Leadership on Seven Seas

As a sailing fan, I follow favorite sailing races, especially round the globe trophies. These races are a great challenge for the teams and the most interesting part of them is that the boats and circumstances are identical for all.  They are custom made for the races by the same design and build consortium and all of the equipment is identical as well.  Then the question ponders in mind, what differentiates and determines the winner? It’s the human factor! Each team obviously has very talented and experienced  members who also have a strong knowledge and background in sailing. But, it’s the skipper (leader) stimulates the entire capabilities of the team and lead them in harmonious flow to victory.

This situation resembles conditions in the business world. You, as a leader, may hire very talented and experienced people for your organization, but you don’t see exceptional results unless there is a harmony within the organization.

People naturally expect to be happy, and this is also true for their business lives. And, if people are happy enough, they start using all of their capabilities harmoniously with others in the same team. However, most of the people aren’t aware of their true potential, capability and strengths.  Only a strong leader enables them to discover their own potentials and then motivate them to contribute for the success of the organization.

The starting point for a leader should be focusing on the uniqueness of each individual in the organization. Understanding people’s dreams, expectations and concerns as well as strengths is necessary to ignite their potentials. Using clear and open communication increases people’s confidence level and makes them more optimistic and collaborative.

After these vital initial steps, the leader may start rebuilding a new team system layer-by-layer.

The first layer of the system is the cultural layer which has three essential components; (1) the noble cause, (2) the common values and (3) a joint vision of the team. These components should be defined by team members in workshops, supported by the leader and shouldn’t be dictated with a top down approach by the management. They should be simple and understandable for entire organization and can be easily used during their daily life.

The second layer of the system is the business model and the process layer. If the team has successfully based on a strong culture, defining business model and processes would be easy to implement with the creative contribution of the entire organization. After the initial setup, the team will improve them continuously according to the changes in the market.

The last but not least layer of the system is the execution layer towards the business goals. It is more about short and mid-term targets, strategies and tactics. This layer should be supported by the noble cause and the vision of the team.

The third layer is the most critical layer for the shareholders of the company, because companies are primarily established to get profit; the rest always comes afterwards. They always expect to see successful financial results from the leadership team and also challenge the leadership team to focus only on this third layer. They usually don’t care for other layers. However, as a leader in business world, the first two layers are vital to be successful at the third layer.

Establishing these three layers require meetings, workshops and trainings with the team. Those activities can’t guarantee a successful change nevertheless; they provide a certain amount of increase with the awareness levels. For a permanent change, the leader has to engrave the details of these three layers into the DNA of the organization by using a strong and proven change management method. I definitely believe that this is the last but also the most critical factor in order to create an outstanding team and organization in businesses

Those changes may take time depending on the size and current structure of the organization. If a business leader implements these three layers with a successful change management in 1-3 years time frame, transformation will be permanent and sustainable.

An Exceptional Leader

The basic description of “Leader” is “a person who rules or guides or inspires others” according to Webster and “the person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country,” according to Oxford Dictionary. The both descriptions are definitely correct and explain some typical characteristics of a leader. However, if we observe and try to realize the key differentiators of an exceptional leader, we can find out some major behaviours. I want to emphasize below the most important ones from my perspective;

An exceptional leader;

  1. Always creates a strong vision which is continuously used by the team as a guiding star,
  2. Can control his/her ego and demonstrates a consistent role model based on his/her own personal values,
  3. Knows and supports the key motivators of the team and each of the team members,
  4. Inspires and empowers the team,
  5. Enables each team member and makes them to discover their own dreams and potentials,
  6. Ignites the potentials of the team and motivates team members to get exceptional results by their own,
  7. Has a strong confidence for himself / herself and for each individual in the team,
  8. Builds a strong team spirit and maintains it as a key priority,
  9. Is always respectful for the personal differences of the individuals,
  10. Acts as a team member by demonstrating a friendly and approachable behaviour,
  11. Always uses open and honest communication methods and frequently shares priorities, goals and challenges with the team while motivating and supporting them to willingly contribute to joint success stories,
  12. Clearly takes all the responsibilities of the mistakes made by the team,
  13. Shares and celebrates successes together with the team.

Those are just some of the differentiators and I definitely believe there are some others depending on the personal style of the leader. But, I also believe, those differentiators are the common ones of many exceptional leaders in the history. Those exceptional leaders were able to motivate huge populations and they have changed the world forever.

Investing in our future

I just want to emphasize how critical the self-development is from a professional point of view. According to my experience and observations in various environments, people don’t develop themselves and prefer to spend their entire time for daily activities. Of course, daily activities are also very critical, especially in business environment. However, self-development is a long-term activity and supports the future life style and career.
If people are asked “why they don’t spend time for their own development,” the most common answer, and of course, the excuse are always based on not having enough time. Producing excuses for such a vital thing is very simple and easy.

On the other hand, the very successful people don’t behave in that way. And, that is the key differentiator of them.
The outstanding habit of very successful people is investing their time first in themselves. They always have time for their own physical and mental development, although they are, maybe, more busy than any other people.
Developing ourselves, exploring new ideas and expanding our knowledge are crucial parts of our life purpose. So, just stop to produce excuses and keep at least a very little portion of day  for self-development. It will definitely make you happier and successful.

Here’s to the crazy ones

This time, I would like to share the original version of Apple’s ad by Lee Chow. I think, this quote is very inspiring and motivating.

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Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.

The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.

About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.

Maybe they have to be crazy.

How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?

We make tools for these kinds of people. While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

IT’s Dilemma

Ten years ago, mobility wasn’t so common and users were using mainly desktop computers for their daily needs and operations. Internet access for individuals wasn’t so common and people didn’t even hear anything about social networking. They had mobile phones for their needs to communicate with other people.

Today, Internet is everywhere and people have more intelligent mobile devices like smartphones, PDAs and table PCs. They prefer to stay connected with entire world via social networking. In corporate world, companies prefer to hand out mobile devices and laptop PCs, instead of desktop PCs and desk phones in order to increase the mobility and productivity of their employees. And the dilemma of IT starts at that point.

IT departments are always under the huge pressure of information security threads. Managing the IT environment and applying security policies were definitely much easier in the past due to the lower level of technology and mobility. Even restricting Internet access for corporate users was a common and normal approach for IT departments.

Today, IT departments should provide mobility and a full Internet access for every user in order to increase their productivity, connectivity and creativity in a market with strong global competition. Meanwhile they should also protect the corporate assets against security attacks and failures.

The easiest way IT departments may chose is continuing to use the traditional approach and locking down the user PCs. But, it doesn’t work well anymore and doesn’t meet the needs of today’s business. For the right solution, IT departments should first change their mindset and approach. The corporate PC users in the past were not so familiar with the PC. However, we started working with new generations today and they are very capable of using PCs and to accessing information on the Internet. Restricting Internet access and locking down PCs mean blocking potentials and contributions of those users for the business.

Of course, managing security and information assets is crucial for every corporate. IT departments should focus on the backend systems and the corporate infrastructure in order to increase the security level of the company. Increasing the awareness level of the corporate users and sharing the responsibility with them are one of the critical points. IT departments should follow and evaluate the new solutions and technologies in order to provide the best collaboration environment for their users, thus users may prefer corporate platforms, which may also be accessible from the Internet. If IT encourages and increases the level of corporate collaboration and social networking on corporate systems, the level of individual contribution starts decreasing. That means, users start preferring to keep the corporate and critical data on corporate systems and servers instead of their local disks. That makes the data easily accessible and reusable for corporate users under the protection of corporate policies.

Smaller is better!…

 

While the pressure of the global competition is increasing on all industries and businesses, companies try to find out more effective and efficient ways to win or even to survive. One of the best leverages of them is, of course and always, using information technology (IT) wider and deeper in all areas they can apply.

On the other hand, IT is still one of the biggest cost centers of the companies and investing in IT may have a huge negative impact on the profitability. In such a case, business management start pushing IT to do more with less. The question is “How IT can do more while spending less?”.

From traditional point of view, the best way is using internal resources for IT and providing all solutions requested by business with them. Although it may seem very simple and cost-effective, it cannot provide enough flexibility and agility for the business in long-term. Further more, in order to increase the capability of IT, companies may prefer to increase the number of resources of IT and that makes the situation worse.

The right and best solution in today’s environment is increasing the flexibility and agility of IT, while reducing its cost. The recent concepts and technologies allow us to easily modernize entire IT organization and we call that process as IT transformation.

A modernized IT organization shouldn’t be a large organization any more. A small and business focused IT may easily be more effective and efficient than a traditional one.

There are a couple of key principles which could be applied for that purpose. The first one is focusing on the value and benefits the IT organization should provide for the entire company and its customers. That approach makes IT a “value creator” instead of “cost center”. Although it seems very easy, it is not and requires a major mind change entirely.

The second key principle is outsourcing all the operational and deep technical functions like datacenter management, desktop support, solution development and application maintenance. Those functions don’t have a direct added-value on our business and can be easily provided by more experienced suppliers with a lower cost and higher quality. If you consider the current technologies and concepts like cloud computing, virtualization, mobility and remote management, working with outsource suppliers provides your company more flexibility and agility in giving response to market conditions and costumers while you can keep your focus 100% on your core business.

That transformation requires a major profile change in IT organization as well. Transformed IT organizations don’t need so many technical resources and technicians like traditional ITs. New IT people should be more senior with a deeper experience in business processes. Their focus should be primarily on creating more value with a lower cost and higher quality to the company’s customers. Just a small ratio of the organization could be technical experts who are responsible for IT governance.

This transformation is not so easy and takes 3-5 years. It also requires a clear leadership both from IT management and company’s executives. Getting support from an experienced consultant is a must in order to implement the proven technics and methodologies like ITIL and COBIT. “Lean” from manufacturing is another powerful and effective method and can be used for transformation.

The way to IT transformation might be tough and painful but it is worth to go.