No matter how successful a person is or how much has been accomplished, getting from point A to point Z is not always easy and there are a lot of things that can get in the way. Over the past few months, I've worked longer and harder than at any point in my fifteen-year IT career, and, at one point, felt like my team and I were moving backwards.
We took major staffing hits, from forced turnover due to budget constraints to losing key individuals for higher paying jobs. To make matters worse, our funding method for many initiatives changed due to financial need in other areas. This kind of activity took place across the organization, so it wasn't just that IT was being "picked on" but the whole organization simply had to make sacrifices. And, to top it all off, my second-in-command left - again, for more money.
With so much going poorly, I started to feel pretty demoralized. My team and I have worked really hard to build an organization on which people can rely, and, slowly, it appeared that things were eroding. Sure, we still have the full support and confidence of the rest of the executive team, but our workload was absolutely incredible. We were training new staff at the same time that we were trying to support, literally, hundreds of new users that would spend a few months at our facilities. Keep in mind that my entire staff numbers eight people, and four turned over since March.
For a couple of years now, we've enjoyed success after success in almost everything we did, but all of a sudden, it looked like it was coming to a complete halt. I was careful to keep an upbeat attitude with my staff, but inside, I was watching everything we did with a critical eye.
So, what did I do?
First, I started to consider the "why" behind what I was feeling. Between two rounds of major budget cuts, having to let some people go, and others leaving of their own will, I started to take things too personally. I had to step back and realize that this stuff wasn't personal. It's life.
Second, I took some time off. Because of the staffing changes, I was simply working too much and it wasn't doing anyone any good. I read a posting here in IT Leadership on that topic and, sheepishly, realized that I was falling into the trap of thinking I needed to be around all the time.
Third, I started to delegate more. Most of my staff is very, very new, having only worked with me for a couple of years at most. My network person has less than a year on the job, for example. Yes, I need to get people started off on the right foot, but I took too long to let go. So, I did. Now, for the record, my staff actually likes me, so they accepted my ways very well. In the staff meeting where I started to truly delegate more, one of my staff said, "Whoa... we're going to have a lot to do!" to which my network person, a retired IBMer, replied, "Yep! Looks like the boss is learning to delegate more!" These comments were not made in a negative or condescending way, but were very positive and upbeat from a staff that works their butts off.
Finally, we're adjusting expectations at the most senior levels. We've endured multiple rounds of budget cutting, which included staff. Like it or not, expectations simply cannot hold at the pre-cut levels. With so much staff turnover, there will be short-term disruption and with significant budget cuts, services and hardware provided will change. Services will take longer and hardware will not be replaced as often. That's not negativity talking... it's reality.
I think it's human nature to "catch up" to major changes that are not for the positive, regardless of position. Even with the realization that none of this is personal, it's still difficult to handle. My staff is working, quite simply, too much, and we still have challenges in front of us that we need to confront, but as long as we can manage expectations from the top down in order to begin to reign things in, we'll get back on track and get through these tough times and back into positive territory across the organization.
So, I've realized that it's not really crumbling but our forward progress is simply taking a momentary respite while the organization regroups.
Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive with CampusWorks, Inc. Scott is available for consulting, writing, and speaking engagements and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.