Matthew Schmitt

Our Teams Don't need to be Motivated

People don't get up in the morning, get dressed and make the commute into work only to fail.  They really do want to do a great job.  They want to be successful.  So why do I as a manager feel the need to spend so much energy motivating them?  Why is so much emphasis placed on the manager's ability to “motivate”?
 
As I think about this in relation to my staff and their dedication to what they do, I realize that this isn't because of some mystical ability that I have to motivate.  It's because I work very hard to remove the many different things that impede them from being successful.  In our crazy world of IT, ambient tasks and stressful demands are constantly flowing down the pipe to our department.  The same can be said of any operational department (HR or finance for example).  Admittedly, I do have to motivate from time to time.  We all have bad days, or days where the engine just isn't firing on all cylinders, and we as managers observe this, and step in with timely positive motivation to move forward.  For the most part however, this simply isn't the case. 
 
Wouldn't our roles as managers be more successful (and less stressful) if rather than tap into the magical power of 100% 24x7 motivation, we instead learn to recognize the things that stop our teams from being as successful as the possibly can be, and as they already truly want to be, and move to remove or redirect those things?  Our employees would be happier because in those efforts, we're not trying to tap into their emotions all the time, or coming up with these great little speeches that drive them, but instead empowering them to serve!  We empower them to be as successful as we possibly can, side by side to help them achieve their (and ultimately the businesses) goals!
 
This might mean that we reassign tasks in the team based on the individual strengths within the team.  It might mean that we adjust processes to simplify their job and reduce the time to delivery.  It might simply mean that we as managers stand up and take the arrows from an angry customer.  In the end, we must remember that our employees look to us for more than just motivation or even direction.  Their loyalty and desire to give everything to reaching their objectives is rooted in our loyalty to them and desire to see them truly succeed.

About the Author: 

Matthew Schmitt is the North American Operations and Infrastructure Manager for Volvo Construction Equipment. He has more than 10 years experience in IT management in industries ranging from finance, health care, manufacturing and wholesale. Matthew has a clear focus on using IT to drive business objectives and effective IT management. You can learn more about Matthew at http://matthew-schmitt.com.

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Keep Your Eye on the Strategy

Think about someone going out to the shooting range.  He has a beautiful rifle, complete with high tech scope.  Out in front of him, in plain sight, are targets.  They’re large and well defined, red standing out in front of a green woodland background.  He carefully puts on a blindfold, spins in a circle several times, takes aim and fires a shot……at the man next to him.

Keeping Your Eye on the Strategy - MATRIX BlogThis story is absurd, but funny enough is an exact description of how some people manage their daily lives at work.  I was recently in a situation where I was in a training session.  Our global strategy came up in discussion, and many in the room did not know what the points were, or even our main goals.  This struck me as a real issue, and I voiced that issue.  I posed the question to the group, “how do you know that what you’re doing is right?”  I asked, “how, when you take up a task, do you know it’s valuable for our company? Or more importantly, how do you know you’re not getting in the way of the people driving the strategy (shooting the man next to you, so to speak)?  I was shocked to hear the instructor say, “you’ve made a choice to be aggressive and move up, but that’s not for everyone.”  He shot the man next to him, only he wasn’t blindfolded. He totally missed the point (and totally discredited him in my eyes).

Your organizations high level strategy is critical to developing a local strategy. Take for example our nation and it’s focus on the environment. Green initiatives are in focus now.  Our local translation of that strategy is to replace our light bulbs with efficient florescent bulbs, and recycle as much of our waste as possible.  This is the same in our companies.  I’ll say it again; Your organizations high level strategy is critical to developing a local strategy.  Understanding it, and I mean really understanding it, is key to developing your own departmental strategy that drives the high level goals every single day.

I encourage you as you head to work every day, to understand your company or organizations strategy and tie clear lines to what you’re doing every day.  Ask yourself, what am I doing to, not only make the company more successful, but to avoid “shooting” the man next to you as he works hard to drive those goals?

As always, I’m excited to hear your thoughts.  Connect with me on twitter (@matt_schmitt) or subscribe today.  I want to learn more about your viewpoints and ideas.

About the Author: 

Matthew Schmitt is the North American Operations and Infrastructure Manager for Volvo Construction Equipment. He has more than 10 years experience in IT management in industries ranging from finance, health care, manufacturing and wholesale. atthew has a clear focus on using IT to drive business objectives and effective IT management. You can learn more about Matthew at http://matthew-schmitt.com, and find him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matt_schmitt/.

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Myth: Working Smarter, not Harder

You know them, the folks in your office that seem to work really hard all the time. They’re really busy and always seemed to be tied up in reacting to requests and responding. They’re heavily engaged in many different things all at once, never making real progress, but super “busy”.

Then you know the folks in your office that are also very busy, but it’s different. They’re engaged in things that seem to be a little more important. Maybe they are working just as long as the others (or you!), but seem to be completely in control. They seem to make the direction of the path rather than blindly stumbling down it.

Working harder vs. being effective is one of the oldest sayings in the book. It almost turns my stomach to hear someone say, “work smarter, not harder”. The reality is that’s mostly true. You must work smarter and harder. You must work harder, be more effective and deliver results. You must do both, and do it better than anyone.

How do you avoid the reactionary situation?  Specific to IT, remember that our job is to leverage the business objectives with our knowledge of technology. To effectively accomplish this, you must understand the business and what it hopes to achieve. Otherwise, you’re just buying expensive toys. Spend as much time as you can gaining an understanding the details of the business and its product and strategy. Like I said in a previous post, in IT, our hands are in every part of the business and its strategy and we must understand it completely to be successful.

Our job in IT can quickly become completely reactionary in nature. We must change our mindset to be more proactive, involved in the high level strategic direction setting facet of the business for it, and us to be successful. Otherwise, we allow ourselves and our profession to become merely a “tax” on the business. A discretionary spend line item that never leads to success. It’s ultimately in our control as IT leaders. Take the reins and be part of the success rather than a part of the budget. That’s effective. That brings value. That’s working smarter, harder.

As always, I’m interested in hearing your thoughts. Connect with me on Twitter and subscribe today. Let’s discuss your experiences and opinions!

About the Author: 

Matthew Schmitt is the North American Operations and Infrastructure Manager for Volvo Construction Equipment. He has more than 10 years experience in IT management in industries ranging from finance, health care, manufacturing and wholesale. Matthew has a clear focus on using IT to drive business objectives and effective IT management. You can learn more about Matthew at http://matthew-schmitt.com and find him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matt_schmitt/.

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Four Fundamental Keys to Effective Management

Your role as a manager can be quite involved in all the aspects of leading your team and department.  You have budgetary items to worry about, development of your team, customer service, reporting, and on top of that the never ending onslaught of emails and voicemails, creating a cloud of noise around a situation that’s tough to control in the first place.  Thinking about these four areas can help improve the continuity of your team through a foundation of caring and thoughtful leadership.  

Stay Calm.

You might think this is a no brainer, but you’d be surprised.  As a leader, your team looks to you when things “hit the fan”.  It’s important that when your customer is in your department upset, or the mail server has gone up in flames, that you act with a calm urgency.  They should look to you as the anchor of the department, when things start to spiral; you’re there to add a sense of control and leadership that adds direction where it seems there is none to be found.  

Listen, listen and listen some more.

As your employees come to you with any number of different possible complaints or concerns, it’s easy to stay focused on your inbox, giving them half the attention they deserve.  You should make sure to put those distractions behind you and look them in the eye.  Perhaps write notes as they talk, showing that it’s not only something you care about, but something that’s important enough that you will take action.  That action might only be make a phone call, or commit to standing behind them on a decision, but it’s action none the less.  Showing them that they are more important than the tasks they know full well are piling up will build trust.  

Empower your team.

Nothing builds trust and loyalty like knowing your supervisor not only has true concern for their situation, but empowers them to do their job as well as they can.  I talk about this in a previous posting, Our Teams Don’t Need Motivation (http://bit.ly/bInVI5).  Empowerment by removing the obstacles that keep them from completing their tasks, and taking arrows for them when things go wrong creates a mindset that we’re in a team, driving towards a common goal, and feeling achievement when we cross the finish line, together!  

Be dependable. Be honest.

This is an easy one, and critical to your success in all areas of your life, personal and professional, as a manager and employee.  Doing what you say you’ll do, when you say you’ll do it creates a reputation that is tough to beat.  People know that you’re someone that can be counted on, and someone who can be trusted.  This is a fundamental part of successfully interacting with other humans, something you probably do from time to time!  If you don’t know the answer, say so.  If you say you’ll be there at 11:00, be there.  It’s been said that it takes 17 good experiences to erase the memory of one bad one.  This applies to poor service or your failure to make good on your word.  Don’t put yourself in that situation.

Obviously there is a lot to management; it’s a big job and one that not everyone is cut out for.  Think about the key factor of management, the people.  Those people are counting on you for direction, trust and oversight.  They will appreciate your dedication to being the manager they deserve, and you will be more successful because of it.

What do you think about these points?  Did I miss something you consider to be a foundation of solid management?  Leave a comment, subscribe or connect with me on Twitter and let’s discuss it.  I’m excited to learn more about it.

About the Author: 

Matthew Schmitt is the North American Operations and Infrastructure Manager for Volvo Construction Equipment. He has more than 10 years experience in IT management in industries ranging from finance, health care, manufacturing and wholesale. Matthew has a clear focus on using IT to drive business objectives and effective IT management. You can learn more about Matthew at http://matthew-schmitt.com, and find him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matt_schmitt/.

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Reducing IT Operating Budgets

I was asked by a reader how I managed to successfully reduce my operating budget (see here). Did I just “take things away?” Was their any fallout from the user base? I'll give an idea on how to control or reduce IT operating budgets.  

1. Focus on the variable portions of the budget.The fixed costs.

How do you eat an elephant? You cut it into small pieces right? That's the key to effectively reducing your IT spend. The strategy that I used that worked pretty well was focusing on the variable portions of the budget. If you put the budget into two forms, fixed and variable, then focus your energy on the variable portion first, you'll make some quick initial gains. The fixed costs (telephony or WAN costs, equipment leases or support agreements) come later.

2. The Fixed Costs

In our economic environment, not only are we trying to reduce our incremental IT spend, but vendors are more and more willing to reduce their costs, add extra features and extend additional extras to support agreements. This is the time to renegotiate everything you possibly can, think about extending agreements at reduced prices and if you're lucky enough to have room, replace or upgrade at outstanding prices. You'll be surprised at what you can get with a little negotiation, which is exactly why this comes after the variable (low hanging fruit) portion. It takes time to work with folks on getting the best deal for everyone.

3. Cost distribution.

This might not be an option for you, but is something that you can consider. Distribution of costs is a great way to bring a little awareness and accountability to the running IT costs. This could be charging departments for time spent by your helpdesk, or charging back for printing to your fleet. Consumables should be paid for by the consumer, which will encourage them to understand the options, and think responsibly.

These are high level ideas that worked for me. Remember, the key is not always to just “cut cost”, it's sometimes simply increasing the awareness of your user base to the point that they naturally look for the lowest cost option, and use it to accomplish their objectives. In the end, that's why we're here. To empower the business to successfully implement it's initiatives.

Let's discuss what's worked for you, or any other ideas here or on Twitter.

Connect with me today.

About the Author: 

Matthew Schmitt is the North American Operations and Infrastructure Manager for Volvo Construction Equipment. He has more than 10 years experience in IT management in industries ranging from finance, health care, manufacturing and wholesale. Matthew has a clear focus on using IT to drive business objectives and effective IT management.  You can learn more about Matthew at http://matthew-schmitt.com, and find him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matt_schmitt/.

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