Leadership on Point

How Many Hats Does a CIO Need to Wear?

October 21, 2016 Joe Wolke

Technology leaders earn their keep when they help their organizations use technology as a competitive advantage. Success is no longer measured just in availability, speed and uptime: one must now add resiliency, security, scalability, affordability and, most of all, the flexibility to meet business needs that have yet to be defined. These leaders must understand differentiators in their businesses; they need to know real capabilities in the IT marketplace as well as the best providers of those capabilities; and they need to know how to staff and manage high-performing teams who can assure consistent and reliable delivery of those services. They need to be:

  • Technology specialists who know and understand what is real and what is hype
  • Authorities in security, protecting the information that drives the company as well as meeting regulatory compliance
  • Team leaders able to attract, manage and retain a team of highly skilled technical professionals
  • Salespersons, working with peers within an organization to create and sell the business cases that prove the investment in technology is the best use of a company’s money
  • Service brokers with the ability to source both commodity services and the business differentiators from providers both internal and across the globe.

No single university discipline, certification or job prepares individuals for what they need to be the best IT leaders for their organizations. There is no single source that can teach IT leaders to comfortably wear all the necessary hats at the same time.

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The Point Of No Return

February 1, 2013 Richard Levin

We have reached the point of no return.  On phone calls and e-mails, I mean.  We have reached a point where so many of us are so busy that we don’t have time to respond to a phone message or e-mail.  We often have the best intention to reply, and we flag the message for later action.  But later becomes later, as work and the-rest-of-life get in the way.

Maybe it is embarrassment or maybe we really have nothing to say in reply, but a lot of us put off responding to a message until we “have something to say”.  Maybe you are calling someone about a decision that is supposed to be made about a business proposal, or you want to know what action was taken on something that was promised.  Rather than report that nothing has happened yet, we wait until there is actual news to report.  Which, more often than not, brings the other person to presume the news is not good and we don’t have the courage to say so.

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Since When Is Executive Coaching A Bad Thing?

November 14, 2012 Meghan Vincent

While reading Boston.com this past weekend, I came across the article, “New T Manager Underwent Professional Counseling in Atlanta” and was a bit surprised by the tone of both the article itself and – even more so – the reader-added comments that followed.  It seems to me that one of the larger issues (from my subjective perspective, at least) is the general lack of understanding of what executive coaching is – and what it can do for the leader of an organization.

Concern has been expressed over the fact that the newly selected director of the MBTA, Beverly Scott, received “individual coaching and consultation” while serving as the head of Atlanta’s transit system (MARTA). While we don’t personally know Scott or the consulting firm that was hired to work with her, we are familiar with some of the drivers behind the decision to hire a coach (information and quotes taken directly from the article):

  • Scott’s relationship with her board of directors in Atlanta had grown strained
  • “She has so much energy and that for some people can be complicated”
  • “She demands a lot of people.”
  • Scott was a “change agent, and that is often difficult and not always appreciated in an entrenched organization.”

 

Speaking from experience, none of these bullet points raise a red flag in my mind.  In fact, they are quite common.  The relationship between boards and senior management is often a harried one, many times requiring outside help to manage the conflict(s) that develop as a result.  Furthermore, leaders are frequently hired or promoted based on technical abilities and business acumen, with little regard for the “soft skills” that make a leader effective.

The job of an executive coach in this situation is to work with a leader to refine those aforementioned ‘soft skills’ (self-awareness, presentation skills, active listening, stress management, change management, communication skills and messaging, to name a few).  The end result is the development of a true leader – not in the sense of his or her title but rather in action, someone who can inspire and lead his or her organization towards growth and success.

The part of this article that I found most shocking was the quote provided by Mike Jacobs, a state representative in Georgia who heads the legislative committee that oversees MARTA.  He stated, “it’s cause for concern when a consultant is hired for this sort of purpose to address a major leadership position.”  I cannot possible emphasize how much I disagree with this statement.  A cause for concern would be someone who refused coaching and/or refused to acknowledge that he or she had any weaknesses that needed to be addressed.  No one is perfect – and no one should be faulted for trying to address those areas in which there is opportunity for growth and development.

I wonder what Mike Jacobs would think if he knew how many great leaders – in the corporate, government and non-profit sectors – have worked with an executive coach?

 

Written by RLA Associate Meghan Vincent. For follow up, Meghan can be contacted at: mvincent@richardlevinassociates.com

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Lessons Learned At the Beach

July 23, 2012 Meghan Vincent

As most New Englanders can be found doing during the summer months, I was enjoying some sun at the beach last weekend when I witnessed an event, courtesy of a 7 year-old, that even senior executives could learn from.

I watched as the aforementioned boy finished removing his brand new shovel from its packaging and began feverishly digging in the sand.  In one swift motion, a giant shovelful of dry sand went flying into the air and… all over a nearby sunbather.

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But Who Will Make the Cookies?

December 16, 2011 Meghan Vincent

Richard Levin & Associates, Meghan Vincent, executive coaching, leadership, succession planning

Recently, a good friend of mine (Allison) and I were chatting about the upcoming holiday season.  Typical to these conversations, we were commenting on how hectic this time of year can be – an endless circle of shopping, cooking, decorating and attending social gatherings.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love all the “chaos” that comes with this time of year… we were just taking note of how exhausting it all can be.

Then Allison caught me off-guard with her comment about having to learn how to bake cookies.  You see, her grandmother (the matriarch of her Italian family) was responsible for making at least a half-dozen homemade cookies from recipes that had been in the family for generations.  But, as everyone does, she is getting older and does not want the Christmas cookie tradition to stop with her.  As the oldest female grandchild, Allison was selected to carry on the tradition when it becomes necessary.  This is very important to her grandmother… and to her.

It’s funny, in a way, that Christmas cookies would prompt such careful planning for the future – but one’s business, on the other hand, does not (enough).  Thinking about all the “what ifs” of succession planning can be an overwhelming and scary experience, but you have to ask yourself: what will happen to your business after you’re moved on to something else?

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Where Is Your Business Going?

November 17, 2011 Dr. Johnny Magwood - Guest Author

Business Improvement Process + Organizational Direction + Knowledge Management

Mission and vision provide employees with a picture of where their organization is headed and is part of a bigger  value system.  This value system provides direction for how the organization will respond to the overall business landscape and how the business will position itself among its competitors.  The discerning leader uses environmental and competitive analyses to create an exciting and ideal vision of the future or to redefine a new direction for the organization (Nanus, 1992).  Creating a picture of the future, persuading the board of directors and motivating employees are key elements to executing a rigorous strategic plan with multiple tactical elements.  Such a vision gives followers something bigger than themselves to believe in and a clear, values-based direction to follow.

 

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Let’s Celebrate – Another Female Corporate Executive – CEO!

November 3, 2011 Dr. Johnny Magwood - Guest Author

Women CEOs, Leadership, Women, CEO

Although the pay gap has shrunk, women are virtually absent from executive positions.  Corporations and society, in general, have numerous causes from such misrepresentation; the cuprites most sighted are stereotyping, misperceptions about leadership skills, cultural constraints, and the perceived inability for women to make tough managerial decisions. Moreover, women executives are observed having minimal networking groups and opportunities and are often not accepted in male dominate circles.  But IBM has a different opinion; the October 26, 2011, WSJ revealed that after 30 years of impeccable service, Virginia M. Rometty was given the top position of one of the world’s largest and well know corporation.  Rometty now shares corporate prominence with Hewlett-Packard’s CEO, Meg Whitman – how nice!  In the United Kingdom, executive women are also making a difference; their presences in the board rooms and at higher leadership levels show exceptional performance relative to Total Shareholder Return.  Yet, overall, executive and working women are still exposed to discrimination, stereotyping, the glass ceiling, and an expectation to conform to cultural norms and values.

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Stakeholders and Change Management

October 26, 2011 Dr. Johnny Magwood - Guest Author

Stakeholders and Change Management, Leadership, Leadership Development, Richard Levin & Associates

Effective Business Positioning with External Stakeholders

Business executives and connected advocacy groups are both focused on the benefits and risks encountered by an organization’s business decisions.  As both entities measure and manage organizational benefits and risks, proponents of theoretical stakeholder’s viewpoint postulated that the long-term sustainability of the firm is ultimately based on relationships (Vachani, 2006).  Experts, in the field of stakeholder theory, speculate several important leadership factors that should be embraced by today’s executives, i.e.; noteworthy participations outside the professional arena and boundaries of job responsibilities; confronting institutional mindset both inside and outside the firm to think and behave in the communities’ or region’s favor; and maintaining a creative and constructive connection with the external social and philanthropic environments (Welter & Egmon, 2006).  Welter and Egmon suggested, “Building the continuous process of change readiness on deeply held, sustainable principles”.   Unfortunately, some leaders’ inability to accept their social responsibility may be a result of historical factors that influence their behaviors; whereas, previously learned behaviors, formal training, and orders from superiors are often established to confront current and future business predicaments, skirmishes, and opportunities.

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Critical Thinking and Deconstruction of Leadership Assumptions (Part II)

October 21, 2011 Dr. Johnny Magwood - Guest Author

Example of Executive Leadership’s Politics at Work

Understanding executive politics is vital for personal career success and downright survival.  If we would carefully observe and examine the dynamics of our executive team, we would discover that they are accomplished individuals who apply their skills and talents to advance the business – everyday.  One useful method relative to navigating the C-Suite environment is to have an astute understanding of self and how you are perceived by your peers.  Your boss is essentially interested in your performance, stellar interpersonal skills, and how well you interact with peers; those who possess strong personalities, in a demanding business environment.  As we reflect on executive decision quality, however, we may conclude that our decisions are fundamentally good.  However, let me share an example of poor decision quality vis-à-vis a specific company’s rollout of a new market based compensation program, which generated a social shock to and within this particular company.

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Critical Thinking and Deconstruction of Leadership Assumptions (Part I)

October 18, 2011 Dr. Johnny Magwood - Guest Author

Critical Thinking and Deconstruction of Leadership Assumptions + Leadership Development + Executive Coaching + Richard Levin & Associates

As professionals, we embrace creative and critical thinking in a manner to take on exciting initiatives and provide new opportunities for our businesses and personal improvement.  Prior to formal training and exposure to the nuances of critical thinking, we may have found professional socialization and interaction either challenging or cumbersome.  During our professional development, several business situations may have presented small and large problems for us.  These difficulties may have resided in executive leadership’s politics, shadowing role models, and our inability to demonstrate a questioning attitude.  Often, we place ourselves under the assumption that we are effectively exposed to refined relationships and we are properly functioning in our professional world.  Routinely, we may be deceiving ourselves into believing that we are performing well in various business settings.  However, if we truly reflect on our daily professional situations; peer and team dynamics; and our success or failure within our personal interaction; we may discover that our assumptions are actually blind spots.  These blind spots may be a result of our lack of creative and critical thinking.  Ultimately, our goal is to uncover and confront these assumptions and establish corrective measures to deconstruct our leadership suppositions.

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