A Leadership Dilemma

paper-boats on solid surface

Leadership is a topic that I see a lot of posts about on LinkedIn and other social channels. Frequently, it’s some quip about what leadership is or isn’t, or posts about specific behaviors that represent good leaders or bad ones alike. Everyone has an opinion on what makes a good leader or a bad one, but the truth is that there is no specific formula on what constitutes good leadership.

There are certainly basic human qualities that are important to all relationships such as humility, empathy and kindness. Lacking those can certainly make someone poor a leader, but on their own they do not ensure a successful leader. Successful leadership skill requirements vary with specific roles much like any other job. Most successful football coaches tend to be demanding task masters with strong attention to detail, while successful marketing leaders typically espouse flexibility, loose boundaries and playful environments to drive creativity. While there is no one correct way to successfully lead, specific leadership roles will typically dictate the importance of certain skills more than others.

I have always felt that leadership by example sets the bar for a good leader, but that in itself is ambiguous as well and could mean many different things to people depending on their work environment. Being the hardest worker on an assembly line demonstrates an aspect of leadership by example, but doesn’t necessarily make that person a good leader of people.

In society we tend to think of certain roles as being “leadership roles”. A drill sergeant in the military is certainly a leadership role, but are all drill sergeants good leaders? How about the volunteer Boy Scout Troop Leader or even the average high school principal? The obvious answer is…maybe. Leadership skills are definitely required to be successful in these roles, but just because an individual has been hired to perform a role doesn’t necessarily mean that they have the skills necessary to be successful.

I believe that point to be root of the issue within most of the corporate workforce today. Typically, in corporate America, people are promoted into leadership or management roles because they have become proficient within their current role. They may be an expert in technology or marketing or possess some other unique skill, and they may be one of the hardest working and most successful people in the organization. Due to their track records of success and in order to advance their careers and salaries, they are promoted into positions of leadership where they will typically have oversight over a department, a project and likely other people.

This is usually when things get a bit interesting…

We have a highly successful and proficient individual who has mastered the skills of a functional or technical role, taken them out of the role of a doer, and put them into the role of a leader. Their overall goal changes from delivering value and results through their own work to one of delivering value and results through others.

It’s been my experience that most organizations don’t even routinely provide training for this new leader, and they basically assume that their functional or technical proficiency will naturally translate into the role of leader.

For example, in the field of technology, let’s say a Senior Programmer with 10+ years of successful experience in delivering software solutions is promoted to Software Manager and is now responsible for eight resources with varying technical skill sets. As a Senior Programmer, their success criteria is derived from delivering quality code, staying up-to-date on technology, meeting deadlines and delivering innovative solutions. As the Software Manager, the same success criteria applies to their team overall, but some of their new success criteria includes representing the team in management meetings, providing strategic direction and expectations for the group and motivating and engaging the team while supporting their career growth.

As you can see, the success criteria for the individual has changed dramatically, and with little or no training or experience, what do you think typically happens? You guessed it…the individual continues to focus on the aspects of the role that they already know, such as delivering code and delving into new technology. In many cases the individual will still focus on writing code themselves because they enjoy it or may feel it is easier to deliver results on their own rather than relying on their team. This generally leads to team dysfunction and employees feeling not trusted or valued by their boss.

This example obviously focuses on technology, but similar principles apply to most any line of business from marketing to operation to sales. We’ve all experienced it – all you have to do is read your LinkedIn feed to learn about the crappy bosses that are out there. “A good leader cares about me”…”A good leader doesn’t take credit for the team”…”Bad bosses don’t set expectations and then blame me when I don’t meet them”. The list of quotes goes on and on…

Maybe it’s time that we stop blaming the bad bosses out there and focus on the lack of leadership development and leadership selection processes in corporate America. Just think of the example that I outlined earlier – we not only took a highly skilled and successful individual out of their role, which weakened our technical capabilities, but we then placed them in a role that they were either not ready for or not capable of, and ultimately drove disillusionment and disengagement through the entire team. Think of how damaging that is for the team, the department and ultimately the organization.

Maybe it’s time that we make it acceptable for strong functional or technical resources to grow and develop their careers within their areas of strength and not be forced to take on leadership roles to adequately grow their salaries. I recognize that some progressive companies do have dual career paths, but that is not the norm.  A good leadership development programming can also go a long way in helping grow leaders from within your organization, but just as importantly, we should identify the critical leadership skills for a role and develop a method to measure them within a candidate and hire or promote for those skills rather than defaulting to functional or technical expertise.

One of the worst experiences that you can have in your career is being saddled with a bad boss. It’s a helpless feeling that has lasting impact and ultimately drives many people from their jobs. If employee engagement and retention is a goal, which I believe it is for most corporations, focusing on this root problem might be a good place to start.

Then maybe we’ll stop seeing all of the “Good Leader…Bad Leader” quotes on social media.

You think you’re NOT a Tech company?

A few years back, I was having a conversation about technology with the CEO of a prominent manufacturing company when he somewhat defensively exclaimed to me, “But we are not a tech company, we are a manufacturer!” At the time, I thought it was an interesting reaction, but the reality was that he was right. The mindset and direction of that company was clearly not driven by technology, and spending resources on IT was very much looked at as a necessary evil.

To be fair, at that time I don’t think that mindset was particularly unique compared to other manufacturing organizations, but the tables are definitely starting to turn. The impact that technology is having on all types of organizations, including manufacturing, is dramatic. Not only is it changing the way that we run our internal businesses, but maybe more importantly, how we engage with our customers.

In this era of digital transformation, the technology that we use to engage with our customers can have as much impact as the products or services that we offer. It’s no longer enough to just have a good product; we need to provide the technology-enabled customer experience that is expected or potentially be left behind. If your competition has a more user-friendly website or a mobile app that makes them more accessible to customers, you will very likely lose business to them, even if your ultimate product is superior.

Most enterprise-level organizations have accepted that they need to lean into digital transformation, and while they are all at varying stages of maturity, most are heading down the path at their own pace. Where we do not yet see the same level of acceptance is in the mid-market organizations. We still see these organizations operating with blinders regarding technology and a persistent focus on “business as usual.”

$100 Million organizations with IT staffs of 2-3 people, websites that look to have been crafted 10 years ago, and fax machines still prominently in use for business communication. Eventually the transformation will catch up to them as well, but can they afford to wait, or will it be too late? Trying to change a foundation of legacy technology overnight can be very difficult and very costly. The change management alone can be enough to tip over an organization. I believe a proactive approach towards technology would suit them better in both the near and long term, but sometimes convincing high-level decision makers can be challenging.

As you might expect, the SMB space is even further behind when it comes to digital transformation. The cost of IT can be prohibitive for smaller businesses, and most will explain that they simply cannot afford to keep up. However, I would argue that they cannot afford NOT to be proactive when it comes to technology. While they may not be able to hire FTE resources to join their organization, hiring third parties to perform work or leveraging serviced-based IT offerings are typically an affordable option.

When you think of even some of the smallest mom & pop service-based businesses out there, from landscapers to hair salons to plumbers; they all could benefit from various online components including inquiry, quoting, scheduling and payment collection. However, very few of these types of businesses offer that type of technology-driven customer service.

As the millennials and other younger generations transition into customer age for these types of businesses, the need for technology-driven customer service will be even greater. Very few young people want to pick up the phone to call and schedule appointments, and their expectation is that they can transact with a business without having to speak to anyone. What happens to the small business that can’t, or doesn’t, offer this type of support? They get left behind.

It’s time for businesses of all sizes to accept the fact that we are all technology companies. You may not sell or deliver technology as your primary source of revenue, but you definitely need to embrace it as an integral part of doing business. Your customers expect it…whether it’s the distributor that sells your products, the retail customer that requests a quote, or the person who schedules an appointment, the expectation is that all interactions can be done easily online from our phone, laptop or PC.

The time to decide is now. You can either sit back and wait to react to your competition getting the jump on you, or be proactive and prepare your business for the transformation that is sure to come. To me, it’s a pretty easy decision.

Onboarding – The forgotten step

In this day and age when finding the right talent is so difficult, particularly in technical fields, the onboarding process is a component of hiring that many organizations  completely overlook. We spend a significant amount of time, energy and resources in identifying, recruiting and hiring just the perfect individuals. As most experienced managers have heard over and over; the most important and potentially costly decisions that we make are directly related to hiring. If you hire the right resources it can pay significant dividends for years to come, but if you swing and miss…that mistake can have just as significant of a negative effect on your organization and possibly your career.

For the purposes of this discussion, let’s assume that you have found the exact right person to add to your team. He or she has the perfect skill set to complement your team and is a strong cultural fit. You’ve interviewed no less than 10 people over the course of 2 months, complete with phone screens, in-person interviews and personality testing. You make a competitive offer and the person excitedly accepts. They now transition into your background screening process which may include criminal, drug and credit screens among potentially others. After all of this is completed, you schedule a start date and finally your hiring process is complete!

Deep sigh, it’s been a very long arduous process, but your sense of accomplishment is quite high.  Unfortunately, this is the point where many organizations drop the ball as hiring begins to transition to onboarding.

Just like in any new relationship, you only get one attempt to make a great first impression. I contend that while the candidate is certainly gathering an impression of your organization during the interview process, the true first impression happens when they walk in the front door. What does that first day, or even first week, look like for the new hire?

We’ve all experienced first days of work in our careers, and how many of us can think of a company that truly met our expectations? Most have had experiences similar to these examples:

  • General orientation to the company was not prepared or offered
  • Workstation, cube or office was either undefined, unprepared or uninhabitable
  • Hardware such as computers, phones or printers were not ready
  • No communication of ground rules, basic expectations or initial assignments from your supervisor
  • No training plan or training resources identified to help with your transition
  • No specific welcome had been prepared such as introductions or team lunch

These are just a few examples of bad onboarding, and I am quite sure there are others that I have missed. The emotional change that situations like this can have on a new hire is significant. Their thought process can very quickly change from being excited and eager to join a great new organization, to having an oh-sh#t moment of wondering about what a huge career mistake they’ve made.

In a period of less than 1 week, you’ve destroyed the good will that you obtained during the hiring process, and may have turned a potential long time employee into a short timer. Obviously, you hope your culture, your work environment and the career opportunities that your organization offers will ultimately win back the sentiments of your new hire over time, but in the competitive environment of today, can we really afford to wait?

Onboarding is the critical final piece of the hiring process. Most companies do not have standard onboarding processes, and rely on individual managers to design and perform the process. The problem with that is those same managers have their normal day to day duties to attend to, and it is very difficult to carve out time to focus on planning for onboarding. To be fair, some mangers likely do this quite well, but I would contend that it is an afterthought with most.

Could it be time for organizations to take ownership of the onboarding process and standardize it in the manner that they would prefer to represent themselves? Considering the costs and challenges associated with hiring good people, I believe this type of effort would pay off ten times over. Remember, the first impression has lasting impact, and you only get one shot at it. Why not make it a good one!

Cigars and Technology | Our Next Meetup – Tuesday May 14th!

Cigars and Technology Meetup 5-14-19

We excited to announce our next Meetup scheduled for Tuesday May 14th to be held again at Cigar Cigar’s in Ohio City! We have a very exciting and informative presentation planned from two of our own members, Shane Hurst and Jason Gintert of WAN Dynamics.

WAN Dynamics provides both professional and managed services across a range of diverse and essential enterprise networking areas for our clients, with a focus on SD-WAN and SDN technologies, making WAN Dynamics uniquely positioned to deliver you customized now-generation, cloud-based network services. WAN Dynamics will begin with brief overview of what SD-WAN is, as well as the current landscape and flavor of offerings on the market today. WAN Dynamics will also provide a demonstration of the their most popular managed SD-WAN solution, VMWare NSX SD-WAN by VeloCloud.

The demonstration will take a closer look into the tools and functionality which has placed the service in the leader quadrant for Gartner’s Report on WAN Edge Infrastructure, as well as WAN Dynamics unique and fully managed support philosophy. WAN Dynamics has also offered to provide a selection of Scotch whiskey’s to pair with our cigars! As usual we will have our raffle prize and a few give-a-ways as well.

Please RSVP soon and we hope to see you all there.

Become a Member

Accelerate Software Delivery with MS Azure DevOps

DevOps is more than just a buzz word. It’s a software development methodology that is being implemented by companies large and small. DevOps combines software development with information technology operations to shorten the systems development life cycle. As companies become more agile in their software development practices, it follows that the operations team may need to become more agile to deliver software features, fixes, and updates frequently and in close alignment with business objectives.

While the advantages can be numerous, it takes commitment to truly make the cultural shift that allows the Development and Operations teams to begin to work together. With a DevOps culture, IT teams work together across your organization to deliver software faster and more reliably. This shift in culture isn’t to be taken lightly!

With Azure DevOps solutions, deliver software faster and more reliably—no matter how big your IT department or what tools you’re using. The Provato Group helps our clients navigate their Azure DevOps journey, including consulting, implementation, and management. Join our free one-hour webinar to learn more!

Wine and IT Professionals | Tuesday, March 5th

The Wine and IT Professionals group was formed by The Provato Group for those who share the passions of managing IT Projects and enjoying wine. This is a social club with the intent to provide a platform for networking with other IT Professionals, such as IT Managers, IT Project Managers, and IT Analysts.

Our first meetup included a presentation by Bruno Ierullo of Microsoft, who is a Dynamics 365 ERP Solution Executive. While enjoying great wines we listened to his presentation entitled Accelerating Business Disruption with the Digital Transformation Era – 4th Industrial Revolution. We got a lot of great feedback on the event and are looking forward to our next event.

Rob Urbanowicz, VP, Enterprise Services Practice at Velosio, will be presenting at our upcoming event. Velosio offers implementation, consulting, and support for cloud and on-premise software solutions to enhance your processes and elevate your business.

Please join us for our second Meetup!

  • Location: 750ml at 8903 Brecksville Rd, Brecksville, Ohio
  • Date and Time: Tuesday, March 5th 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm
  • Wine Tasting: Vino Italiano provato efedele all’eccellenza (Italian wine tried and true to excellence)
  • Speaker: Rob Urbanowicz is VP, Enterprise Services Practice at Velosio
  • Topic: Managing Initiatives that Transform Your Organization

Each meeting will start out with an informal wine tasting, and be followed by a presentation by a SME on topics such as Agile, Big Data, ERP Software Searches, Enterprise Level Implementation, and/or industry trends.

Rob’s presentation is intended for those IT leaders who lead or are contemplating technology and digital transformation for their organization. This session will focus on the latest trends and best practices for success. Rob will discuss his experience working with hundreds of clients to deploy programs that deliver technical improvements and business transformation. He will provide perspectives on the latest trends including: Hype vs reality of digital transformation (including mobile/big data/IOT); turning ideas to action with business and technical execution, and managing the overall portfolio of initiatives.

The experts at 750ml will be choosing the wines that will be included in the tasting. You may decide to purchase the wine tasting and/or order from 750ml’s food menu.

750ml is located in the historic Red Brick Building right on the corner of Routes 21 and 82 in the center of Brecksville. This is a great place, and will surely become one of your favorite wine bars in Cleveland! Also, there is plenty of parking behind the building.

Click Here to RSVP!

Cigars and Technology

Another successful Cigars and Technology event occurred on the evening of Tuesday, January 8th at Cigars Cigars on Lorain Ave. in Ohio City.

More than 35 IT specialists came to enjoy a cigar or two, while learning more about Dell Boomi. The presentation entitled “What is Dell Boomi?” was facilitated by Tara Sapp, Jessica Vick and Jim Butler from Dell Boomi. Boomi exists to help enterprises connect everything and engage everywhere across any channel, device or platform. Boomi integration platform as a service (iPaaS) equips enterprises to improve productivity, accountability and collaboration both internally and with customers and partners to help build The Connected Business and drive digital transformation efforts.

If you are a cigar enthusiast and work in the IT Technology industry and want to network with others who share your interests, this is the group for you!

Dell Boomi, an independent business unit of Dell, is the leading provider of cloud integration and workflow automation software to build The Connected Business. Boomi helps more than 7,500 organizations accelerate business agility by connecting data and applications to run faster and smarter. Visit http://www.boomi.com for more information.

If you are interested in both cigars and technology please plan to join our next event, which will be announced soon. If you haven’t already done so, become a member so that you will receive future messages in regard to the group.

Become a Member

Cleveland-based Provato announces partnership with Dell Boomi

Provato believes its substantial growth is a testament to an unwavering commitment to delivering quality, cost-effective solutions to clients time and again. Furthering its dedication to building and maintaining trust with clients, Provato is pleased to announce a new strategic partnership with Dell Boomi (Boomi).

Many business leaders claim that poor integration is holding back their organization. While Software as a Service (SaaS) model of software deployment has opened the door to businesses of all sizes, allowing them to gain access to enterprise-grade applications with affordable pricing, it has also introduced several challenges specific to integration. As a result, IT resources have been increasingly used to bridge the gap in sharing data to achieve end-to-end automation of key business processes.

“Provato recognizes the ever-increasing need to synchronize data across platforms and business segments without draining valuable IT resources. Providing expert services in developing and implementing a sound integration strategy will help our clients solve the challenges surrounding enterprise integration,” says Jeff Zart, President of Provato.

Boomi exists to help enterprises connect everything and engage everywhere across any channel, device or platform. Boomi integration platform as a service (iPaaS) equips enterprises to improve productivity, accountability and collaboration both internally and with customers and partners to help build The Connected Business and drive digital transformation efforts.

About Dell Boomi

Dell Boomi, an independent business unit of Dell, is the leading provider of cloud integration and workflow automation software to build The Connected Business. Boomi helps more than 7,500 organizations accelerate business agility by connecting data and applications to run faster and smarter. Visit http://www.boomi.com for more information.

About Provato

Founded in 2010, The Provato Group is a Cleveland based IT staffing and consulting firm that supports a wide range of clients and industries, including Healthcare, Retail, Manufacturing, Insurance and Automotive. Provato maintains a team of highly skilled in-house technicians along with a strong network of contract consultants to provide a diverse solution offering for clients. With a focus on quality and customer service, Provato has established long-term relationships with a significant number of companies.

© 2018 Boomi Inc.  Dell, Boomi, and Dell Boomi are trademarks of Dell Inc. or its subsidiaries. Other names or marks may be the trademarks of their respective owners.

Media Contact: Jeff Zart, Provato: 216-546-0768