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High Touch Leadership in a High-Tech World

 

How do we lead others more effectively today when we are so heavily reliant on technology? This is a great question all leaders should work to answer for themselves.

Today, more of our employees work remotely, teams are spread across a large campus or they work from home and may never be physically located in the same space.

The ever-changing High-Tech landscape

The world has changed, hasn’t it? I have been an entrepreneur since 2006. However, prior to this all the employees I was responsible for leading were co-located with me in the same offices. I was in the Army for several years and my team was with me, and then while leading in the hospital my team was with me.

Today, we have tools allowing us to work from anywhere and work with others located all around the globe. As an entrepreneur, I now have people working with me from thousands of miles away. I am in Arkansas, but have virtual partners in Canada, New York, Florida and California. I have worked with teams in England and have used resources from Fiverr to help me create branding for my business.

Why does all this matter? Leadership of others requires the ability to be high touch. The foundation of leadership is trust and trust is built over time in a relationship of consistent communication.

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Small Business Needs More Diversity in Leadership

 

In a not too distant past, diversity at the leadership level was not as common; nor was it commonly agreed upon beneficial practice. Though still not at desirable levels such practices are more widely discussed and accepted. However, most discussions around diversity tend to be around midsize and larger organizations; supposedly having a “trickle-down effect” if those larger organizations lead by example.


Before going into its necessity for small business, let's agree on a couple of simple principals for this article:

  • Diversity should almost never come at the expanse of qualification.
  • Diversity is proven to have a positive impact on revenue and profits.

Now that we have established some ground rules, let’s move on to why small business should be the main place where inclusion and diversity takes place.

Why Diversity?

It doesn’t matter what school of thought you prescribe to and it doesn’t matter where you look: small business is the backbone of United States economic growth engine. It equally employs the largest number by leaps and bounds. So one would wonder why we expect large companies to lead the way of having more diverse and inclusive leadership. The answer is: we shouldn’t. We should expect diversity and inclusion to “trickle up” from small businesses not only because of their unparalleled dominance but even more importantly because of their inherent flexibility, nimbility and adaptability.

How?

So, since Small Businesses (SMB) are so dramatically dominant how would or should they go about such diversity and inclusion? Most of the conversations on SMB starts around entrepreneurs and their ability to succeeded in highly competitive markets where the competitions is not static: not only is it likely that they are already either competition with established businesses but also trying to create interruptions, but they also have to wrestle with the traditional challenges of SMB including funding, human resource management, production and quality assurance as well as consumer dynamics.

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Growth and Scaling Downfalls – Part IV

 

In the previous post “Growth and Scaling Downfalls – Part III” we discussed strategy aspects of a scaling project. The next topic on the scaling preparation “to do” list is measuring success and failure.

Scaling and growth both depend a great deal on experimentation: be it at tactical level deciding who will do what to strategic level defining success or failure. That being said that kind of decision making naturally requires a great deal of analysis; qualitative or quantitative.

Quantitative

Data driven quantitative analysis is or should be the basis of virtually all business decisions. Though an established field, the quantity of data that has been previously inaccessible or impractical for usage has changed the field. The same quantity of the data sets that are now available have also created several other side effects for small and mid-size organizations; ranging from increased cost for proper analysis to “analysis paralysis”. Hence, the usage has to be defined in terms of practicality: both the collection and analysis of data have to be defined within the context of cost and impact.

Qualitative

In a previous discussion about decision making we discussed the usage of qualitative decision making. Those parameters previously discussed i.e. strong pattern recognition as part of the qualitative decision making are particularly applicable when it comes to growth and scaling. In practical terms it translates to a combination of using practical experiences both industry related as well as general business experiences to decide on both tactical and strategic level: the industry know-how combined with generic business experience will provide the sort of “umbrella” coverage that will leave little room for “guessing”.

On the front line

Interestingly enough there are some unique aspects to data usage when it comes to scale and growth: though the basic methodology of collection and analysis is the same, the decision making direction should entail a more dynamic version of “bottom to top” or “top to bottom”: Micro decisions vs. Macro decisions: 

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Growth and Scaling Downfalls – Part I

 

Many of us have either been part of a “growth and scaling” project or have led such efforts. We all have some battle stories of what worked and what didn’t; yet we hardly ever hear about the preparation that goes into a successful “growth and scaling” project. In this series, I will address several of more important considerations and factors.

The Beginning

Scaling and growth both as principal as well as in practice are simply a function of evolution: a given organization reaches some specific benchmark that leads to a need to grow the business. Those benchmark can be as objective as following a road-map that specifies steps or as subjective as the executive team deciding it is time. Without exploring the details of the decision making, let’s look at one of the most fundamental factors: The Team.

The Evolution

Even without extensive business experience, logic simply dictates that growing or scaling a business can only be successful when the said business has the resources, i.e. human capital and financial means. To keep the discussion on point, I will forgo discussing the bootstrap version of this topic. 

Human capital or the team that is going to be in the front line of those growth/scaling efforts needs to be able to execute the directives that are designed to stimulate and augment the overall growth path. In order to do so some basics, have to be in place:

• Quantity: the team size has to be realistically feasible in relations to the workload

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Why Women in Tech are Building a Better Tomorrow

 

More and more women are pursuing educations and careers in the STEM fields, and that is a good thing. Indeed, women in tech are building a better tomorrow, and we're going to go into why in a little bit. First, a few statistics.

A Look at the Numbers

Here are some interesting stats about women in the tech workforce, according to the National Center for Women and Information Technology:

  • 57% of professional occupations in the 2018 U.S. workforce were held by women.
  • 26% of professional computing occupations in 2018 were held by women.
  • 20% of Fortune 500 CIO positions were held by women in 2018.
  • 3.5 million U.S. computing-related job openings are expected by 2026.
  • 49% of 2018 Intel Science and Engineering Fair finalists were female.

Most stats look promising, but some are actually moving backwards. For example, in 1985, 37% of computer science bachelor's degree recipients were women, compared with just 19% in 2017.

Why is this? According to a study in Entrepreneur, researchers say one reason women choose to not pursue computer science degrees is because they buy into the stereotypes about the types of people who work in the STEM field and can't picture themselves fitting into that framework.

As an aside, women should be treated like any other teammate, championing each other and giving credence to their expertise. A recent study in the Economist found that women's voices are judged more harshly than that of men. This is one barrier of many that discourages women from entering tech-heavy industries.

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Simple Yet Effective Leadership

 

Leadership is not a complex beast. It's simple, yet not easy to implement. Natural and not forced. Sought after but not always achieved. Leadership is simple, yes, but it also has to be effective in all the right ways. Leadership is all about relationships, says Inc., and they are far more important than issues. Even so, most leaders focus on the issues without ever truly developing relationships of trust. When the relationships work, the bottom line will work itself out.

Good leaders, when confronted by a challenge, must determine which role everyone will take and how they will tackle the problem at hand. Just like people aren't two-dimensional, neither is leadership. It's possible and even expected to take on different roles and styles depending on the situation and person you are involved with.


Trust and Correction

Just like a romantic relationship or a friendship, when there is trust between people or a group of people, feelings aren't hurt when correction is offered. That so-called healthy conflict is vital to growth and progress. But because very few people foster trust in their relationships, they fail to engage in healthy conflict, often reverting to lying to their leaders and vice versa. Correction must happen in a leader/employee role. There is no way around that. Performance may even improve for a time. But often, that unhealthy conflict doesn't have the long-term intended effect it was meant to have. That's because the relationship is not secure, which can lead to disaster in no time flat.

That's why leaders must strive for a deeper relationship of trust. Without healthy doses of communication and trust, employees have no sense of security in their roles. They're not even sure what their leader is thinking, what he or she really wants, or even how to deliver it. Lacking stability, it's nearly impossible for followers to bring their A game when it comes to creativity. This is where the relationship fails and goals are not met. Trust. It's so simple yet lacking in so many relationships in a business setting.


Shortcuts to Effective Leadership

You don't need an MBA or hours of executive training courses under your belt to be a good leader. All it takes is some common sense and emotional intelligence. It's so obvious that most leaders miss it. Check out these shortcuts to effective leadership:

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