Vote For The SQLRally Pre-Con Seminars

Do you know a real-life Pointy Haired Boss? Maybe you don’t work for him, but I bet you’ve met one.

In my consulting practice I’ve met a lot of them. They were once good technical people. So good in fact, they got promoted; it’s the natural progression in business. But they didn’t make the transition well. They knew how to do techie but they didn’t realize that moving from techie to a technical manager would require some new skills. When faced with pressure and stress they withdraw and do what they do best, the technical stuff, and ignore the real source of their stress, the managerial stuff. And they fall flat on their faces.

Voting Booths

Surely Smart People Can Be Good Managers

They can, and don’t call me Shirley (rimshot).

This is the premise of a series of blog posts called “So I Got Promoted, Now What?” that I’ve been writing recently. In the series, I’m discussing how technical people can leverage and build upon the skills that they already have to succeed in their new role as a technical manager.

I’m also adding to that and turning the concept into a one-day seminar that I can deliver to clients and in other venues like SQLRally May 11-13, 2011, in Orlando, Florida.

Vote For The SQLRally Pre-Con You’d Like To See

My Pre-Conference Seminar submission for SQLRally was selected as one of the three finalists for the Miscellaneous (aka the Professional Development) category. Now it’s up to the community to vote for the session you’d like to see.

Voting doesn’t mean you’re registering to attend. It doesn’t even mean that if you do attend SQLRally, that you’re obligated to the Pre-Con. It simply means that you think that the session you voted for would be of interest and is needed in the community.

There are three really good sessions from which to choose (listed in the same order as on the ballot).

  • Finding Your Dream Job by Chris Shaw and Steve Jones (1/2 day).The job market is becoming more and more competitive all the time as employees become more and more efficient at accomplishing more work and employers look to reduce their headcounts. This session will present the attendee with practical tips, tricks, and skills for enhancing their marketability. They will learn how to better use networking to their advantage, both online and offline, develop a technical blog, and build a better resume. Once someone has an interview, we provide them with techniques to prepare for the interview, and how to not only impress the potential employer, but also assess if this is the job they really desire.
  • So I Got Promoted, Now What? by Joe Webb (full day). “In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.” That’s the premise of Dr. Laurence Peter in his 1969 book, “The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong.” We’ve all seen instances where someone who is very good with technology is promoted and flounders. Horribly. And the worse they do, the more stress they feel. And they flounder even more. So what happens? They don’t make changes in their daily work required by the new position. In this session, you’ll learn how to do your job better once you’ve been promoted. You’ll become aware of the new dynamics required by your new role so you adjust and excel. You’ll learn how you can leverage the same successful tactics that made you a great technologist in your role as a director, manager, or team lead.
  • Leadership and Team Management Skills for the Database Professional by Kevin Kline (full day). Most IT leaders earned their promotions based on technical competency, not on leadership or managerial skills. Technical leaders rarely advance into leadership positions with the complex mix of social and soft skills that best facilitate their success and the success of their teams. Successful IT leaders require a combination of: Earning the respect of your team, A deep understand of effectively motivating technology professionals, Specific skills to lead database professionals competently that broadly fall into the categories of: Coaching team members to effectively meet goals and deadlines, Facilitating change and navigating organizational disruptions, Promoting communication within the team and with management Keeping teams and projects on task and within scope, Dealing with difficult team members, Practicing good team time management techniques. This one-day seminar equips attendees with training content, fun exercises, and reference material to further develop their leadership potential and achieve excellent results, both for themselves and for their teams.

Of course, I’d like for you to vote for my session, but frankly speaking I don’t think you’ll go wrong with any of them. I know the other speakers. They know their material and do a bang up job presenting.

What I do ask is that you make your voice heard and vote for the session you’d go to if you were to go to a session.

So I Got Promoted, Now What? Get To Know Your Peers

[This is part four in a series of posts about how to effectively transition to your new role after being promoted.]

Series Outline

How do you recognize an extroverted IT professional? Answer: He looks at your shoes when he talks to you.

That’s a harsh joke. It’s certainly not true for the people I know in the IT field, but it does illustrate a point. Those of us in the IT realm are not known for our exceptional interpersonal skills. It’s not that we don’t have interpersonal skills. It’s just that we tend to be more at ease when “interfacing” with other techies.

Being comfortable amongst similar people comes naturally. I’m reminded of the old sales axiom: People buy from people they like, and people like themselves.

Why Should I Care About My Peers?

Getting along with other IT folks may have been sufficient in your prior role, but as you get promoted up through the ranks you’ll need to extend your comfort zone to include a broader swath of the organization. Business is relational and you’ll need to be as well to succeed that landscape.

Why? There are many reasons. Here are but a few.

Learn From Your Peers

If someone has been in a position that’s similar to your new role in the organization, it stands to reason that they may have picked up some good insight during their tenure. I’m not suggesting that they’ll be perfect or that you’ll want to follow their lead. That’s probably not the case. You need to be true to your own style and make your own mark, but they may be able to help you navigate around potential land mines as you adjust to your new responsibilities in the organization.

Establish Lines Of Communication

In most organizations, a certain level of cooperation is required from multiple teams and departments. You must work with other groups to push the organization’s goals and objectives forward. It’s much easier to work with someone else when you’ve already established a professional relationship with him. People are more willing to go to bat for someone else if they know him.

Prepare For Future Conflicts

When two people interact regularly, there will eventually be conflict, even under the best of circumstances. The likelihood of conflict is escalated when put in the context of a stressful or demanding project. Some would even argue that the conflict helps to produce s better outcome. Regardless, those conflicts are less intense and are more easily resolved afterward if the two parties have already established trust and mutual respect for one another.

Vet Your Ideas Before Unveiling Them

As we come up with ideas for our department or the organization, it’s good to have a trusted colleague with whom we can share those ideas and get good and honest feedback. An idea that we conceive may have downsides that we haven’t considered. Vetting the ideas before announcing them will help you to improve the ideas and lay the groundwork for better acceptance of them when announced.

Expand Your Network

Let’s face it, business can be turbulent. Mergers and acquisitions, reorganizations and outsourcing, recessions and contracting economies all make for a very dynamic workplace. In such an environment, it’s good to have an extensive network of people who can help you if needed, or who you can help.

Ok, But Who Are My Peers?

That’s a good question. I’m reminded of the parable of the Good Samaritan where a young man asks “Who is my neighbor?” and learns that his true neighbors extend far beyond his confort zone.

Getting to know your peers means getting to know others both inside and outside of your current organization, those with whom you work regularly and those you only see occasionally, those who are in the same industry and those who work in complementary industries. In short, most anyone you come into contact with can be considered your peer for these purposes.

However, that’s a pretty ambitious target so let’s narrow it down a little for starters.

Peers At Work

The peers at work are primarily your colleagues at the same level in the organization. If you are the DBA Manager, your peers may be the Dev Team Manager, the Customer Service Team Manager, and the Quality Assurance Team Manager. Don’t limit yourself to one department or physical location; reach out to peers in other departments and locations.

You may also go up the promotional ladder a rung or two, depending on the culture of work environment.

Peers In The Same Industry

Trade shows and conferences offer great opportunities to meet other people in the same industry as yours. If you go to these types of events and only consume the information presented in the break-out sessions, you’re missing out of one of the most important aspects of the event. Networking (in the best sense of the term) is probably the most important aspect of these events. You can even participate when you’re unable to attend in person.

Peers In Complementary  Industries

During the course of your business day, you’ll likely meet people from other walks of life. Getting to know your suppliers, your customers, your service providers will help you to work more effectively with them.

How Do I Get To Know My Peers?

Getting to know your peers is not really that difficult. Little kids seem to have an innate ability to do it. If you go to a playground and watch for a few minutes, you’re bound to see a new kid arrive. At first he tentatively plays near the other kids, then before you know it he’s joined their game.

As we grow, we sometimes convince ourselves that it’s much more difficult than that. We start believing that meeting new people is hard. It’s not. If a little kid can do it, surely we can. Initially you may have a certain level apprehension or even anxiety about striking up a conversation with someone you don’t know very well. As you practice, it will become much easier.

Lots of books have been written about the subject. If you’re looking for a good starting point, try the classic How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. It’s a good common sense approach for becoming a good conversationalist. In general, it’s simply finding common ground and becoming a good listener.

Some specific examples of situations where you can get to know your peers may be:

At Meetings

Meeting are pervasive in business today. Our calendars are full of them, so why not use them as an opportunity to meet someone new? Arrive early and introduce yourself to someone else who’s early. Spend a few minutes talking with her before the meeting. Afterward, send a short follow up email. Something simple like “Hey Darlene – It was good chatting with you before the meeting earlier today. Here’s a link to the resource I was telling you about. See you next week.”

Small Tokens

Don’t be afraid to reach out to your peers with little acts of kindness. For example, if you occasionally bring bagels or donuts for your team, buy some extra and give them to your peer for his team. Let him be the one to give it to his team. “Hey Marc – I was at the bakery this morning picking up some bagels for my team and thought your guys may want some too. Enjoy.”

At Lunch

Of course, lunch is one of the more common ways to get to know your peers. “Let’s do lunch.” as they say. But you’ll probably want to be more genuine than that. I find that it’s typically easier to establish a working relationship with my peers first and then invite them to lunch. For example, after I’ve met and talked with someone a few times I may ask “Hey – I was thinking of trying the new Mongolian place for lunch today. Have you heard anything about it?” And then you can invite him to join you.

Start Today

The best part about all of this is that you don’t have to wait until you’ve been promoted to begin getting to know your peers. You can start reaching out to your co-workers, customers, suppliers, and colleagues in other industries now. What’s stopping you?

So I Got Promoted, Now What? Employ the Same Successful Tactics

[This is part three in a series of posts about how to effectively transition to your new role after being promoted.]

Series Outline

Constant Change

It seems that Moore’s Law is on its seventh double espresso. The law, which was originally described by Gordon E. Moore in 1965, primarily relates to advances in computer hardware. But given the dizzying pace of changes in all technology , I think it’s more broadly applicable to other areas today. The affects on IT Professionals is fairly obvious.

Can you name a database administrator, a solutions architect, a seasoned developer, or any other highly skilled, highly technical IT Professional that views his job as a run-of-the-mill 9 to 5 position? I can’t. Most successful people in our industry realize that in order to do their jobs, a certain amount of continuing education is required.

So over time, we’ve developed ways to keep up with the latest trends in our field. We listen to podcasts, read blogs, attend conferences, participate in user groups, and take training classes. These sources, among others, help us to do our jobs better.

There’s A Lot To Learn

It’s important to realize that once you’ve been promoted, your job has substantially changed. Many IT Professionals fail to recognize this shift and languish in their new role as Team Lead, Manager, or Director. I’ve seen it countless times at the companies where I’ve consulted.

Need proof? Think back to the first few weeks or months as a new database administrator or application developer. How much did you know, really know, about your job? At the time you may have thought you knew it all, but if you’re honest with yourself, you didn’t. Think about how much more you know now.

The same applies to your new job. You may feel like you know how to manage others and work at a higher level in the organization, but trust me when I say there’s plenty more to learn.

New Job, Same Preparation

That’s not to say that everything you learned in your last role is now obsolete. On the contrary, we can supplement that expertise with newfound and complementary knowledge and once again prepare to excel in our new role. The good news is that you already know how to do this – just take the same approach that landed you the promotion.

Dive Into Your New Role

In much the same way you seized your prior technical role and sought out every bit of information you could in your area of expertise, you can and should do the exact same thing in your new role. How?

  • Seek out podcasts on how to manage a technical team. I like Manager Tools series of podcasts.
  • Look for blogs that are dedicated to effective management.
  • Attend a non-technical conference. Once again I hear good things about the Manager Tools conferences.
  • Read books on effective communications and leadership. There are classics like anything from Peter Drucker and Dale Carnagie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People as well as more contemporary books like Good to Great.
  • Join associations.

Expand Your Horizon

In your prior role, you may have found it valuable to learn some ancillary technologies to help you do your job better. The same is also true for your new role.

  • Get involved with ToastMasters International.
  • Read books about making presentations. Presenting to Win describes how to create an engaging presentation.
  • Learn more about negotiations tactics.
  • Look for opportunities to improve your budgeting and financial skills.

You Can’t Improve What You Don’t Measure

As a database or network professional, you may have found that capturing statistics and benchmarking data paid off in many ways. Metrics help determine when things are begining to depart from the norm. They can be used to help predict when upgrades will be needed. And they can be used to identify where the problem really is, and more importantly where it isn’t.

Metrics can be used in your new role, too. Capturing metrics can help you to justify new expenditures, identify gaps in your current levels and processes, and benchmark your areas of responsibility. Remember the adage: you cannot improve what you don’t measure.

Show Me The Money

Redundancy, high availability, and up-time are all good concepts and even measurements in some cases for technical people. We can see how they naturally help us to achieve our goals. However, oftentimes those concepts are a bit too abstract for other people, particularly those who may hold the pursestrings. In those cases, putting the concept or technology into financial terms often helps. For example the cost of a High Availability solution may be $200,000. That sounds expensive until you realize that the cost of being down for just one day is $500,000. In that case, $200,000 maybe well worth the investment depending on the probability of an outage.

The same tactics can be employed in your new role. Learn to associate your projects and requests with financial measures. Calculate the Return On Investment. The practice will help you to better understand the real need (or lack of real need). And it’ll help form a good basis for your request to your boss.

Carpe Diem

Although I couldn’t find a reference for it, I believe it was Tom Peters that once quipped “Nothing begets failure like success.” I believe he meant that once a company was successful at one endeavor, it was in danger of always trying to repeat that success and thus stifling true innovation.

As individuals, we are susceptible to that as well. If we, in our new job, continue doing the exact same set of tasks that made us successful in our prior role, we will doom ourselves to failure. However, we can employ the same fervor, the same passion, and the same tactics that lead to our prior success in our new roles and seize the day.

So I Got Promoted, Now What? Stop Doing Your Old Job

[This is part two in a series of posts about how to effectively transition to your new role after being promoted.]

Series Outline

Your Hard Work Has Paid Off

You’ve work hard over the past few years, going the extra mile to make sure that everything in your charge has gone well. You’ve managed your individual and team projects well; you’ve organized your work and developed a personal discipline so that nothing has fallen through the cracks. And now your hard work has finally paid dividends. You’ ve been recognized with a promotion. So now what do you do?

This is a question that many highly skilled, highly technical people ask themselves once the euphoria of increased pay and acknowledgement has worn off.

Unfortunately, many don’t pursue the answer long enough to find it. Instead they get mired down into the daily routine of their new role and never explore how they could better prepare to succeed. Many languish in mediocrity at best, and fail at worst.

So what’s the first thing you need to do?

Stop Doing Your Old Job

Stop doing your old job. To many, this may sound too obvious to mention. If you are promoted to a new position, why would you want to continue doing your old job as well as the new one? Isn’t one job enough?

Unfortunately, in many cases it’s just not that discrete. Often the promotion is a “working promotion.” You’ve been promoted to Senior DBA, to Development Team Lead, to Manager of the Administration Team, or to Director of Operations. The promotion comes with a new title, an increase in pay, and some new responsibilities. However, you find that in addition to your new duties, you are still accountable for many of the same tasks you had before your promotion.

To be successful in your new role, you will need to approach it with the same fervor and dedication that led to your promotion. You won’t be able to do that if effectively if you are spending a significant amount of your time doing your old job. Something has to give and it had better be the old job.

“But, It’s Not My Job”

To be clear, I’m not advocating that you tell your boss “It’s not my job anymore.” when he asks you about something that was your direct responsibility prior to the promotion. They don’t want to hear that. And besides, unless your promotion has moved you to a completely new department, that task still falls under your purview. And it’ll remain your responsibility until you’re told specifically otherwise or your replacement can be found.

So, in order to stop doing your old job, you’ll need to identify people who can successfully step into the role you once occupied, or at least take on many of the responsibilities. This can be done through a series of progressively larger and more impacting steps: assign immediate tasks, delegate small projects, and create a growth plan for your team.

Assign Immediate Tasks

Many of us have daily, weekly, or even monthly tasks that require our time and attention. There are backups to verify, meetings to attend, status reports to create, numbers to run, and logs to review, to name but a few. None of these are particularly urgent. Many are not high profile. But all need to be done.

In your prior role, you probably handled each of these at part of your job. Those responsibilities were commiserate with your level. In your new role, however, many of those activities will drain one of the most precious resources you have: your time. If you can safely offload those discrete yet repetitive tasks to one or your team members, you’ll potential free several hours per week.

Delegate Small Projects

The next step is to begin delegating some of the projects for which you are responsible. Start small and work your way up. Don’t begin with a large, complex project with multiple moving parts requiring input from numerous colleagues. Start with a small, fairly self-contained project that can be accomplished without  much outside input. Expect to work closely with the team member to whom you’ve delegated the project.

Initially, delegating will not free up your time. On the contrary, it will likely consume more of your time in the short-term than if you just did it yourself. But the payoff is just around the corner, just a few months down the road. As you get better at delegating and your team learns how to run with the delegated projects, you’ll be able to do more and more. Delegation is a force multiplier once you pay the initial start up costs in time.

Create a Growth Plan for Your Team

The best people have a knack for bringing out the best in other people. They somehow get others to perform and exceed even their own expectations. You want those kind of people on your team. And if you want them on your team, you can bet that your boss wants them on his team, too.

One way to bring out the best in other people is to consciously and intentionally create a growth plan for each of them. Talk with them. Learn their aspirations. Discover their likes and dislikes. Create a plan to help  them grow professionally, technically, and interpersonally. In short, you’d eventually like for them to easily step into your shoes once you get promoted again.

Ifs, Ands, and Buts

But isn’t all this risky? Won’t one of your team members take your job? Or won’t they get promoted out from under you?

Fostering an environment where you can be more effective while growing your people is not “risky.” In fact, a good argument can be made for just the opposite. Not growing your team is risky. Creating an environment where personal growth is not evident, where the same old routine is done day in and day out, is far riskier to you than growing your team. The best people won’t want to stay in that environment. You’ll be left with the mediocre.

One of the best compliments you can be paid as a manager is to have one of your team members promoted to a new position. It’s speaks well of the environment you’ve created. And when that happens again and again, senior management will recognize your role in producing highly effective people.

And when you get promoted, you’re next transition will be easier because you’ll have already cultivated your replacement.


“So I Got Promoted, Now What?”

“In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.” That’s the premise of Dr. Laurence Peter in his 1969 book, The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong My first thought when I read a statement like that is: I wonder if Dr. Peter worked in a hierarchy and if so would his premise still apply?

Nevertheless. I think we’ve all seen instances where someone who is very good with technology is promoted and flounders. Horribly. And the worse they do, the more stress they feel. And they flounder even more. So what happens? The don’t make changes in their daily work required by the new position.

This is the first in an nine-part series on how to do your job better once you’ve been promoted. Hopefully the next eight posts in the series will help you to be aware of the new dynamics required by your new role so you adjust and excel.

Stop Doing Your Old Job

At first blush, this may sound too obvious to be worth mentioning. But there’s a reason it’s first on the list. This is far more prevalent than you may think.  If you don’t address this shortly after your promotion, it can set you up for failure down the road. [more...]

Employ the Same Successful Tactics

In your prior role, you approached your job, your responsibilities, and your preparation in a certain way, one that eventually led to your promotion. And while you don’t want to simply repeat the “what” you were doing before, you can most definitely leverage the “how” that got you the promotion. [more...]

Get to Know Your Peers

Far too often, IT professionals believe, mistakenly in my opinion, that they are paid to be good with technology. To be sure, that’s a part of it. In some jobs it may even be the majority of it. However, none us work in a vacuum and it’s important to know your colleagues before you need them. [more...]

Get a Trusted System

In your prior role, your may have had little difficulty managing your  workload and tasks. But now things are more complex. You are responsible for for work that you assign or delegate to others. You had better find a good system for managing that work.

Manage Your Email

Email is a great way to communicate, however when you receive scores or even hundreds of emails every day, it can quickly become unwieldy and detrimental to your productivity. A considerable portion of your day, or even night, can be consumed by email. You’ve got to find a good technique for managing your email inbox.

Manage Your Calendar

This could just as easily be called “Protect Your Time”. The collaborative world of shared calendars can be great for people who’s job it is to coordinate and plan meetings. However, for those of us who must attend meetings as well as doing work, shared calendars can be quite a disruption our days. You must take steps to ensure you have time to work.

Start Having Weekly One-on-Ones

As a new supervisor, team lead, manager, director, or even executive team member, it’s critical to build a trust with your team that can weather the storms that are sure to come. A great way to do this is to conduct a weekly, one-half hour, one-on-one meeting with each of member.

Recognize the Tendency to Revert

When push comes to shove and the pressure really begins to mount, many new managers tend revert back to their comfort zone, to their strengths, to what made them successful in their prior role. But that only makes matters worse. Being aware of this can help you to avoid it.

Questions:

  • What were some of the unforeseen challenges that you faced after your last promotion?
  • How did you cope with the new challenges?
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