Posts Tagged success

Support is Key.

My last blog post is one that I would characterize as “vanilla” – fairly mundane and clinical.  I started this blog with those types of thoughts to share, focusing on leadership and communication. I still want to share those things but I may alter it to a much more personal point of view.  The point I want to make now is that I can have it all!  I wrote about two months ago about my trepidation of starting a new job/career with a new company (Edge of a Cliff).  I still want to soar and not crash but so far I think I’m doing a good job.  I was promoted this week!

I will give all the credit to my husband. Without his support, I could not devote my attention to my work during the day.  Also, this is a big change for me and for him in our roles in our lives.  For the last few years I was the one with our kids for any and everything – sick days, summer break, early outs from school.  I enjoyed every minute of it because I recognized it probably wouldn’t last.  One of our agreements before starting my new full-time position was that if it wasn’t me with our kids, it would be him.  We feel very strongly that we need to be as much of a presence in our kids lives as possible.  Now that is his role.

It is a new adventure for my husband as well in this chapter of our lives.  He was a career professional and now is more devoted to our children and our home.  I want to support him in any way possible but I also have comfort that he and our kids are okay.  I appreciate all that he is doing for our family but I feel that he is supporting me as well.  There is no pressure from him to succeed, just a desire to help me in whatever way I need.

That is my point in this blog post – support. We can do things all by ourselves and sometimes we have no choice in that matter.  However, I believe we all benefit when we have support from others in our lives.  That support may not always be in an obvious form or exactly what we think we want, but there is another hidden message.  When we support each other, we show our love and concern.  I feel supported and therefore I feel like I can perform at my best. I hope all those that I support feel the same.

Lori Buresh

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Technical Competence or Influence? The Right Skills for the Task.

                In a recent master’s course we were asked which we would choose – a leader with technical competence or more influence.  Technical competence is of great importance to our group since it is a Masters in Computer Information Systems.  The majority of us, of course, said we would like a little of both, but we also leaned heavily toward influence over technical competence.   Technical competence is wonderful when it comes to understanding the micro-level of a project or a plan.  For instance, a software developer would be overwhelmed, unproductive or even destructive without technical knowledge of the problem and the solution. However, the upper levels of leadership need different skills.  

                This is not to imply that leaders are not technically savvy, far from it. The relevant skills of middle or executive level leaders are more in their influence or power to get things done.  Let’s explore the software developer mentioned a moment ago a little deeper.  This person could be a wizard when it comes to creating the next iPhone or Android app, but maybe he or she really likes to work from home or might need a nice quiet space to focus.  While the upper leaders are not the ones doing the coding work, they are ensuring the software developer has the time and the tools he or she needs to do the work required. 

                The leader understands the needs of the business and translates those needs to the team. The team’s work is incredibly valuable; it is up to the leader to make sure it is appropriately applied or understood.  What if the software developer needs additional resources – maybe a deadline extension or overtime pay? It is up to the leader to work out issues with customers, other departments or higher leaders in order to keep the entire project on task while supporting the team. That is the true skill of a leader – getting others (over whom they have no authority) to support his or her team.  In order to do this, leaders MUST have at least a baseline of technical knowledge, but they need a lot more influence. In my opinion, I would much rather work with or for a leader who has the ability to get me what I need to get the job done instead of being technically fluent. 

          Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team

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Acceptance – A Leadership Challenge

                In the town where I live, there are two rather large divides across sections of the community.  The first is cultural, with a growing Hispanic population that is not well integrated into the town as a whole; the second is generational, with the older population striving to keep our town more historic and serene instead of growing with ‘box stores’.  Both of these problems are stifling the ability of our town to grow and may in fact cause it to shrink in population and revenue.  I sat down recently with the Director of the Chamber of Commerce to talk over some of my thoughts regarding these divides.

                One of the main hurdles to overcome is acceptance. This is a two-fold issue in regards to the cultural diversity – acceptance by the community for cultural differences and then acceptance by the Hispanic community of efforts to better join all members of the town together.  Acceptance though means trust.  We can only accept that which we trust either as safe or as truth. It comes down to leadership to establish the necessary trust relationship.  In this case, top down is the way to go.  The community leaders from all facets of the town have to work together to bridge the gaps.  By demonstrating the efforts and benefits of melding instead of isolating, leaders will set the example for others.  With an issue as emotional and personal as cultural diversity, it will take time and perseverance for trust and acceptance to build on both sides of the divide.  I believe that all of the community leaders see the value in the efforts but it will take a lot of work to build the necessary relationships for a long lasting and supportive community. 

                As mentioned above, cultural diversity is only half of the battle – the other half is generational.  The town has deep roots from the Civil War and the Route 66 era.  There are indications of the rich history all over which many people enjoy and want to maintain.  The issue is not that the community should destroy the history or cover it up, but there is a sentiment that if more industry or larger stores are brought in to the area that the quiet, peaceful nature of our town will be corrupted.  Again it is up to leaders to build the trust relationships with community members to prove the goal is to grow in meaningful ways while not forgetting our past.  It takes leadership to show that accepting growth for the future does not mean history is lost. 

– Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team 

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The Need For Leadership

             I attended the Chik-Fil-A Leadercast last Friday (remotely).  For those of you who did not watch via a host site or attend it live, it is worth the time for next year.  The event is a live webcast of the stage in Atlanta where roughly a dozen different people spoke on leadership.  The speakers were authors, athletes, journalists and doctors.  The very first speaker was Andy Stanley, author of The Next Generation Leader.  He grabbed my attention with this statement: “Uncertainty underscores the need for leadership.”  I wrote that one down.

             The simplicity of this statement yet the complexity of the content are amazing. The first word is “uncertainty”, which is not a word usually applied to leadership.  Yet when we look at life in general, it is full of uncertainty.  There are risks and benefits with everything we do in our professional and personal lives.  The unknown ahead in life can be both exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time! However, some people are paralyzed by the fear and responsibility of the unknown instead of driven by the adventure of choice.

             Why are there leaders?  One answer – there is a decision to be made and someone makes it, although that isn’t enough.  I can make decisions all day long and not be a leader.  To be a leader, one must have followers.  Followers are people who do the same action because of the leader’s physical or emotional influence.  Leaders are usually identified with the decisions they make, good or bad.  Think about Harry Truman or Rosa Parks, two leaders who made a large impact on our society and the world due to their decisions.  History shows us that sometimes there is a choice to make and it just takes a strong leader to make it.  

-Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team

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New Ideas – It’s About Managing Change

            “THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX!”  It is a phrase we hear over and over again.  The point is to come up with different ideas and new concepts, which are fantastic but I see two things usually occur: 1. new ideas are not accepted or 2. new ideas are not implemented correctly and fail.  The problem, I believe, is as new ideas or new process changes are discovered the first thing upper management does is question – How much will it cost? What is the impact?  Yet the designer of the fresh concept probably does not have the answers right away.  Upper management has legitimate questions and concerns; that is why businesses stay focused on their target areas.  However, if a unique idea is immediately shot down or poked so full of holes with negative comments, then the creativity that generated the new idea is diminished.  I find that many business leaders want a new approach to processes yet fear the change that is automatically involved.  This is the time for business leaders to face that fear but not so far as to jeopardize the organization.  If a leader is asking for help with coming up with fresh concepts, then he or she must also be ready to support the idea at least through an initial phase of research and testing.  I suggest the approach to prove the concept won’t work – come up with all worst case scenarios FIRST!  Then the hard work of proving that the new concept is able to withstand the trials is already accomplished.

                Once an innovative concept passes the test of acceptance (at least by upper management), the next challenge is correct implementation.  Many great ideas fail to live up to expectations because of poor integration – into the current processes and into the company culture.  People are inherently resistant to change, and an implementation means change.  The best thing is to work on the plan for implementation so the entire team knows the steps involved and its expected role.  The next step before anything else must be education and training.  The more communication the better! For example, I always share good news and bad news as soon as I know it because no one really likes surprises (except on their birthdays).  If it is bad news, then the initial shock can diminish and I can be better prepared later on. Good news means happiness, but I can still be prepared for the upcoming changes.  I feel the worst when something is different from what I expect and I figure it out on my own, and THEN get the memo about it.  At this point I’m already unhappy about the situation; telling me the details after the fact will not help.  In fact, my trust in the process and in my leadership has been negatively affected by this lack of communication.

                After communicating the changes early and often, the new idea is ready to roll out to a prepared environment.  It takes time, planning and effort but it is worth it to see something really make an impact!

 

          Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team

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Communication is Important for Leadership

        The more I think about leadership, the more I think about the importance of communication.  In fact, I would go so far as to say leadership is 80% communication and 20% all the other stuff like talent, ability and charisma.  The reason I think communication is so pivotal is without it, leaders are not really leaders.  In order to be a leader, one must have followers.  How do you have followers?  Standing in the middle of the room shouting “Follow Me” is not exactly the path I’d take.  I know I follow others who inspire and motivate me. Again, how does that happen?

                I am inspired by actions taken by others that I witness or are told to me. The actions normally revolve around a selfless or charitable event.  Through these actions, I learn about the character of a person.  The character of a person is then enhanced through direct interaction with me.  How a person makes me feel plays a lot into my level of inspiration or motivation.  If a person communicates in a way that is honest, compassionate and humble, it increases my respect for that person.  On the flip side, an ignorant, brash and egocentric person may perform heroic deeds but the style of communication negates the action.  While it may seem unbalanced, someone saving a small child from a car wreck who asks for no recognition or attention inspires me more than a person who saves a small child and then demands to tell everyone how great s/he is for the effort.  The act is the same, but the communication and character is opposite.

                Back to communication and leadership, I find it is not only the words we use but the way we use them that make the biggest difference.  The tone of voice can turn an innocent question into an accusation.  The words used may make the difference between engaging a team member in the project or pushing him or her aside.  Probably the biggest impact, though, is when leaders don’t speak at all but just listen.  It takes time and practice, but great leaders let others’ voices be heard first so their input is valued. 

– Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team

 

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Information Technology – Backbone or Speed Bump for Business Success?

                We at The Professional Development Team believe information technology is the backbone of business however it comes down to how technology is viewed (and therefore supported) within an organization.  For companies that have a foundation older than about thirty years, it is possible information technology was NOT at the forefront of the business.  The inclusion and incorporation of technology must then be assimilation between existing processes and new education. The divergence between the backbone and the speed bump comes during this integration and eventual support of the technology.  Technology becomes a speed bump when there are large gaps between the business need and the technology capability or purpose.

                Think of it this way, a person buys a car today and is happy.  In ten or fifteen years, does this person have the same car?  If yes, did they maintain it along the way – change the oil, tires etc.? Did they change cars? Information technology is the same way for business – companies need to have IT to succeed much like people (usually) need cars.  However just ‘having’ IT is only the beginning for the technology to truly be an asset to the organization.  First, IT must be aligned with the business need.  What does the organization want to accomplish?  What are the specifics regarding the desired output or knowledge?  That is the first and biggest key to IT success.  Then, technology must at a minimum be maintained but should be upgraded and enhanced along the way.   Once business leaders recognize the need for technology and integrate IT into the forefront of their decision-making (instead of an afterthought) then technology, much like a well-tuned car,  will do wonders for the company.

 

Lori Buresh          

CEO, The Professional Development Team

 

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