Embrace the silence

When i am silent, i have thunder hidden inside me.

Over the years in my career so far, I’ve found that in some (many) situations, my speaking style in meetings doesn’t always “work” effectively.

Some background: when I was young, I was diagnosed with dyspraxia, and had trouble forming sentences and speaking properly. I had speech therapy until the age of around 8 years old. The word “hammer” was a particular challenge for me, apparently. I don’t know why. I can say hammer really well now. Try me.

As a result of this (or maybe it’s just coincidental), I often pause before speaking, particularly when in a larger group, or in a situation where what I say really matters. It’s partly to formulate the content, the idea, the concept, but also to establish the “how” of it; i.e. how to structure the sentences, what phrasing to use, and how the statement is to be delivered.

Now, this pause is useful for everyone. It allows for a more cogent, relevant and useful discussion.

But, people seem to feel the need to fill this audible space. Whether that’s a result of a discomfort with silence, or a desire to be the one speaking and presenting their ideas instead of me, I don’t know. I suspect both, in different scenarios. I don’t really care though, as it gives me more time to build my response anyway.

I guess I could be concerned that some might interpret a pause as a weakness, as some kind of hesitation because I don’t understand the subject matter, but I choose to ignore that concern, and focus instead on being me, and how I function best.

I wonder if we should all try to pause a little more. Think about what we say, how we say it, and how we deliver it. Imagine if meetings were 30% less talk, but with 50% better quality contributions as a result.

Embrace the silence. Embrace your own, and allow others to use theirs.

The ten principles of IT Management (and probably a lot of other jobs).

1. Work your way out of a job.

If there’s any procedure, task, or process that you have to carry out or manage more than once, you should consider automating it. What’s the point in you doing it, if a machine can? Of course, some things have to be done by a human, but can you streamline the task? For example, can you stop searching through event logs every week, and instead set up a monitoring system that will alert you by email and/or sms to certain types of errors?

2. Make life easier for users

Your users are customers. They pay your wages and are essentially the only reason you’re in the job. By making their life easier, you’re enabling them to make money for the business, instead of working the system. You’ll also be making them happier, and that’s a good thing.

3. Constantly evaluate costs, and try to reduce them.

Costs creep up. They always do, and forever will do. Keep an eye on them, and constantly try to think of ways that you can reduce them: do you need that old server, or can it be virtualised? Do you need all your mobile connections, or can you cancel some? Do you have any old printers that aren’t utilised enough? Get rid of them. Is your hardware vendor giving you the best deals? Are you out of contract with your telecoms firm, support firm, leased lines, printers, or anything else? If so, look for a better deal and/or┬árenegotiate.

4. Constantly evaluate the business, and try to increase productivity.

Don’t take your eye off the ball with what the business is up to. It’s easy to focus on the day to day stresses of the IT function, and your pet projects, while the business starts running in a different direction, and before you know it, you’re off doing something that is hard work, and provides no benefit to the business, or you’ve missed an opportunity. Get involved in the different functions, like marketing, and strategy (even if your directors don’t actively involve you – just get in there anyway.)

5. Consolidate

One contract is better than two. Vendors fight harder for bigger contracts, and there are big efficiency savings to be made by consolidating. Multiple contracts for a similar service just wastes money, administrative effort, and doesn’t make the supplier work as hard for you.

Consolidation applies also to IT systems and infrastructure, of course, but only where sensible. One server can carry out multiple roles, but not at the expense of reliability, or necessary performance.

6. Be a pessimist – plan for disaster.

Shit does happen, and it will happen in ways that you didn’t predict. When setting up and supporting systems, ask yourself:

“How could this fail?”

“What’s the impact if it does fail?”

“How can i recover from failure?”

and

“How can I reduce the likelihood of it failing?”

Note that you can never completely prevent something from failing, but you can make it so unlikely that you don’t have to worry. Ideally, everything should have a redundant partner, ready to failover, but if that’s not possible, make sure to be ready to recover from failure, and mitigate the impact.

7. Be an optimist – plan for expansion and success.

As important as planning for failure, is planning for success. If you have 2000 users now, don’t spec a mailserver with just enough capacity to serve all of them just enough. Spec a server with enough capacity for 3000, or 4000, or 10000. Don’t spend more than you need to, but you can guarantee that if you only spec just enough now, it won’t be enough in a year or two.

8. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

Try new things, and accept that not all your endeavours will work out well. Some may turn out to be awful, but some may turn out great. Try out new technologies, new systems, or even old systems that you haven’t tried before. If you don’t know how to do something, ask. And if there’s nobody to ask, do it anyway, and work it out.

9. Stay on top of technological progress.

Go to seminars, webinars, workshops, training events, trade shows, and new product demonstrations. It’s easy to get behind in IT, and you don’t know the things you don’t know. You can’t do many of the things before this item if you don’t know about the newest technology, systems, products, or services. Also, by keeping really up to date, you can help your business keep ahead of their competitors.

10. Network

And I don’t mean with ethernet cables. Networking is especially important if you work in a small IT team, partly because you learn best from others. You’ll learn what other people are doing, how they’re doing it, why, and who with. You’ll find out how to do a better job for your business, and make a better career for yourself.