Our favorite Rock & Roll CIO and guest blogger, Pat Caine of the Virginia Farm Bureau, returns with more observations about how the factors that help a rock band find its groove also apply to high performing IT organizations.
Ordinary people can do extraordinary things when given the right tools, the right direction, the right resources, AND the trust and confidence of those around them. Organizations can accomplish the extra-ordinary only when the individuals within it believe they can do extraordinary things.
Bruce Springsteen believes that this thinking also applies to rock bands. In his one-man Broadway show, the Boss describes the making of a great band. “Like thunder and lightning, it happens as the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts. They may not be the best players - that’s not necessary. They need to be the right players with the same passion and vision,” he says. “The principles of math get stood on their head, and one plus one equals three.”
It just so happens that I play drums in a rock band, and I feel that we are a good example of what Bruce describes. Individually, any the members of my band might be considered average musicians. But when each of us plays at our best, collectively we are able to do things other bands can’t – even bands with more musical talent.
First, share a vision
What makes this possible? Collectively, we have all bought into what we are doing: we play songs that fit us, we know when to push each other beyond our current capabilities, how we want to sound, and the environment we want to set for a given event. We talk about our vision a lot. We are in tune with each other.
Related Article: Rock & Roll CIO, by Pat Caine
Then, there is the confidence we have in each other. I’m an average drummer, but my bandmates push me and give me confidence to do things I’ve never tried and didn’t think I could do. I try to be my best, knowing that my best may not be as good as the next drummer’s. But, collectively each of us being our best makes the band extraordinary. The Boss is absolutely right.
Supply resources and confidence
Similarly, being a good technology and business leader involves setting direction and vision, providing the right resources to your teams, and then building up their confidence so they can do the necessary work. In my company, we regularly set business goals that are beyond what most people think possible – “stretch goals”. Then we discuss the vision, what tools and resources we’ll need, and begin to stretch ourselves. It forces each of us to focus on being our very best.
Businesses need technology leaders who know what is possible, and how to lead their organizations to do extraordinary things. Our company has emerged from challenging times and is experiencing an extended run of success spanning several years. We’ve achieved this by sharing a vision, communicating robustly, discussing the tools we need, committing to our stretch goals, and giving our teams the confidence they need.
Perhaps most importantly, all the business units trust one another. Each operating unit is performing at their best, which makes it possible to accomplish together what many thought was not possible. Instilling confidence and building trust is not a one-time thing. It must be a continual focus, and after course corrections or mistakes, there is always rebuilding to do.
How do you build trust and confidence?
Share the vision openly and often, give feedback both positive and constructive, help each other get better, and involve people in your discussions about what they will be contributing, and how they’ll do it. In my band, we communicate openly, giving both positive and constructive feedback. Note that I did not use the word “negative” because no one wants to be told they are bad. But everyone wants to improve, and we all need to help each other get better. How you go about delivering the message is key.
Change Management plays a key role
How do IT and business work together and achieve extraordinary results? I believe that it starts with change management. At our company, change management consists of a series of facilitated meetings that start with sharing ideas, getting feedback on these ideas, refining requirements, ROI analysis, and ensuring that the idea is well understood by everyone (communications).
I’m often asked why we have all these meetings, but with change management, it’s not the meetings that are important – it’s the communication that these meetings foster. The meetings not only help us change, they ensure that open communication remains a staple throughout the organization. Strong, open communication creates a collaborative culture, which builds trust between IT and the business. And when collaboration and trust exist, you are able to innovate.
As leaders in an organization – CIOs, COOs, CFOs, and CEOs – we must buy into a common vision and have trust and confidence in one another. Only then can we go to our teams and instill in them the confidence they need to deliver. With the right technology tools, a common vision, collaboration across the organization, our ordinary selves become part of making extraordinary things happen.