About Paul Glen

Paul Glen is an IT management consultant and the author of the award- winning book "Leading Geeks: How to Manage and Lead People Who Deliver Technology" (Jossey-Bass Pfeiffer,2003). He regularly speaks for corporations and national associations across North America. For more information go to: http://www.paulglen.com. He can be reached at info@paulglen.com.
Lenses on Leadership

Before the days of Photoshop, it was common to say that photographs don’t lie. But even way back when, during the dark ages of chemical film, photographers used different lenses and filters to change colors, highlight some details over others and bring some subjects into sharp focus while blurring others. Pictures lie and tell the truth all at once.

To Motivate, Don’t Demotivate

Recently, a couple of intended compliments threw me for a loop. Two people called me in the same week and wanted me to present keynote speeches at their conferences. Of course, that was the flattering part, but what got to me was that they both referred to me as a “motivational speaker.”

Wages of Fear

In the circles of power, fear is often admired as a potent motivator. In his classic discourse on power politics, The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli offered the following thoughts on the question of whether it is better for a leader to be feared or loved: “If we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved.

Are You A Scary Boss?

I’ll never forget the first time I learned that one of my subordinates was afraid of me. A talented young man, probably 26, had just left my office after explaining to me how happy he was with his current project. My assistant came in and told me that he had spent the 20 minutes prior to our appointment complaining to her about how terrible his project was and how miserable he felt.

Workplace Obligations

Wouldn’t it be nice if every boss came with a standard API? It would be so easy to look at the interface specifications and know exactly what he expected, in what format he expected it, when you should deliver it, what predictable events would result from your input and how you should handle error conditions. All the politics would go away. Those pesky emotions would become a nonissue. Success would become deterministic.

Growing New IT Managers

Where will your next generation of IT managers come from? For most senior IT leaders, the answer is that they will hire them.

Satisfying IT Customers May Be a Bad Idea

Most IT departments I encounter say “customer satisfaction” is among their key goals. Unfortunately, this idea seems to lead too often to poor results.

Just Think About It

Managers, as a group, tend to be action-oriented. We measure ourselves, our importance and our effectiveness in part by the level of activity around us. The louder the hum of machinery, the faster the shuffle of feet in the corridor and the larger the proportion of time we spend in meetings, the better things must be. Stuff is happening, and that’s what we’re supposed to do: make things happen.

What’s the Problem?

Those of us in IT tend to see the world through the lens of problems and solutions. Our entire work lives are devoted to solving problems. One after the other, we knock them down.

To Each His Own

I give a fair number of speeches for conferences and private IT department meetings, and there’s almost always a chance for questions and answers during the formal presentation.

Accountability vs. Blame

I’ve discovered that most of the time, when executives tell me that “what we need around here is more accountability,” what they really mean is, “I need to know who I should blame when things go wrong.”

Questions Trump Answers

Information technology people tend to be answer people. When users, managers, family members or even random people from the Internet have questions, we’re right there with the answers, because we’re always the smart people. One of the first things we learn in school is that being smart means having the answers. The teacher asks the class a question, and the smart kids reach for the sky. But just having a hand in the air isn’t enough. To become known as the smartest of the smart, you’ve got to get that hand up faster than anyone else. It’s the original arms race. (We all know how popular this made us.)

The Wrong Stuff

Now that IT departments are starting to do just a little recruiting, it’s time to think about how to hire the best and brightest people. Despite having had a few years when they could be really choosy, hiring managers seem to have lost sight of how to pick great employees.

Getting to Done

I’m frequently called upon to help figure out what to do with a project that might be in trouble. Of course, determining whether a project is in trouble is often not a trivial problem. We like to talk about troubled projects as if there were a single bit that visibly flipped from one to zero, but unfortunately it’s not that easy. While the symptoms presented vary widely, there are a few questions that I always ask to help determine whether the project is indeed in trouble. Some questions are deceptively simple with surprisingly subtle answers. Perhaps the most important is, “How will you know when you’re done?”

What We Have to Fear

Lately I’ve had a troubling sense that there is a cancer growing in IT departments these days. No, I’m not talking about constrained budgets, poor alignment, hiring freezes or project failures. I’m not even talking about the growth of outsourcing and offshoring. While these issues are all real, there seems to be something even more toxic eating away at our industry. What could possibly be more threatening to IT staffs than offshoring? Fear of offshoring.

Selecting New IT Leaders

One of the great privileges and responsibilities of leadership is identifying and training the next generation of managers and leaders. Somewhere in between crisis management, contract negotiations, internal politics, status monitoring and your myriad other tasks, you should spend a few moments considering the future leadership of your organization.

What Kind of Manager Are You, Anyway?

It’s often said that there are two types of managers: those who manage things and those who manage people. And a great divide of misunderstanding lies between them, rarely to be crossed or reconciled.

Clawing Through Change

Some of the most important lessons I’ve learned about transforming organizations came from the struggle to shed an unpleasant habit. During high school and most of college, I was a fingernail biter. It’s one of those nasty nervous habits that no one feels good about. My jagged, raggedy, nibbled, nubbin nails were a constant source of embarrassment.

First Time Project Managers Need Failures

Nothing succeeds like success, except in project management where nothing succeeds like failure.

Embrace politics to enhance IT/Business alignment

Every January, we’re treated to a plethora of surveys about IT executive priorities for the next year. From year to year, the top one or two items seem to change, but virtually everything below that level stays the same. Beyond the current hot topics, the priorities and problems of IT departments tend to be relatively stable.

Transform the Year-End Planning Ritual

Once again, ’tis the season for annual planning, an exercise that fills managers with hope, dread, despair and anticipation. It’s a time when we contemplate the future of our organizations, technology and personal fortunes.

Job Satisfaction: It’s Highly Overrated

Few managers are genuinely surprised when the results of an employee satisfaction survey are revealed. You really don’t need the science of statistics to know that people aren’t entirely pleased with every aspect of their work lives.

Move IT’s Goals Beyond Customer Satisfaction

Most IT departments I encounter say “customer satisfaction” is among their key goals. Unfortunately, this idea seems to lead too often to poor results. While the sentiments are laudable, the law of unintended consequences seems to interfere. Goals are tricky things. Well-intentioned yet poorly selected goals frequently lead organizations to do exactly the wrong things.

The Training Trap

Lots of my clients call me up to ask that I train their staffs in various skills. The concerns usually sound like, “These guys need to learn to communicate” or “They just can’t seem to get things done” or “Our customers always seem upset with us.”