Week 7 – Seek Clarity

Last week’s entry focused on trusting your team. On handing over ownership. On empowering your team to do what they were hired to do. Executing on driving change in their areas is what they’ve been developed to do, right? If not, that’s a you issue as the leader.

This week I sought clarity.

Since I started managing teams and projects, if I’ve said this once I’ve said it a thousand times – I need to fully understand what it going on so that when I run into (insert any name in any position) I can clearly explain the why, the how, the where (we are) and the what (we need to complete). As a leader, this is critical. Most of the time, I’m up here (hand signaling up high). Up here is strategy, vision, long-term, how everything fits together now and will better fit together in the future. When I’m not up here I’m making sure the down here is getting done, is funded, is on track and I’m starting to figure out how to communicate once the win is won. To better understand, let me share some of my self-owned weaknesses which really pop-in-a-positive-way once I weave in a layer of clarity.

  1. Networks and Infrastructure Expertise. I did not cut my IT-ladder-climbing teeth on feeds and speeds. I did not run cable, build out an AD environment or work on a mainframe. My path came in through the frosted side of the house – web development, application programming, database administration, graphic design. While I spent a good portion of my career being side-eyed for my lack of foundational infrastructure interest, it never really bothered me. What I did start doing was choosing to be actively involved in those improvement conversations, shadowing during core upgrades and committing to memory everything. Clarity: I know how the puzzle pieces work and can explain them to laypeople. Why is this important? You can’t fund something you can’t sell. My colleagues must tire of my incessant questions. But I’m not asking to, as my granny used to say, hear my own head rattle. I’m asking to learn so I can share, so I can get buy-in.
  2. Organizational Skills. I am not the most organized person. I am all big-picture and user-experience focused. I can easily define the vision and the path to getting there. I also have an uncanny knack of truly getting it before all the wants have been shared. I tend to know all the wants. So I conceptualize through to the plan to get there, but from that point on – the documentation, the tiny details, the completion. I can drive the masses there, but I lose interest in the small stuff. And we all know, the small stuff is required to complete the big stuff. Clarity: Administrative support and project organization skills are strengths I need in my team. This week, I set up a Microsoft Team with my leadership and requested they start sharing every Friday accomplishments for that week and plans for the next. I need to be able to review these pieces to ensure that, as I see the future end goal, we are tracking.
  3. Pick Your Battles. I want to fix and do and be involved in everything. Clarity: I cannot. While I agreed to take on an additional project this week, I also used my words on another desperate need and shared that I can get it started but that I’d be thrilled to pass it off to something better suited to manage it in the near future.

As an IT leader, these are indeed what I would consider to be my top three gaps or weaknesses. I’m entirely comfortable sharing my areas of opportunity. In all three, I own that I’m not overly concerned about these areas and, if I was given the opportunity to switch any one of them out with one of my strengths, I would likely politely decline. While I will never get giddy over a discussion on COBOL, I will also never consider my strengths to outweigh those of others. And I have a strong appreciation and respect for individuals that have strengths in the areas where I’m weak. And I will hire the best of them, time and time again.

It’s important, regardless of position, that you respect all the beautiful talents that your colleagues have. And, where there are gaps, you find ways to seek clarity in those areas.

Here’s where we are:

If you aren’t aware of your weak spots, you are not a whole leader. Trust me that we all have gaps. It’s the creative way we fill in those gaps that defines who you are and how you are received. On a twenty-week trajectory for dramatic improvement, how to document clarity might should have been a pre-requisite? But we’re on the path we’re on and we choose to embrace (and share!) every step of it.

Until next week…