Strategic CIO // Team Building & Staffing
Commentary
7/8/2014
09:06 AM
Larry Bonfante
Larry Bonfante
Commentary
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Retention Strategy: Treat Everyone As An Individual

It pays for IT leaders to leverage and cater to their people's unique talents, competencies, attitudes, and needs.

After Ballmer: 8 Execs You Love To Hate
After Ballmer: 8 Execs You Love To Hate
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

A number of years ago I was asked about my leadership style: "How do you lead people?" I answered in a grammatically incorrect way (I'm having flashbacks to the nuns smacking my knuckles with a ruler): "I don't lead people; I lead persons."

You see, each and every one of us is wired differently. Our teams bring together unique talents, competencies, attitudes, and needs. What matters deeply to me may not mean a hill of beans to you. What motivates you may be of no consequence to me. Leading people is about understanding what makes each of them tick as individuals and then tailoring a personalized value proposition.

In my role as CIO, I've been able to retain an outstanding team for more than a decade. Most of these people could make more money working for one of the Fortune 500 companies within a stone's throw of our offices. While we can't compete on dollar compensation, we can meet the needs of our people in other ways, like letting our soccer Moms and Dads leave work early at times to attend games or making sure that employees who have children with special educational needs are able to participate in their kids' therapy sessions. What motivates each of us is personal and unique.

[Want a more innovative team? Mix it up. Read Innovation: Disperse Or Congregate?]

I always laugh when I hear other leaders state that you shouldn't get too close to your people. While I'm not suggesting going out with your team to sing "Sweet Caroline" at Thursday night karaoke, I am suggesting that you find out what makes each individual tick and then find a way to support his or her goals, needs, and requirements.

There's an old expression: People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. Do your people feel that you truly care about them -- not as cogs in your machine, but as individual human beings with hopes, dreams, and challenges? Are you available to them, or are you aloof and just seen as "the Boss"?

Taking shortcuts never works with people. Neither does treating them like interchangeable parts. Each of us has had the experience of working for someone who made us feel like a droid, and it wasn't inspiring. Perhaps some of you have had the good fortune to work for someone who made you feel like a valued member of his or her extended family. How did that feel?

The greatest professional compliment I have ever received came a number of years ago, when the company I worked for administered a 360-degree evaluation for all of its senior leaders. Part of the feedback I received stated: "His people would kick down the gates of hell for him." Those words still mean the world to me, and they inspire me to care about my people even more.

Here's a step-by-step plan to mesh IT goals with business and customer objectives and, critically, measure your initiatives to ensure that the business is successful. Get the How To Tie Tech Innovation To Business Strategy report today (registration required).

Larry Bonfante has held executive leadership positions for more than 30 years in the financial, pharmaceutical, not for profit, consulting, and sports and entertainment industries. He has received numerous industry accolades, including being nominated for the CIO Hall of Fame ... View Full Bio
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
yalanand
50%
50%
yalanand,
User Rank: Moderator
7/30/2014 | 4:43:58 PM
Re: Sucess is a group endeavor
@impactnow: exactly, leaders make you deliver the best in you. Review boards continually ask the staff how their managers are treating them and if work pressure is too much. So every inspection week is like an exam for every manager, because even managers have superiors.
yalanand
50%
50%
yalanand,
User Rank: Moderator
7/30/2014 | 4:22:05 PM
Managing teams
I know one example of a CIO who really liked to mix it up. Most of his teams comprised of not more than 15 engineers, of which 2 were senior engineers with most experience but less motivation to complete the project soon enough, 8 were learned but competitive engineers, and 5 were least experienced (their experience ranged from 4 to 7 years) but highly impatient junior engineers. This weird combination set things right for the projects.
lbonfante106
50%
50%
lbonfante106,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/12/2014 | 1:53:50 PM
Re: Sucess is a group endeavor
As the old axiom goes "people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care"
impactnow
50%
50%
impactnow,
User Rank: Ninja
7/12/2014 | 3:00:42 AM
Sucess is a group endeavor

Larry I once worked for someone who taught me an awesome management tool. He said if you want to understand a leaders capabilities talk to their staff first. A leader that has a staff dedicated to them is the person you want on your team the person whose staff dislikes them will never be successful and all the education and experience won't overcome that issue. I have had the pleasure of working with many leaders that espouse your traits and I would work with any of them again and would also have done anything to help their success when I was on their team. I have only had a few of those leaders that treated you like a cog in my career and I took those opportunities to move on to something else in my career. Unfortunately those leaders rarely change and their behavior becomes a tell a tale sign on their resumes, with frequent job changes and lack of employee recommendations in social media. While money is great there is a lot to be said for work life quality.

PedroGonzales
50%
50%
PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
7/10/2014 | 11:16:23 PM
Re: What a concept!
You are right. Many times companies forget of the other factors that will impact employee satisfaction, including job flexibility, family commitments, etc.  If people feel you care about them, in some case, it will have huge impact on their work productivity.
Lorna Garey
100%
0%
Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
7/8/2014 | 4:05:40 PM
What a concept!
Maybe some bosses worry that they'll be seen as weak by reports, and more committed to their teams than the success of the company by their own bosses, if they advocate too strongly or provide too much flexibility? That's the only reason I can imagine (besides that one is a jerk) to not treat people like responsible adults with lives outside the office walls.

 
2014 US Salary Survey: 10 Stats
2014 US Salary Survey: 10 Stats
InformationWeek surveyed 11,662 IT pros across 30 industries about their pay, benefits, job satisfaction, outsourcing, and more. Some of the results will surprise you.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest - August 27, 2014
Who wins in cloud price wars? Short answer: not IT. Enterprises don't want bare-bones IaaS. Providers must focus on support, not undercutting rivals.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
Howard Marks talks about steps to take in choosing the right cloud storage solutions for your IT problems
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.