relationship network: Ibrahim Jackson, Sheila Smith, Arnie Weatherall, Roy Youngman, Peter Lijnse, Aaron Monroe, Sergio Zarate, Kip Fanta. The list is seemingly endless.
This is the power and value of my BRM community – which has been so good to me – manifested in the strength of my relationships. This is an example of accessing infinite value through relationships. If I take a moment and think about the best work relationships I’ve ever had and picture them in my mind, I think about these people. In a great relationship, individuals invest in each other. They become partners, mentors, friends.
Fortunately, before the pandemic, I was able to travel home to the Philippines to celebrate my father’s 70th birthday. Before my trip, I reached out to the head of my hometown alma mater to pitch an idea. Spending time giving back to my old high school by speaking to upcoming high school graduates was something I desired to do. I spoke in an auditorium full of graduating students for an hour, sharing steps to a purpose-driven career. When the students spontaneously sang a happy birthday song for my father when I introduced him, was my favorite part of the day.
In the past, I’ve viewed leadership mainly as an exercise of power performed by particular individuals in leadership positions. To me, those were the individuals with the leadership traits and behavior.
Maintaining a goal-oriented, driven and focused mindset, I aspired to achieve those leadership positions. I pushed myself every step of the way, which got me to a certain point. Unfortunately, I became stuck for a few years. In fact, in 2009, I strongly considered investing time and money to attend a premium MBA program thinking it was a career booster or my way up the leadership chain. I seriously looked at several programs, researched options and did my financial analysis.
I remember consulting with my mentor, Ira. He immediately commented how I could be mortgaging my future by going in that direction. He said, “Knowing you, I believe you can achieve your goals just working out your strengths.” His advice struck me like a bolt of lightning. Immediately, I realized my mindset was wrong. Ultimately, what I needed to do was to expand my network, connect and engage. One way to expand your network is to give your time, to volunteer and to mentor others. By giving back you receive so much in return; you sharpen your knowledge by learning from others and you find mentors.
My renewed resolve to focus on others and add value to them inspired me even more. It eventually increased the energy of those I partnered with and the teams I led.
• I volunteered and led various teams at BRM Institute • I doubled down on mentoring others which energized me and I learned a lot in the process • I gave back where and when I could
Look for opportunities to give your time to others and volunteer. In my experience, the return will surprise you.
Instead of an MBA, BRM became my accelerator. I learned the most important shift anyone must make to become a leader is from a soloist to a conductor; from a soloist to an orchestrator; from a soloist to magic-in-the middle. You can be a successful person on your own, but not a successful leader. I aim to be a successful leader.
Now, I see the essence of leadership in a more practical way. I see leadership as a practice rather than residing in the traits or behaviors of particular individuals. I realize the potential in driving leadership that is convergent, collaborative, collective, and compassionate.
During my Philippine trip earlier this year, I jumped into the Ulot River, or Monkey River translated from the local dialect. So-called wooden torpedo boats powered by a 16-horsepower engine, cut through rapids at speeds of up to 160 kph. We got to a point where I could jump into the river and get swept away several hundred meters, eventually clinging to a rope which pulled me to safety. I did the jump twice!
You know the feeling when you’re determined to do something and you’re really excited about it, but you’re scared at the same time? You’re ready to act, but you keep finding excuses to delay because of fear.
Maybe it’s because you’re:
Telling yourself it might not work
Not confident about what you know
Afraid of what other people will think or say about you
Focusing on your previous failures
Every single one of these thoughts and feelings is driven by fear, or more accurately, your mindset around fear. If you are dedicated to understanding why you feel a certain way at any given time, you have the ability to shift your mindset for the better.
When I jumped into the Ulot River, I was scared. But I was also determined to jump. When I talk about breaking through fear, I don’t mean the absence of uncertainty. As a result, I’m able to (and you can, too) embrace the fear and break through it.
BRM taught me two ways to break through fear by changing your mindset.
1. Community – surround yourself with the right people 2. Language – Cultivate the right mindset
Surrounding yourself with the right people on your journey makes all the difference.
For me, it all began with a declaration in 2018 at BRMConnect, San Diego. There, I shared how I aspired to become a CIO. I believe visualizing your goals and desires solidifies your intention. Solid intention opens your heart and mind to the people, resources, and the help needed to realize them.
Having support is unparalleled, because when you feel like you can’t take that next step – when you doubt your capabilities and fear what you have to say won’t matter – my BRM community has been there in those moments to help me move forward and break through.
The language you use when you talk to yourself and others can shift how you think, feel and perform. It can be something so simple people often overlook it. For language is a lens into one’s behavior. Meaning, the words you use to communicate are a precursor to your actions. Through the process of advancing BRM capabilities and philosophies, BRM changed the way I “speak IT”. This internal shift in language usage began a mindset cultivation process which then caused my approach to life, business and leadership to change.
Relationship-Centered Organizations are Equipped to Face any Challenge
When the collective knowledge on BRM was first assembled for the first Body of Knowledge in 2013, it centered around frameworks, processes and competencies to support BRM as a role and organizational capability. Looking back, I am in awe of how much those team efforts accomplished. The effort did not end there as BRM continues to evolve with the contributions and experiences from the single, global BRM community. The great thing about this community and its leaders is its openness and boldness to evolve.
As I reflect on the topic of my keynote, “how my CIO journey began with BRM”, it resulted in a realization which eventually became the theme: Through BRM, I found my purpose and built lasting relationships. BRM changed my mindset and strengthened my leadership capacity. I discovered what propelled my journey to become a CIO is embracing and advancing BRM as a philosophy. BRM is a mindset, a value system and a purpose-driver. I came full circle with BRM philosophy.
Business and organizational challenges have intensified due to the major impact of the global pandemic. When such challenges intensify, you may need to redesign strategies, merge or dissolve businesses, find new channels for your products, or reimagine work and go-to-market tactics. These big challenges have no easy answers.
Perhaps even more difficult, the solutions to challenges like these don’t reside only in the executive suite. Solving them requires the involvement of people throughout your organization accessed by leveraging employees’ collective intelligence and capability. This can be done through strength in relationships.
The year 2020 has been full of obstacles, tragedies and challenges. As we go through these unprecedented times, we find our resilience, our connections and our relationships are the best things we have. I think about medical workers, doctors, nurses and care givers who have been helping humanity face the emerging health concerns in the last several months. What they are doing is caring for their fellow human beings at their moment of greatest vulnerability. To me, it’s powerful and inspiring.
This is the time we need more relationship-centered groups of people, be it families, teams, or organizations. Take a moment and think about the best work relationships you ever had. Picture that person or team in your mind. Think about what you accomplished together, the fun you had, and the creative sharing and mutual growth. Now, imagine the same kind of relationship existed between you and everyone in your immediate team, your partners and peers. What could you accomplish? Nothing will stop you to evolve culture, build partnerships, drive value; satisfy purpose. This is the purpose of BRM.
Take a look at the full-length recording of Glenn’s keynote presentation given during BRMConnect Virtual 2020.
“There is no better time than now to reflect on your purpose and then act on it.“
Last January, I was in my hometown in the Philippines so I could be with my father to celebrate his 70th birthday. The craziness of 2020 had already begun. I almost did not make the trip due to the eruption of the Taal volcano, 30 miles from Manila. Before coming home, I reached out to the head of my hometown alma mater to pitch an idea. I wanted to spend time giving back to my high school, St Mary’s College of Catbalogan, by speaking to upcoming high school graduates. I spoke to them for an hour about creating tomorrow and sharing steps to a purpose driven career. My favorite part of that day was when the students spontaneously sang a happy birthday song for my father when I introduced him. I am so grateful I made that trip and connected with friends and families in Manila and my hometown Catbalogan.
We have done our fair share of reflective thinking during this pandemic. We watched as individuals and communities around the world changed — oh how it has changed. I believe that today, more than ever, the sense of purpose is important. It is important in individuals, in communities and even in businesses.
My wife, Ivy always tells me, “we are where we are supposed to be”. She means that, if we chose to go it’s because we were supposed to go. For those of you who know my personal story, I was supposed to be an accountant working for San Miguel Corporation. That was my ultimate dream growing up in the Philippines. I got accepted in one of the best accountancy programs in the country and ready to march on. Until…my parents forgot my birth certificate at home in the province when they were enrolling me in 1993. I lost my accountancy slot which was a quota program and was relegated to Information Technology (IT). I got into the program thinking I will shift the following trimester, but here I am still in IT 27 years after. Ironically my brother is a Finance (Accounting) Manager in San Miguel today. He is very happy, but I can’t imagine doing what he does. I am happy where I am, where I am supposed to be.
Through these twists and turns, I am fortunate to be able to discover my personal purpose. I found what really drives me. Simon Sinek said, “Your Why is your purpose, cause or belief that inspires you to do what you do. When you think, act and communicate starting with Why, you can inspire others.” In my reflection I discovered, it does not matter what I do, what matters is my purpose. My purpose is “To teach and be known to inspire others”. This translates to professionally (a) To be a thought leader in business and technology and at home (b) To guide my children to be the best version of themselves. When I was asked during my MBA admission interview what I am going to do if I am fully covered financially, I said, “I will be in a university institution or community college, teaching”. I still believe I will be teaching when I am done with IT. That will be fantastic!
During my talk last January, I talked to the high school seniors about Ikigai, a purpose framework to guide their reflective thinking. Ikigai is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being.” The word “ikigai” is usually used to indicate the source of value in one’s life or the things that make one’s life worthwhile. This helped me discover my purpose. If you find yourself struggling to identify what your purpose is and where you might discover personal and professional overlap, here is a simple self-inquiry by asking and pondering answers to these questions might help:
· What do I love? What am I passionate about?
· In my view, what does the world need?
· What am I paid for? (Can I be paid for what I am passionate about?)
· What am I great at?
By consulting this framework, you may discover your purpose at the intersection of your passion, mission, profession and vocation. There is no better time than now to reflect on this and then act on it. After all, you can’t just reflect your way into finding your life’s purpose; you then must act your way into it. Take a mental note from the Nike slogan and Just Do It. The more we act, the more we get clear on things. Reflect and act it out. Start taking steps toward your goals and start trying new things. This will help you get out of your own way. Many people struggle for years trying to find their purpose. Reflection with action will create a deeper sense of clarity.
“Your Why is your purpose, cause or belief that inspires you to do what you do. When you think, act and communicate starting with Why, you can inspire others.” – Simon Sinek
A couple of weeks ago, our office had a team building event at iFly. Most of us signed up to experience our first indoor skydiving and I did so with hesitation. At iFly, we had a short 30-minute instruction session and then, we put on safety gears. I made my dream of flight a reality! It was so amazing that I thought of bringing my 6-year old twin boys to experience it the following day.
It was Friday so I went to pick up my sons from school. I told them we were going to iFly so they can experience indoor skydiving. They were not interested at all and both said no emphatically. I showed them how iFly does it through a video. They saw kids flying upward the wind tunnel. I said, “Isn’t this fun?” They looked somewhat convinced but a bit frightened. They responded no again with hesitation.
At such a young age, my boys like to read and learn astronomy. They know their solar systems, galaxies and black holes. Very often, I hear them talk to each other about becoming an astronaut. They went to NASA summer camp together last year. I wanted to convince them to do iFly, so I told them that one other way astronauts train with weightlessness besides being under water is indoor skydiving. Their eyes lit up and we jumped into the car. They experienced iFly and went to tell friends about it with their hand upwards as if in flying motion.
Why didn’t I communicate with WHY (to be an astronaut) from the very beginning? Instead, like most people, I started with WHAT (indoor skydiving) and the HOW (video). Simon Sinek’s TED talk How Great Leaders Inspire Action is about the idea that most people communicate by starting with the WHAT. By explaining his Golden Circle, Simon spoke about how transcendent leaders like Martin Luther King and innovative companies like Apple begin instead with WHY.
At the BRMCONNECT Forum hosted by BRM Institute at the PepsiCo headquarters in Dallas, this was my story. I was asked by Aaron Barnes, CEO and Co-Founder of the institute to tell other BRMs the story of how I formed my team and what we do. I started my storytelling by sharing the Why. The vision and purpose of my team: To Be Strategic Leaders Driving Competitive Advantage. This is a shared vision with the rest of our IT organization. In the beginning, this seemed a lofty goal. To me personally, this Why is the reason why I get up in the morning fulfilled to go to work!
We started with the Why but if we are going to be strategic partners with the business, our next challenge was the HOW. How are we going to put ourselves in the middle of business conversations and drive more strategic engagements? We turn to Business Process Management (BPM) as a means to foster business relationship. We created our Business Process Architecture (BPA) Framework and Process Assessment Methodology (PAM). We equip ourselves with an effective How.
Now when business partners come to us with a seemingly tactical request to deploy a specific application system, we have the means to ask “what business problem are you trying to solve?” and “what strategy are you enabling?” And then the invitation, let’s partner and do a Process Assessment. With three phases of PAM– Align, Discovery and Solution, we end up proposing a business initiative or technology project or both.
According to Simon Sinek every organization has a Why. “Your Why is your purpose, cause or belief that inspires you to do what you do. When you think, act and communicate starting with Why you can inspire others.” I realize there are effective use of this approach or concept in everyday — both in our personal lives and in business. Start with Why!
I attended a manager’s training program this week that my company organized. To be honest, I thought I would not encounter many new things, as I have participated in similar programs in the past already. I was wrong. One of the modules centered on leadership. I learned about improving leadership skills and effectiveness by focusing on specific leadership aspects. What resonated to me personally were the personal, relational and inspirational aspects of leadership that I often overlook. It helped that one of our program facilitators who shared about leadership, a seasoned HR director leader himself, gave personal stories from his own experiences that allowed me to see leadership through those aspects and ponder my own realization.
“I do not like that man. I must get to know him better.” – Abraham Lincoln
“Leadership is personal”, our facilitator passionately said and repeated. He took his statement to heart when he shared a lot of personal accounts about himself in the office and at home (about family) to demonstrate the personal dimension of leadership. I thought it was brilliant and the only way to bring the message across with effectiveness. What I learned is that— leadership is personal. It starts and ends with people following you because you are credible and you gained their trust.I have worked with the same boss since 2004, when I was assigned to participate in a business integration project in Europe. It is kind of strange how I call my boss and how he calls me—“my friend”. Because of working together for so long, you gained that level of trust and relationship. I see him as my personal leader and probably one of the reasons why I have been working in the same company for about 15 years now. Personal Leadership is about developing and projecting your leadership capability; being real; and demonstrating dedication. He embodies that. Personal leadership is the best way to gain credibility, loyalty and trust. As a leader you gain trust by demonstrating concern and understanding.
Ralational and Inspirational Leadership
“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” – Nelson Mandela
“Leadership is like a contact sport”, our HR Director facilitator asserted in one of our discussions. He gave a lot of references to professional and collegiate sports, as to how coaches, as leaders, motivate and inspire their players and teams to achieve the best. I learned that leadership aspiration is not always about winning that championship trophy at the end of a tournament. It is about the inspiration and the motivation to have given the best effort possible—to leave every sweat and blood on the court. Our instructor showed us a 10 year old video, where NBA coach Mo Cheeks, then coach of the Portland Trailblazer, gave Natalie Gilbert a little help singing the national anthem. There is an American awareness for great performances of the National Anthem at sporting events. But for sheer inspirational impact, it’s hard to top what happened on April 27, 2003. This is a story of leadership, an example of humility, compassion and humanity. A tale of how one man, who decided in a few seconds, to help a girl sing the national anthem and inspiring millions by doing so.
What Mo Cheeks did expressed sentiments in the kind of message about leadership sports like basketball conveys. I think leadership has less to do with authority, punishment, rewards, and more to do with credibility, trust, empathy and love. If you think about it, if you have a professional career spanning 15 years or more (like me), the leaders who have motivated and inspired you, are the ones who made the most personal connection with you. There is vast untapped potential within organizations and communities to collectively perform at a level substantially greater when they have the right leadership. How can I consistently bring the best in my people? The answer is having an engaged team. How can you have an engaged team? Start with personal leadership.
A very insightful comment in my blog from a well respected IT management consultant, Vaughan Merlyn, motivated me to write this follow up article. IT Accountability is an interesting topic and there is a lot to uncover and delve into. In Part One, I wrote about accountability as something that does not only happen when things go wrong — it is taking ownership from the beginning. It is continuous rather than something that has an end point. There are three important areas where IT accountability comes into play: (1) IT Accountability in Operative Teams; (2) IT Accountability Cost Management; and (3) IT Accountability to improve service delivery. These are just three of the many facets of IT organizations where accountability is an important driver for success. They are meant to illustrate the meaning of IT accountability and to provide examples.
Part Two aims to tackle the challenges on how to deal with the problem of lack of IT accountability. According to Mr. Merlyn, lack of accountability is a symptom of a lack of organizational clarity. I agree withVaughan. The main reason why IT leaders fail to address the accountability issue is a lack of clarity on what the team is accountable for in the first place. Accountability matters as much as any other IT capabilities. The key to directing individuals and teams towards success is to clarify the organizational purpose up front. The organizational purpose is a declaration of what the organization wants to be and, in broader terms, what it wants to achieve. It provides meaning to the day-to-day tasks, triumphs and setbacks that make up the daily operative grind. A lack of purpose will create disconnection among the different levels of the IT organization. Teams and individuals will not know why their effort matters. They cannot connect their work to a larger story. Their work becomes a matter of going through the motions. When that happens, team members lose accountability.
The following statement is Vaughan Merlyn’s assertion on this subject:
“If organizational purpose is not clear (i.e., the goals, values desired business outcomes and guiding principles for a given capability are defined and well understood?) then organizational commitment (i.e., sponsorship and accountabilities) will be lacking or confused. With weak organizational commitment, ability (i.e., clear processes, well-defined roles, competent resources filling those roles, appropriate tools and technologies supporting the processes) will be deficient. And with deficient ability, there is virtually no way accountability (i.e., criteria for success and related performance requirements) can be meaningful.”
Root Cause: Lack of Organizational Clarity
When there is a lack of organizational clarity, it will be harder for IT managers to inspire people because they don’t have a clear direction, performance measures and objectives to follow and to communicate to their teams. This disconnect will open the door for individual managers to interpret directions, formulate objectives and determine their own priorities. On the other hand, for IT team members, it will lead to inconsistent performance of day-to-day operations that will cause low morale and productivity. It will be impossible to expect accountability from team members who may ask themselves the question—“How do we know if we are doing a good job? How do we know if we are fulfilling our obligations to the team and we are achieving results for the company?” Without organizational clarity, chances are you will have a lack of accountability from your people.
Creating the culture of accountabilty starts with the IT leaders – to me this process is always top-down. They define the IT strategy and vision based on the desired results and business strategy of the company (IT to Business Alignment). The desired objective of IT or the entire company could be to: become the easiest to conduct business with, be the most innovative organization in the industry, have technological excellence, increase profitability, or create the best sales and distribution network. IT leaders must clearly understand the business strategy of the firm which it provides services to. They must also work to provide the right IT strategy, platform, experiences and actions to achieve these results. The role of IT leaders is to communicate this organizational purpose clearly to the whole team. It requires persistent effort and a clear message to get the right commitment. By doing this, they can be certain that their subordinates know or are reminded what they are accountable for. This is where IT leaders make all the difference. Leadership is about reminding people what it is that we are trying to achieve—and why it matters.
Photos courtesy of Renjith Krishnan and Sheelamohan
Unfortunately, accountability in some IT organizations has become something that happens only when they are dealing with major problems. What you have is a working environment with members taking responsibility only when things go wrong. That is, when someone or some group has to own and be answerable for the consequences that impacted the business operations and later on work on reactive solutions. This kind of accountability seldom works because it is founded on the wrong principles.
Accountability in IT happens when IT team members or teams take responsibility in performing functions and work to achieve objectives. Here they take ownership of the services they provide to the business. This kind of accountability impacts both IT services delivery and ultimately, the company’s results. This kind of accountability makes things go right and far from being a punishment for failures. This kind of accountability develops the culture that produces people with the right attitude and managers that execute the right IT strategy. Highly accountable IT organizations have that commitment at all levels — from top management to IT operators that manage day-to-day functions.
IT Accountability in Operative Teams
In my current occupation, I am fortunate to lead a team of professionals with a strong sense of pride in what they do and with the goal of contributing to the organization. That sense of pride translates into a positive attitude and best practices that govern how we work to provide the best service to our internal customers. I once told my team that what I admired most about their work is their culture of shared responsibility. I like that each one has a sense of ownership of the team’s overall performance. They have the initiative to perform certain functions within the scope of their responsibility — very mindful that they are accountable for keeping business operations running efficiently. In our team, doing things above and beyond for the sake of customer service is daily routine. To me, that’s accountability in every sense of the word. The way we hold ourselves accountable defines the very nature of our working relationships, how we provide support to the business, how we work in projects, how we respond to problems and how we interact.
IT Accountability in Cost Management
Accountability in cost management practices is one of the most important areas where IT can really impact the business’ bottom-line. IT leaders need to start by responding to the following questions: What are my cost drivers? What business objective is driving spending? Is spending aligned to the business strategy? Is IT cost transparent and does business understand the value? Accountable IT confronts these tough questions together with their business counterparts. The practice of shifting the focus from IT cost to one of business value no longer works, especially during these tough economic times. It has to be a balance of both. IT needs to be accountable for the business cases that go with its project portfolio. I think that the biggest challenges in IT are those that deal with the intersection of both technology and business — how the cost of investment in certain technologies translates to business value. IT management needs to be at the forefront in taking responsibility for cost efficiency and value creation of their products and services. IT management needs to understand what drives IT cost. The basis for effective cost management is understanding cost structure and analyzing the costs flowing through that structure.
IT Accountability for Improved Service Delivery
Better accountability improves service delivery performance. But how does this work? IT accountability for improving IT services delivery is not simply a question of providing the technology needed to run its business or ensuring service availability. It is also about its service culture as well as better partnership and alignment with the business. In short, the challenge is as much about partnership and customer relationship as it is about providing the right IT business solutions. Service culture is one of the softer elements of the IT organization’s identity but it’s extremely important when you want your organization to have a strong sense of accountability in delivering excellent services. Essential to improving partnership with the business is a deeper understanding of the business strategy, objectives and the service levels that are required. How do we engage business leaders? What is the current and evolving business strategy of the company? How can IT be leveraged to gain competitive advantage? How do we manage ongoing innovation and process improvements? Does the business understand our capabilities to maximize our value? How do we communicate and manage perception about IT services? These are some of the difficult questions and challenges that must be addressed head on by IT leaders. There must be a structure used to allow learning from business engagement about strategies, core elements and innovations to improve service culture.
Although the concept of accountability is often reduced to ‘answerability’ or ‘enforceability’, a more complete understanding includes the actions that take place at every level and every internal customer touch points. Again, accountability does not only happen when things go wrong—accountability is taking ownership from the beginning. It is continuous rather than having an end point.
Photos courtesy of Salvatore Vuono and Michal Marcol.
We’ve all heard the saying that leading by example is one of the most powerful ways of leadership. But ironically, it’s often the most overlooked. “You must be the change you wish to see in the world,” Gandhi once said.
The best way to create culture is to transmit culture. The most obvious ways to transmit culture is through teaching and coaching. IT managers and staff look up to their senior leaders for directions. IT leaders should not limit their engagement with their employees with discussions about operation work. They should engage their subordinates in other meaningful ways so as to help them develop themselves.
The best IT teams must have a culture of continuous learning. In IT organizations, developing employees is not optional, it is a necessity. Development is necessary to acquire the skills and learn the knowledge needed to keep up with new technology and processes in order to achieve business goals. Additionally, development programs in volatile and competitive organizations like IT are important in attracting and retaining employees.
Information Technology needs future-oriented leaders. Arguably, it is the most unpredictable and most innovative area of the company. If the CIO is not forward-looking, IT will most likely neither be as competitive nor at par with competitors who are relentlessly pursuing innovation. IT leaders are fascinated about the future. They are relentless about change and impatient for progress. CIOs should always be looking forward to new technology and practices that are developing, searching for new processes, tools and methodologies and experimenting how it will make sense in business in the future.
How many types of developmental conversations occur in your organization?
How can you create a culture of learning that goes beyond traditional classroom training?
In what ways do your communication tools and practices help build your team’s skills for participating in conversations about goals, changes, and barriers they face?