Author Archives: Joe Sabado

Feedback: The Motivation Behind Them Matters

There are a couple of mentors I have come to trust in my career. That I trust them is based on the many interactions when they’ve shown me that when they provide me feedback, they come from a right place.  What I mean by “a right place” is that the feedback are genuine and they are to help me become a better professional and as a person. My mentors are honest with me and they can offer their observations about myself I may not want to hear, but nevertheless I readily accept them.  What I’ve come to realize is that the intent (perceived or real) behind the feedback from others do matter in terms of how well they are accepted. If one is to be effective in providing feedback to others, we must earn the trust of those we are seeking to provide feedback to.

While feedback about my performance/behaviors sometimes do hurt, I still seek them as I think in my role as a leader, it’s important for me to understand how I am perceived by those I lead and I serve. Just recently, as a part of a departmental survey about my department’s organizational health, I included a couple of questions about my areas of strengths and improvements. I presented the result at our department meeting and I thanked my staff for providing me helpful recommendations on how I can be better.

I’ve received feedback in the past when I’ve had to question the motivations behind them. There have been times when I find out the “friendly criticisms” were based on professional jealousy and less than noble intentions on those providing them. It’s unfortunate that I became skeptical about the feedback I receive from these individuals who broke my trust. I’m still open to them and I do consider them, but not to the extent I do with my trusted mentors.

Trust is a key component that must be considered as part of an effective professional relationship. The effectiveness of the messages we provide to others and the actions we take not only depend on the manner we express them, but also on how others perceive our level of trustworthiness.





Cohort-Based IT Leadership/Management Program for Higher Ed

This post contains some of the ideas I will be proposing to our HR department as an officially endorsed training program to address two issues I see present on our campus IT community. These two issues are 1) lack of a cohesive community among the different IT units (and leadership), and 2) needed training on IT leadership and management knowledge and skills. As it is, our campus has a decentralized IT environment and there are minimal opportunities for planning and communication among the IT leadership themselves as well as between the IT leaders and the campus business leaders. As for community building, there aren’t too many opportunities for IT folks to get to know each other as there are only two campus-wide IT events: once-a-year holiday party and a summer beach party. With regards to training, it’s very common for technically adept staff to be placed into management positions without management and leadership training. It is not really a surprise when these staff struggle in their new roles. Even with previous management experience, the campus bureaucracy can be daunting and confusing for those new to the campus.

The idea behind  a cohort-based program is to promote community building among the participants, a selected group of campus IT managers with varying degrees of experience and levels of positions.  The community-building process happens as they complete a set of  training curriculum on areas related to IT leadership/management. In addition, a mentorship component could also be part of the program that pairs up more experienced with new IT managers and/or IT managers with senior campus executives.

Personally, I’ve experienced the benefits of a cohort-based and mentorship program through my participation in our Division of Student Affairs’ Management Development Group (for mid-level SA managers), a campus-wide program called GauchoU, and through a new professionals program within the Division of Student Affairs called Foundations.

I envision the curriculum to be a mix of formal training and monthly discussions on IT leadership/management topics.  A schedule could be something like this:

* Two day institute that could include the following topics:

  • Introduction to campus organizational structure and politics
  • Budgeting
  • Introduction to HR processes (hiring, on-boarding, performance-evaluations, etc)
  • Policies (Security, PCI, FERPA, HIPAA, etc)

* Monthly sessions (discussions/training) that could include, but not limited to the following:

  • IT Project Management
  • Employee Engagement
  • Technology Trends (security, cloud, infrastructure, etc)
  • Career Development
  • Leadership/Communication Styles
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Change Management

Beyond community building and leadership/management training is the benefit of cheaper cost of training for the campus. By bringing trainers and having the training done on campus to a pool of participants the campus can save a significant amount of money spent on travel and accommodations.

Would you have a campus-wide IT leadership/management training program on your campus? Anything you’d add to the curriculum?


Complexity of Identity and Appearance

The saga of Rachel Dolezal and her claim to be an African American despite her upbringing reminds me of a couple of learning experience about the complex issues behind identity and appearance. Her appearance, which seems to have changed to what could be considered African American features, is one aspect that is really interesting to me. This post is not at all about Dolezal herself and neither is it an analysis of why she chose to pursue her life the way she did. But, I referenced her issue because it reminds me of two experiences related to identity and why I am now more careful to assign a person to ethnicity/race based on their appearance.

When I was a discussion leader for an international students’ First Year Experience course at UCSB a couple of years ago, I made the mistake of assuming one of my students was from Japan. In my eyes (very subjective eyes), she “looked” Japanese. So, I asked her what part of Japan she came from. Her response was, “I’m not from Japan.” From how she looked at me, she seemed offended, so I apologized to her for making that assumption. She then explained to me that she is from Chile and she considers herself Chilean. She spoke fluent Spanish and told me she doesn’t know any Japanese.

I also have friends who are South African Indians. Their families have been there for generations and they themselves grew up in the age of apartheid.  If I had not known this prior to meeting them, through my wife, I would have assumed they’re from India. Luckily, I did not make the same mistake of asking them how India was, since I think they’ve only gone their to visit.

On a related note, I wonder how the adopted children (African-Americans) of friends of ours (Whites) will identify themselves growing up.

Race, culture, and ethnicity from what I’ve learned are social and political constructs. So, who decides and defines who belongs to a certain race/ethnicity? Is it by appearance? What if that person doesn’t conform to what is generally attributed features of a certain race? Is there a formula to determine which group a person should belong to? What about a multi-racial person?

Clearly, I don’t have the answer to this, but rather more questions.


The Quantified Life

bodyMonitor_collage-filtered-1024x800Cloud, mobile, social media, wearable computing, and internet of things are now making it possible for those who see the value of being able to quantify their lives for the sake of improving themselves. Devices and applications that measure financial, health, work, and social activities are readily available today. What I’ve found is that the data themselves don’t create change but they do play in changing one’s behavior. There’s an adage that “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” and personally, that applies to me. There are elements built into these apps such as timely alerts and gamification which involves rewards and social interactions to encourage positive changes. Of course, whether those using these devices and apps are aware of the security implications, is another topic to be discussed. Wit that said, below is a partial list of apps and devices I’ve personally used as part of a movement called “quantified self.”

  • Automatic driving system. This is a combination of a hardware (car adapter) that is plugged into vehicles and is accompanied with a mobile app to measure driving performance and vehicle diagnostics.
  • Mint mobile app. This app provides financial data and activities that is real-time and easily accessible.
  • Toggl time tracking tool. This app provides the user the ability to track time spent on any activity. Some co-workers have started using this app to analyze where they are spending their time at work. I’ve started using this recently, and I use it mainly to analyze how much time I spend studying as well as physical activities.
  • Fitbit activity tracker. This is a wearable device that tracks activities. It has an accompanying mobile app that can be synched real-time to provide data such as number of steps, as well as reminders of progress towards daily and weekly goals.
  • iWatch. There are many features I like about this new device including notifications of text, emails, etc. A set of features I really like are health related. It has sensors that can measure heartbeat and physical activities like walking. It also has reminders (via haptic feedback) to encourage certain good habits like standing up every hour.
  • Weightwatchers mobile app. This is an app that tracks food intake, activities, and weight. Given a stated weight loss goal, the app provides the user a number of “points” per day. It also has a built-in real-time chat app that provides users access to support so if there are questions about food and activities, a user can easily connect with a staff using the mobile app.

Ultimately, a person has to be motivated to change for these apps to work. I remember a quote from an Anthony Robbins book called “Awakening the Giant Within” which I read way back in the mid-1990s as I was going through a break-up that still sticks to me today. The quote goes something like “A person will only go through change if the prospect of change is so good they’ll want to change or their circumstance is so bad they are forced to change.”

What apps do you use?

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Leading In Stressful Times

I read somewhere that one manages constraints and leads towards possibilities. Certainly, as a manager, getting things done and delivering services and products with the constraints of  finite resources, including staff, within the time frame  and the level of quality expected is a core of our duties. This responsibility gets even more difficult during stressful times brought on by budget cuts, increased mandates, but with no additional staffing to support the increased demands. However, It is too easy as a manager to get caught up in trying to get the most of our staff in ways that may not be the most productive and produce unintended consequences. For example, in the attempt to become more efficient during busy times, managers begin to micro-manage details making sure that staff are focused and are following procedures to minimize waste. In some cases, new procedures are put into place intended to promote efficiency without realizing the additional time, energy, and effort to implement new procedures. Activities that are not considered part of getting projects and tasks completed are discouraged. For example, one-on-one meetings with the staff are eliminated as they are seen as waste of time and taking time away from projects. However, treating staff as machines and robots, as units of resources, may not be the most productive strategy. After all, our staff are human beings, driven by intrinsic motivations, with emotions, and in my opinion, more productive when engaged. This is where leadership is needed. There are many definitions of leadership, but ultimately, leadership is about people.  As I read once, you manage resources, you lead people.

As leaders, one of our roles in the workplace is to cultivate an environment that promotes engagement which should lead to increased productivity and improved quality of work. Engagement, as I learned in one of my leadership workshops, is the maximum level of personal satisfaction and maximum level of productivity in the workplace. One without the other is not engagement. For example, one can be personally satisfied  doing some work that does not contribute to the goals of the organization. On the other hand, one can be contributing to the goals of the organization, yet they don’t feel personally satisfied.

As leaders, we cannot lose touch of the idea that we need to be available and we need to build relationships with our staff. Managers must take the time to recognize their staff and acknowledge their contributions as well as to resolve staff issues. Having one-on-one meetings when staff have the opportunity to be heard and listened to is a very important activity to have on a manager’s schedule.  Having lunch, taking a walk, or doing an activity with a staff without talking about tasks are good examples of how to be available and how to build relationships.

How we delegate also matter. Giving orders in a command and control style, in my opinion, does not really work. Not when you’re working in an environment that requires independent thinking and creativity. This style of managing only leads to resentment and staff not wanting to do more than what is expected from them. What I’ve found is that staff will go beyond what is asked of them if they know their managers care about them. Even small actions to show managers do care about their staff matter. Stopping by to say “how are you?” mean a lot to some. Taking the time to explain what is being asked of them in person instead of an email that can be misinterpreted also help.

As managers, don’t lose sight of the idea that our staff are human beings and not just units of resources. If organizations are to be productive, managers must make themselves available and build relationships with staff to build an engaged workforce. Being too short-sighted and just giving orders to complete tasks can lead to unintended and counterproductive consequences.