Estimated reading time: 3 mins
Last week I met with 20 CIOs and other senior IT leaders over dinner and we approached the subject of behavior in their departments. We went around the table sharing the behaviors we would most like to see the back of. So I noted them down to share with you.
I should first say that, of course, every organization and leader has his or her own context, but we did spot a number of common behaviors in the discussion. To the list (it isn’t in rank order, I wasn’t that organized!):
- Procrastination – leaders reported that their staff took too long to make a perfect decision. In fact, leaders said that they would rather have a quicker decision that was 80% right than a slow decision that was 100%. An 80% decision at least can be ‘banked’ and further elaborated, yet is something that can initiate progress in the meantime
- BS – most leaders commented that their staff tend to use bull a lot, and the majority votes on why is a) workers trying to gain some notional high ground, and b) workers trying to impress them. Leaders preferred straight talk that dealt with the matter!
- Too much detail – leaders said that conversations with staff tended to go into too much detail unecessarily. Some thought it was because it was a comfort zone and was used to avoid the punch of a discussion. Leaders prefer to keep things at a high-level and always reserve the right to probe for more detail by asking questions
- Over-use of process – process-orientation is a tendency of modern organizations, in order to achieve scalability and sustainability. But many of the leaders present said they felt process was used as an excuse for not dealing with problems or being inflexible
- Coffee-machine diplomacy – leaders felt that too much decision-making, moaning, politicking and briefing was done between individuals privately, rather than in open discussion. This behavior is a form of passive aggression and stems from conflict avoidance and a lack of assertiveness
- Irrational management – this was a big bugbear of leaders. It was commonly agreed that irrational decision making, particularly in the area of support (such as troubleshooting), is a leadership issue that occurs over and over again and that specialist training is required. My opinion is that as the world we live in becomes increasingly complex, and technology becomes iteratively abstract, staff cannot acquire enough deep knowledge on a broad subject matter. Therefore rational management is a much-needed skill to be widely developed amongst staff in order to make the best decisions using the available information
- Defensiveness – leaders hated people being defensive instead of listening. This behavior is one of the greatest impediments to continuous improvement and innovation. This was particularly true for the leaders that worked within environments using outsourcing, where their own staff would defend their position against feedback from vendors
- Victim-mentality – every leader around the table nodded furiously when this was mentioned. What the dinner-guests particularly agreed with is that the victim-mentality is the most difficult behavior to deal with because the bearers of it don’t possess the awareness, or don’t accept, their failings. What this means is that they don’t have motivation to resolve their issues because they blame other people
- Email-itis – in other words, staff using emails rather than interacting with each other in person. The added hatred was the use of blind copy and the overuse of copy to a wide audience
- Blackberry ignorance – the use of Blackberry’s in meetings when participants should be listening. This made a number of leaders quite angry
- Merit-whores – many leaders described incidents where staff had tried to take credit where it wasn’t due and credit for the hard work of others