I recently had the opportunity to again take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Personality Assessment.
It had been a number of years since I had taken the test and it was certainly interesting to see the results.
All in all, I was not surprised with the results. The report confirmed that I was an extrovert. It confirmed that I notice and trust facts. I make decisions using logical, objective analysis. I tend to be organized and orderly and that when all facts are present I can make a decision relatively quickly.
I am results-oriented and am comfortable focusing on the bottom line. Never were truer words spoken. This personality characteristic has also been confirmed within my StrengthsFinder 2.0 Report. My top theme is Achiever. I love to work hard and be productive.
I am now spending time trying to understand how my strong personality and drive impacts others – particularly our staff. For example, I readily show enthusiasm for the subject at hand. I am learning to understand this trait can overwhelm and override others. This can also lead to an employee not speaking their mind on a particular subject in which they truly have something valuable to add.
A common statement that I generally utter at least a few times per week is “Let’s keep the ball moving forward!” I’m adamant about providing continuous and measurable value for our clients. I also need to be aware that sometimes my way of moving ahead may be wrong for the particular situation. There are often many different paths to get to the same goal – and just because an employee chooses a different path doesn’t mean its wrong.
The last page of the report put a smile on my face. The “prayer” for my personality type was as follows: Lord, help me to not try to run EVERYTHING, but if You need something, just ask.
The Entrepreneuers’ Organization has released the latest results from its Global Entrepreneur Indicator research project, a biannual survey of business owners from around the world. The survey focuses on performance-related metrics, such as jobs, profits and debt loads. The other factors the survey explores are related to the business climate, including access to capital, predictions on the economy and even entrepreneurs’ proclivity to start a new business. The survey, conducted throughout the month of June, ended with a sample of more than 2,200 entrepreneurs around the world, whose businesses average US$18.3 million in annual revenue and 192 employees. A snapshot of the survey findings includes the following:
Jobs: Entrepreneurs are hiring at a much faster pace than they were a couple of years ago.
How important is demonstrating the functionality of a given software tool in the sales process?
How important is the timing of the actual product demo?
I would argue that the demo is important, but is not as important as many less skilled sales/pre-sales personnel might have you believe.
Relationship building is paramount. As is a deep understanding of the customer’s current situation/reality. How (if at all) are they solving their current issue(s)? How specifically will your offer differ?
In Demonstrating to Win!: The Indispensible Guide for Demonstrating Software, author Richard Riefstahl discusses the concept of “bridge building” – which means to clearly create and demonstrate what the new environment will look like post implementation.
Ease of use is always a key. And the reason for this is that the prospect knows their current situation. They may or may not like it very much, but at least it is a known entity.
I have seen many a salesperson rush too quickly into a product demo. Many times this is due to poor selling acumen. The salesperson either cannot articulate the overall value proposition or isn’t particularly adept at relationship building – or both.
A demo is important – if done at the correct time in the sales process and after gathering the needed information to convey the most appropriate message(s).
A custom demo is almost always the best. Why? Its more difficult for a Financial sector customer to understand how they will use the software when the demo they have just seen was originally constructed for the Manufacturing industry.
There is a delicate balance between building a recruiting process that weeds out candidates – and creating one that is too hard and/or too long to allow candidates to make it through the process.
Coupled with the fact that many of us are in a niche business and the skills that we need are hard to find and not readily available, striking this balance is certainly not easy.
We strive to hire candidates that are multi-dimensional. To us, this means technical competent while also possessing strong written and verbal communication skills. The software development life-cycle is dynamic, challenging and diverse. It’s important that we initially test for and when hired further develop these skills in our employees.
Training is not a one time event. Despite the fact that our industry is known for higher than average turnover, we believe in on-going training. We believe that education – and knowledge is the key differentiator. Industry accreditation and certifications are aligned with our training programs – all of which help to cultivate an employees’ sense of “family” and belonging.
Communication is a key. Employees want to know where they stand, what’s next for them and the company, where is the company going to focus its energies in the next quarter, etc. We are now meeting individually with each employee on a more frequent basis to ask for their feedback, let them know where they stand relative to plan, etc.
If you really believe that your employees are your key company differentiator, then talent management should be a top priority in your company.
Many of the problems in business today can be boiled down to one of two main issues: managing expectations (or the lack thereof) and poor communication.
These should be relatively easy to address.
Recently we ran into a communication issue with a client.
A little background. We have been doing business with this particular firm for nearly ten years – although the players involved have changed quite a bit in that time.
There were a number of ad hoc items that the client wanted resolved. Emails were sent from client staff to our technical team. Our technical team resolved the issues. We then invoiced for this work.
Problem was that the Manager at the client’s location was unaware that these requests were being made and the work was being performed.
She only became aware of this situation when the invoice – which see needed to approve – made its way to her Inbox.
In the span of a few short minutes, we altered our operating procedures in an attempt to proactively communicate more effectively.
Our new method of dealing with these ad hoc requests has been detailed below.
This information will be sent to <client> personnel for approval prior to work beginning
<client> to agree (or make suggested changes) via email – which is our key to move forward and begin the work
Small changes do make a difference. They are easy to implement and can help to improve communication and manage expectations. Don’t assume. Ask.
One of the topics our Executive team discusses quite frequently is “Keep Movin” Forward”.
From a client perspective, this means advancing their cause to the best of our ability. This comes in handy with one of our manufacturing clients. Sometimes their staff can be a bit of a bottleneck. It isn’t because they are intentionally trying to stop progress. It’s because they are swamped. Their staff of three is doing the work of a staff much larger.
That being said, not getting tasks completed doesn’t work for them – nor does it work for us.
We have been most successful when we have made their staff’s life easier. Sometimes this has meant completing tasks not normally assigned to us. Other times this has meant making ourselves available on a moment’s notice. Still other times this has meant working in off hours to ”keep the ball rolling”.
Point being, rarely have we upset this customer by changing our methods, or being more aggressive or creative in our problem-solving approach.
At the end of the day, they want results. They want tasks checked off their list. They want progress.
And we also understand that although our relationship has become more than just the typical client/vendor arrangement, we can and will be replaced if we don’t get the job done. At the end of the day, that is really what matters.
Don’t kid yourself. Move things forward. That is what you have been hired to do!
Recently, I had one of our recruiters suggest that we “lower” the bar in our recruiting practices.
She suggested that our process was too detailed, was made up of too many steps and was too hard.
She said “I work with companies a lot bigger than yours – and their hiring process does not have as many steps as yours does.”
At first, I really didn’t know how to take her comments.
What was she really saying???
Was she really being honest? Did she really want to work that hard for her commission?
I did give it some thought, but frankly I didn’t think about her comments for very long.
We look for top talent because we need top talent. Our clients are demanding. They expect for us to bring new and fresh ideas to the table each and every day.
They expect for us to be technically competent. They expect our people to be trained on the latest technologies. They expect that we know what we are doing and bring proven experiences that have been successful for our other clients.
They expect for us to be able to communicate – both in writing and verbally.
They expect for us to be able to deliver projects on time, on budget and be able to handle, with class, the various stresses that occur during the normal software development project lifecycle.
So, for the last 2 1/2 years, we have been defining and refining our hiring practices so that we “test” candidates on the various needed skills discussed above.
As a potential new hire, we will run you through a comprehensive screening process. We want to understand to the best of our ability if this is a good fit for us – and you.
If it’s not, that’s not good for you, me or our client.
We have not and will not lower the hiring bar. In the end, it’s just not worth it – for anyone.
What keeps CIOs up at night? Is it the technology, the processes, the people – or a combination of all three?
Talent retention — Attracting, training and retaining top talent is always on top of the agenda, regardless of where your company is located. Employee development programs recognize and reward job performance. Employees want help understanding and planning their career path (including training). If you don’t have an answer and they can’t “see” their future working for your firm, the search will continue elsewhere.
The Cloud — CIOs feel pressure to innovate. Cloud computing is today’s most discussed and debated trend. CIOs in more established companies with large IT infrastructures are in a unique position – with a lot to think about. Like all other decisions, companies are advised to take a business-driven approach to cloud adoption. If the key business requirement(s) are met by a cloud solution, then by all means analyze and potentially implement.
Mobility of IT — Employees have adopted the consumer electronics they are using at home, such as smartphones and iPads, and now expect those tools (and specifically the simplicity of those tools) to be offered and available while on the job. However, from a CIO perspective, these devices are often not enterprise ready. For example, they may lack the security required for an enterprise deployment. CIOs and corporate trainers must educate employees on how to use these devices in a secure fashion at work.
I had an interesting discussion yesterday with three educators. The topic was the oral and written communication skills of young adults attending college.
Each of these women teaches English in a Midwestern college or university.
Each told story after story of their frustration with today’s youth and their inability to communicate verbally – and in writing.
One particular story that is now stuck in my head is a student’s request for the teacher to read their paper in class so they would not have to read it themselves. My friend (the teacher) firmly believes the student did not want to read their assignment because they could not accurately pronounce all the words within the paper that they had just written. She thought that the student felt as if they had done enough by writing the paper and that it was “fair” to ask that the instructor read some of the paper to the class.
There were other discussions between the four of us about poor sentence structure, too much texting, inability to hold a meaningful conversation for any longer than about three minutes and too much Xbox.
I felt I had to chime in. I told them about my experience earlier in the afternoon. I was in the final stages of our on-boarding process with a potential new hire candidate. The position we are hiring for is software developer. This particular candidate had performed well with the various technical aspects of our recruiting process. We were now at the R & D/writing assignment step. The document that was submitted left much to be desired. Not a lot of effort was put into the deliverable. Sentence structure was poor. And to top it all off – our recruiter had to send the document to me. Why? Because the candidate had a typo in my email address – and I never received their initial submission.
Issue: New software functionality needs to be added to your enterprise content management system
Option one: quick, “down and dirty” approach that will most certainly cause issues for all further down the line
Option two: a more thorough design approach that will take longer than option one (above)
Option one sets us up with a technical debt according to Ward Cunningham. Technical debt is quite similar to a financial debt in that they both have interest payments in common. What I mean is that there will be additional effort and time spent in the future because of the initial design choice.
Again, we are presented with two options.
Option one: continue to pay the interest
Option two: pay down principal by re-engineering the initial design into the improved design
Real-world example: customer timeline is short. New functionality built. Parties agree to deploy phase one deliverable into development environment. Initial timeline met, code delivered to client. Client deploys code directly to production environment. Issues occur that increase stress for both parties.
Technical debt can be good or bad.
What makes this so interesting for those of us in the consulting field is that we must deal with technical debt while also reconciling it with the financial restrictions and timeline necessities of clients. Meaning, we all need to be aware of this debt, and inform customers of this debt, but we will often need to live with it as a reality despite “knowing what’s best”. This is written with complete humility. Why? Remember that we have been hired for our expertise.