Sunday, April 27, 2014

Delegate Don't Relegate - Leadership

I was recently told by a business owner and successful entrepreneur that they were not "a leader".  They admitted they know technology and operations but lacked true leadership skills.  Their solution to this challenge was to hire outside to bring in "leaders" for their team.  I can't help but think about how sad that is for this business owner and for their employees.   How cheated the employees must feel to be led by someone who doesn't consider themselves a leader and how much the boss misses out on when they don't take on a leadership role.  It is a blessing and responsibility to be in the role of leader.  In an earlier blog I talked about career stewardship, but i didn't get to go into detail about how an important part of that stewardship responsibility is guidance and direction (in a nutshell - leadership).  As part of that stewardship responsibility it is the business owner's position (or anyone who grows into a leadership role) to grow into that role.  Your team is counting on it and you owe it to them.  You can delegate some of the aspects of leadership, but you can never relegate your leadership in its entirety.  If you do, you risk having less respect than if you had never taken that role.  You owe it to your team to respond to the position they have entrusted you with by acting in their interests instead of pawning it off to someone else.

Here are three key aspects to delegating your leadership and not relegating it completely:

1.  Vision and Values - You should actively participate in the vision and values determination.  The entire team must know that the direction of the collective is set by you.  Of course a group of managers should be used to guide the direction of the team, but you as the leader should set the pace.  No one should wonder what you believe the company is capable of and what you dream for them.

2.  Goals and Targets - As the leader in your organization your team needs to know exactly how you are measuring their success.  This is not only in terms of revenue and margins, but other measurable and objective means of setting targets and goals.  These need to be short, mid and long range goals.

3.  Mission - This isn't just the blah, blah, blah statement on a plaque or on the website, but what is your company's make meaning?  More than compensation, people want to know they belong to something bigger than themselves.  Can you put a message behind what your company stands for? Can you lead that "mission?"   This is important.  You need to be the one to be able to bundle the company message.  The mission should be your banner. 

You need to be able to verbalize these three topics before you get into the weeds.  Too many leaders can rattle off the small details of the organization, but don't have these leadership aspects down.  The vision and values, goals and targets and the mission should all be cast the same way a mission is cast for the crew of an aircraft carrier.  Every member of the crew plays a part in determining where the aircraft carrier is heading.  Engineering, navigation, operations, quartermaster and so on all play their part.  All of these crew members must know the overall mission in order to play their part in determining the direction and making it happen.  If they do not know the vision, values, goals, targets and mission, they are left to driving the ship without a plan and all hell breaks loose.  The entire team works better when the plan comes from the top and the plan is well communicated with commitment and care.

You don't have to have great charisma or an Executive MBA, but you do have to step up and use what you do have.  Use your strengths and gather the strengths of the rest of your management team to build on.  Your team is counting on you to lead and delegate and not relegate.  Your job as a leader is to lead.  You can delegate some, but you cannot relegate at all.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

grAVITation TECH - Consultant = Jobless. So, Why Now?

Someone asked me why I started grAVITation TECH now?  Isn’t it risky to start a new business now?  Hell yes, it is!  But, it needed to be done now.  I recently read an advertisement in Popular Science that summed it up for me.  The ad read: “Gravity: The Most Dominant Force in the Universe? - Gravity rules the universe. It governs the rising and falling of tides, and it holds celestial objects in their orbits.  Without it, everything would dissolve into a gas of randomly interacting atoms.”  It was an advertisement for a master’s course in physics, but it spoke to me in volumes about what I wanted to do in AV and IT.  To me AV and IT are at the center of grAVITy (hence the company name grAVITation TECH).  All our marketing, product development, systems, solutions and training will have to center around AV and IT.  There is a need for AV and IT knowledge and consulting now more than ever.  This AV and IT knowledge has to be objective and proficient.  That is why I started grAVITation TECH now.

We have talked about the convergence of AV and IT for well over a decade now.  But, now it is hitting our businesses where it really matters.  It is not just a disruptive technology or a buzzword.  It is a get up “slap your mama” and change everything in your business to the core problem.  We used to see AV and IT as a problem where Pro AV integrators were losing one-off boardrooms and a few hang and bang conference rooms to IT integrators.  That problem was manageable.  Seemingly overnight, the problem grew to soft phones at every computer and skype replacing desktop phones and boardroom conference room systems. 
AV quality became less and less of an issue as bandwidth on demand and smartphone video conferencing and jabber became the collaborative standards.

With IT taking the lead in these areas I decided to take the leap and go into consulting and training to help AV integrators, manufacturers and consulting firms to bridge the gap and help them gain a better understanding of what AV and IT have to offer each other.  I stand by my early assertions that AV still has a lot to offer the IT world.  IT managers do not want to learn acoustics and lighting.  They do not want to have to understand presence and production.  AV’s value in the equation will remain, but it will change.  How the Pro AV Integrator understands and reacts to that change is the key.  My job as a consultant is to guide them in that change.

One piece of advice to the Pro AV Integrator is, and I have said this many years ago and I still see it raise its ugly head, do not have your internal IT person head up your IT market development efforts.  It is just bad all the way around.  I see it time and time again.  Ask yourself this question: would you use your CFO to manage someone else’s finances or your accounts payable to pay someone else’s bills? No. So don’t use your IT guy to define someone else’s IT/AV problems.  Dedicate a sales engineer and market development team for this purpose.  You’ll be glad you did.  It is a forest through the trees thing.

My closing thought on why I started my consulting firm now instead of waiting:  AV and IT are at the center of our technology universe.  Are you prepared to manage the combined forces of AV and IT?  If you hesitated at all in your answer or there is a hint of doubt, you might need my consulting services.  And that is why I started my firm: to serve.

Thursday, April 17, 2014



Max Kopsho – VP/CTO - grAVITation Technologies, LLC

This blog is dedicated to the friends I made at Atlanta Soundworks.  ASW has such a talented group of people and an ownership team with such generous hearts and caring attitudes.  I will miss you all dearly.  Although, I was not able to do all I had hoped to do in the short time I was there, I did learn a lot and I was reminded of one of the most important aspects of leadership: teamwork.  I hope my team at ASW remembers me as someone who tried to develop the TEAM.  Without that team, I would not have survived even that long (short as it was).

What does it take to make a team?  TEAM - from a leader’s perspective you can look at the word team to help define what a team needs from you.  

Here is the pneumonic that I am referring to when I say that:
T = Trust
E = Empower
A = Acknowledge
M = Mentor

Trust - Your team needs your trust.  If you spend all of your time double checking everything your team does, they will wonder why it is you hired them in the first place.  Many of the greatest leaders I have ever known have said, “I only hire people smarter than myself.”  Which by the way, if you do the math that makes the CEO the dumbest person in the company, but I digress.  But, joking aside I am stating you should only hire people more trust worthy and smarter than you.  And then TRUST THEM!  You should not be able to do the work of all the people who work under you, nor should you try to.  Sure, you should be able to direct all the work that is done under you, but God forbid you are actually able to do it all.  If you could do everything that is done by the people who work for you, then the people who work for me have a pretty narrow capability set and low bandwidth.  Could you imagine what would happen if the people who worked for Jack Welch could only do what he was capable of and if everything they did had to be checked by him?  GE would be crippled.  Jack Welch was able to trust a team of leaders, who in turn trusted a team of leaders, who trusted… and so on.  I do understand that all of that trust comes from having been proven in the first place, but for God’s sake let your people prove themselves and then get the heck out of their way.  You stifle creativity and limit growth when you do not trust your team.  You ultimately lose people over lack of trust and you will lose them quickly.  Trust is the root of every relationship and no matter how good you are in every other aspect of the relationship; you will lose any relationship over trust issues.  Loss of trust is the one relationship showstopper.  It doesn’t matter whether you are the one who is not trusted or the skeptical one, eventually the relationship will come to an end.

Empower – Empowerment comes hand in hand with trust.  Trusted people are allowed to make decisions and act.  Trust alone, without power, is futile.  Empowerment is the verb of trust.  It is the spirit in the organization that allows people to KNOW that they can act on the trust they have been given.  Trust is lip service without empowerment.  JW Marriot empowered its people with $1000 each to make a customer satisfied.  Without question each employee could make the judgment call and spend that $1000 to make things right for the customer.  Do you allow your employees the decision power to make things right?  Are they trusted AND empowered?

Acknowledge – Awards and Rewards are nice.  Heck they are the new buzz right now.  I want to emphasize that we need to make sure that we recognize, appreciate and show GRATITUDE.  The acknowledgements at the front of a book are full of the gratitude and appreciation expressing about those who got the writer to where he/she is. Don’t just check a box with employee of the month or the required number of thank you messages for the day.  Take the time to acknowledge those who contribute to what gets you to where you are.  A good exercise to do this is to reflect on a week or month and think about what got you where you are.  Run all the ‘what if’ scenarios.  I hate to think about the whole ‘what if Jane got hit by a bus’ scenario  I use ‘what if Jane won the lottery and she wasn’t here this week?’  What impact would that have had?  Look at those ‘lottery’ scenarios for as many people as you can for the week and acknowledge those people who “got you there”.  Acknowledge people publically and privately.  There is something to be said for a private note once in a while.  Yes, public recognition is nice, but a note between you and an employee means more sometimes.  It takes the element of the boss showing off out of the equation.

Mentor – It is one thing to direct people to do what needs to be done. It is a whole other thing to do it with them.  In my last couple weeks at ASW, I had the luxury of going onsite for an install with a team and out on a couple of sales calls.  What a blast!  I forgot how much fun spending time in the field and being with your team is.  Don’t lose this.  Being with the people who are getting it done and mentoring them, learning WITH them, is vital to developing as a team.  That is what mentoring is, learning WITH the team.  Learning is a shared experience and the leader should learn right along with the team.  That shared experience is what allows the mentor to talk about where they gained similar knowledge and other experiences that may apply and draw out experiences that their team has.  The mentor and mentee relationship is a mutually beneficial one and is quite rewarding and fun.  It is the number one reason I love training; because as a trainer, I am always learning from my students.   

My Next Big Thing

Max is now a partner/owner of a new independent consulting firm for AV and IT manufacturers, integration firms and consultant firms. He provides consulting in channel development, sales training, sales process improvement and sales program development. Max also provides consulting for product development and product management. Max's training and certification programs have been globally recognized by industry and he now consults with top companies to provide channel education program development, execution and management. He carries some of the top certifications in networking and audiovisual technologies. Max has worked in Unified Communications for over 14 years in various management and technical roles. He has worked in product management, sales and sales management, channel marketing, field technical services and training. Over the last 26 years Max has acquired an extensive background in supporting A/V systems, computer networks, telecom, and VTC systems. Max is Senior Faculty for InfoComm University and serves as a Subject Matter Expert on an as needed basis. In 2010 Max was awarded InfoComm’s Educator of the Year Award and has helped prepare over 800 students for the CTS exam. Max has been the keynote speaker for several partner events throughout the industry and at the Machine-to-Machine (M2M) Conference, where (as Product Manager) he was awarded a Bronze M2M Product of the Year Award for Networked AV for ChristieNET. He also teaches the National Systems Contractors Association (NSCA) University and for the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) annual show.