The Middle Manager

Surviving & Thriving as a Leader

How Secure are You?

Do you feel secure? Recently the news has been filled with reports of big retailers having major data breaches, operating systems having terrible vulnerabilities, and even legitimate businesses harvesting personal and canstockphoto13689877aprivate information from your account.

Even tiny web sites like this are constantly bombarded with attempts to gain administrative rights.  Not a day goes by that I’m not notified by the system that someone from China or Eastern Europe has been trying to crack into the site. Some days are worse than others – I can see from five or six attempts to over a hundred targeted, deliberate attempts to hack the site.

I do what I can to keep it clean and safe, and the reality is that there’s nothing much anyone would gain by hacking my little web sites except some sort of perverse bragging rights.  I have no illusions that a truly dedicated, knowledgeable attempt would succeed – if big corporations with all their resources are victims, my sites have no chance if the serious hackers turn their attention my way.

But it serves to show that we need to be aware and cognizant of security all the time.  Recent articles have mentioned that the most common passwords are still things like ‘123456’ or ‘qwerty’ or equally simple codes.  Having to think of complicated passwords (letters, numbers, characters) and then change them frequently (every 30 days or so) can make it a major pain to keep up with your latest password.  Given the alternatives, though, it’s worth a little inconvenience, especially where your financials, health, or other personal information is concerned.

As IT professionals, we should be setting the good example.  Have your team market the importance of protecting proprietary information, the importance of strong passwords, and the necessity to change them regularly.  In my career I’ve seen customers keep a running, written log of their passwords, tacked to the side of their cubicle for anyone to see. I’ve also seen it scribbled onto the front of the computer itself, or on a post-it note stuck to the side of the monitor.

That type of behavior can no longer be tolerated in the modern business world. Since support professionals are in the front lines, they have a unique perspective on how seriously the business takes the concepts of security.  They are also in a great position to be able to stress the importance protecting the companies information assets.

Non-Verbal Communication

Have you ever walked into an important meeting and ‘felt’ the tension in the air? To some degree it could be your own nervousness, but it is a fact that we pick up on non-verbal cues when dealing with other people.  Studies done since the 1960’s have indicated that non-verbal communication makes up between 65-90% of face-to-face interaction.

canstockphoto14988784aAs leaders, it’s important that we minimize the impact of this effect.  Having a good ‘poker face’ is important for a manager, as so much of what we are thinking can be conveyed by what’s on our face.  What shows in our eyes, or if we smile or frown, can send a message tht may not match our words.  This can be especially important when dealing in an international situation where cultural considerations are important.

Some people ‘talk’ with thier hands, and this is another area where we may want to take care.  Gestures are an important way to communicate, but they can also send unintended messages.

To the point of a ‘tense’ room – posture can convey quite a bit of information.  Body language can clearly seem closed off or welcoming.  A rigid posture may send an unwelcome message, while a relaxed posture would do the opposite.

Even how we dress could be sending unintended messages.  There have been many studies on the effects of color, so it may be something we want to look into before dressing for an important meeting.

As leaders we need to understand the impact of non-verbal communication.  We should try to overcome it for ourself, and learn to effectively read it in others.

Are You Hiring?

One of the primary responsibilities of being a manager is the oversight of staff. That includes the hiring process when it’s time to add to the team or replace someone who has left.

Many years ago when I first started managing people, most of the process of hiring resided with me, from creating the job description to coordinating the help-wanted advertisement. I reviewed the resumes as they came in and decided which ones I felt were worth calling in for an interview.

canstockphoto7773477sToday, all that has changed. In most large companies, the job of managing the job descriptions, collecting resumes, and deciding who might be the best for a given role and warrant an interview is all done by dedicated human resources professionals. The hiring manager has really become a footnote in the process, with the job becoming simply letting HR know when a new job requisition needs to be opened at the front end and interviewing the two or three candidates that HR has selected on the back end.

To be honest, I really don’t like this change. We no longer look at applicants as people – they’re simply a group of skills that someone who is totally unfamiliar with the actual work decides meets a generic job description. It’s true that it’s less work for the hiring manager, but I think we’ve lost something in the translation.

When I owned the hiring process, I could bring people in based other aspects of the resume rather than simply the skills listed there. They may have valuable industry experience, or held former positions with experiences that  were different than the initial job description, but might have a positive  and complementary impact on the whole team. I’m much more interested in how motivated someone seems, how excited they are about learning a new job or picking up new skills. I want to feel like I’m hiring a person, not a list of bullet-points on a resume.

Today, we have to make the best of it even if the recruiting process is less than optimal. If you can, insist on seeing more than two or three resumes. Try to have more input into the criteria used to select a candidate. If we start off thinking of new hires as individuals rather than bullet points, it’s easier to integrate them into the team and makes for a better employee.

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