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Learning to Be a Good Boss is a Never-Ending Process

Tips from IT Professional

I’ve learned that managing people is a skill that takes time to develop. It takes vision, patience, compassion, courage, and lots of communication. But, most of all, it takes the ability to look closely at the kind of boss you really are, and the willingness to always improve.

I had to do this at Intivix. It’s a challenging and sometimes painful process, but something that was necessary.

A Team Culture

In order to manage and grow Intivix, I realized that we needed a unified vision and culture. This was missing for us. My business partner, staff and I were all so busy that we were going in different directions. We needed to regroup.

Believe it or not, I learned this lesson from one of my employees who left after only two months on the job. We held an exit interview with him—There was obviously something wrong and we wanted to know what it was. We took a step back, listened, and learned a lot. He told us that our onboarding and documentation processes weren’t as efficient as they could be.

So, what did we do? Instead of taking this personally, we restructured the way we delivered internal services to new hires. We became more systematic in terms of hiring. We also took the time to lay a strong company foundation, by developing our core values, goals and vision for the future, and we made sure that we communicated them to all of our employees. We also improved communications by modifying our meeting structures and cadence, including instituting daily huddle meetings, which have helped to spread knowledge and increase internal collaboration.

Now, the folks we now look to hire must share the same mindset and values as our team. Doing this has helped us find the right personnel fit. And, we realized that sometimes employees just aren’t a good fit (and we’re not a good fit for them). Now when this happens, we consider letting them go. It’s a painful and uncomfortable process, but a decision that in the end is better for them and for us.

This started us on a journey to discover what was important to us as an organization—

* To build a culture of teamwork that promotes communication and collaboration.
* To make strategic decisions now, and not down the road.
* That we must always refine this process, and we’ll never be done.

With a unified vision and collaborative culture, we now have a solid foundation for growth at Intivix. And, as a result, we matured as a company, and I’ve become a better boss.

Aikido Has Also Helped Me Be a Better Boss.

Aikido is a Japanese defensive martial art, rather than on offensive one. I’ve been practicing it for a number of years now. It’s all about blending energy, re-directing negative energy, and refining one’s character. (In fact, police often employ Aikido techniques in their day-to-day work—this allows them to restrain someone so they’re safe but immobilized, and avoid dangerous choking methods.)

Within a leadership context, Aikido has taught me important lessons. How? Envision a Japanese sword. It takes a very long time to forge it, with constant pounding of various metals (thousands of times), and constant refining to bring it to a beautiful, sharp, work of art. The practice of Aikido is like this. It helps to refine oneself, and develop a mental approach that promotes honor, character and treating people fairly and equitably.

My Aikido instruction has extended into the way I lead. Unless I’m willing to grow and refine myself, how can I expect my team to do the same? I now work at emulating these traits so my team will do the same. It’s been effective and carries over to how we interact with each other and our clients—To blend, join, and embody empathy.

Our staff has learned to emulate this behavior. When our clients are frustrated because of an IT problem, our staff empathetically listens to their issues, and works with them quickly in a positive way.

Be Humble, Keep Learning and Deal with Discomfort and Uncertainty.

From Aikido, I’ve also learned the concept of Shoshin (or Beginner’s Mind). Shoshin means that regardless of how advanced one becomes in a particular endeavor, it’s important to keep a beginner’s mindset and stay humble. This keeps your “head from getting too big,” and helps keep a fresh and open view regardless of what you’re dealing with. It helps avoid getting caught up in the “I’m great” mentality. This is also a trait of a good boss.
So, I’m a beginner when it comes to being a good boss, and always will be. And I will continue to hone these skills:

* To deal with discomfort and uncertainty;
* To make tough decisions, and quickly;
* To keep perfecting my managerial skills, just like I do with my Aikido and Shoshin training; and
* To always move forward, so my business will move with me.