Do not give your employees a reason to abandon ship! For the good of the business, put your rough and tumble Blackbeard tendencies aside if you want to keep your best IT minds engaged and enthusiastic for the work at hand. If you need a little more guidance than that, Jonathan Feldman has put together a list of four areas where IT leaders fail:
- They’re inconsistent
- They’re not accountable
- They’re inauthentic
- They’re not candid
Leaders must be able to practice what they preach. Booking an expensive vacation right after telling employees that they need to make sacrifices and cut back on training is not a good way to keep morale high. You yourself need to become the model for the things you want your employees to do.
That also includes allowing yourself to be held accountable for less than perfect decisions. When everyone can take accountability except the leader, it creates an environment where you are completely above reproach, which does nothing to make you a better leader. You should invite private criticism and then be sure to follow up on it and make sure that criticism has been addressed. You and the business both are stronger when you have the ability to improve.
Being inauthentic is its own bag of worms. Feldman quotes a mentor in saying, “If you don’t give a flip about an employee’s kids, don’t ask about them. It’s worse to be a fake than to not ask.” Employees will detect that fakeness and resent it, damaging your credibility when you go to ask them to do something for you that might be outside of their comfort zones. Feldman follows this line of thought as he discusses candidness:
Authenticity is a close cousin of candor. In describing San Francisco Giants CIO Bill Schlough, InformationWeek’s 2012 Chief Of The Year, an AT&T VP recalls a difficult conversation that Schlough, his customer, initiated with him after a problem. “I knew I was in trouble,” the AT&T VP recalls, “but I didn’t feel like it” — because Schlough treated him with blunt candor. Similarly, great leaders don’t avoid difficult conversations with their people. They meet them head on — but with humanity, as a partner.
The article recommends that IT pros think of themselves as free agents, especially since a recent survey shows that 54% of employers plan to offer higher starting salaries for new IT employees. In other words, if you do not want to risk losing your IT aces to the competition, you better make sure you run your ship less like a Blackbeard and more like a Sinbad.