I was speaking with a client of mine yesterday, and we were discussing his unique value proposition - and his equally unique approach to technology leadership.

And he told me an interesting story (with all details changed to protect his privacy). He was recruited - by a large, US-based manufacturing firm headquartered in a major Midwest city - to lead a very low performing IT organization. His mandate, essentially, was to fire the entire team within a month, and rebuild from scratch.

Happily, he realized that that was an extremely costly way to deal with the problem - and that, if the issues were systemic in the organization - simply bringing in new resources would do, well, nothing.

So my client took a radical approach to the problem.

He talked to the team. Every member of the team. And determined that there were a number of problems for different individuals.

Some were overwhelmed because of inefficient systems.

Some had personal issues - IT professionals are people, after all.

Some were in the wrong position.

But pretty much everyone on the team felt undervalued - felt as though they weren't treated with respect, and as though their contributions to the enterprise weren't valued, as they weren't really making a difference.

That's a recipe for unpleasantness, as Mal Reynolds would say.

Did my client fire the entire team?

Happily not.

He worked with them, and - within 6 months - transformed the team from people seen through the rest of the enterprise as "losers" to rock stars - resources that every department was fighting for.

Technology leadership is the art of transforming losers into rockstars...
Technology leadership is the art of transforming losers into rockstars...

I think that's a really important lesson - and one that's too easy to ignore. Part of technology leadership is knowing when to pull the trigger - knowing when to let a give team member explore other career opportunities.

But frequently, technology leadership is about seeing the talent you've got, ensuring that that those folks are challenged, and that they know they're valued.

That pays some serious dividends - both in increased productivity and in decreased recruiting, training, and on boarding costs.

So - if you've got an underperforming team? Look to the root causes. If you need to replace people, that can be done. But if the issue is systemic? It makes good sense to fix those issues. First.

- J.M. Auron

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