As the leader of a fast-growing company that assists clients with their technology requirements, I operate in an environment that continually changes. Today’s questions very quickly become yesterday’s decisions. How does one keep pace? What is the effect on leadership?
Having spent most of my career in technology, I think I have a pretty good grasp on the subject of dealing with the pace of change. Yes, it seems to have accelerated, but for me the primary constant is dedicating myself to lifelong learning. Without a keen interest in learning what’s new, it would be an almost impossible task to stay current.
Since keeping current is critical in any competitive business, a common challenge organizations face is motivating employees to stay current, even across a mix of generations working together.
From a leadership perspective, the way we help make that happen is by creating a working environment built on teams. When people work and learn together, they get comfortable enough to provide their educated opinions, which in turn oftentimes yields great results.
We started with the creation of our leadership team at iV4, comprising key stakeholders. Our meetings have become increasingly productive, but can sometimes be raucous. That’s OK because we share common goals and just sometimes disagree on how best to go about meeting them.
From there, we built both formal business teams — for example, our cybersecurity and data center teams — and informal teams, one being our recognition squad.
Teams are a great collaborative vehicle, but what happens as the company grows and teams get larger? Do you add more teams and/or more managers? Or do teams just get bulkier so they become less intimate and managers have to spread their time more?
While some people would claim this is a great problem to have, it doesn’t absolve the leader of needing solutions to address this type of situation.
As teams within an organization grow, people-centric skills in leaders become more valuable to eliminate the distance between individual team members and leadership. A 2019 Harvard Business Review article by Julie Zhuo defines those skills as “hiring exceptional leaders, building self-reliant teams, establishing a clear vision, and communicating well.” At the same time, leaders must be nimble to know when to step in and when to get out.
Interestingly, some studies have shown that success in working in teams is more important than company culture when it comes to employee satisfaction. Clearly both are important, but it demonstrates the importance people place on working with their co-workers. Enter trust.
When you work with someone you learn you can rely on, trust starts to build. When team members are able to trust their teammates to do their parts and not undermine the team structure, teams can become very efficient, becoming cost-effective machines within the organization.
While teams are essential in growing organizations, their dynamics will likely change. At one point, I tried to participate in as many teams as possible. That just doesn’t work anymore. Also, as the CEO of the company, I’ve seen people be intimidated by my presence, even after reassuring everyone that I’m just another employee.
So, what is the right path? At iV4, we stress learning as a constant and teamwork for enhancing productivity and idea stimulation. But most importantly, we do everything we can to instill trust in everything we do. Trust with colleagues, teams based on trust and trust to question decisions that are made. And, trust with our older and younger counterparts.
Technology and companies are ever-changing, and we need to keep up. Leadership that enables a culture of trusting teamwork is what works for us.
Mike Spoont is CEO of iV4 (www.iv4.com), an IT consulting, support, and professional services firm with offices in Fairport, Syracuse, and Amherst.