People First

Investing in good people, setting high standards and delegating tasks pay off.

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Information technology manager Farzad Golshani holds his staff in high esteem, and one way he shows it is not to seem like he's too high on himself.

"Even though I am a vice president, I am a very informal person. I don't act like a typical manager," says Golshani, vice president of IT infrastructure at Transamerica Retirement Services in Los Angeles. "I go to their cubes and say hello on a daily basis. I try to establish trust between me and the people I work with." That trust has returned handsome dividends. "I have about 15 direct reports, and they are very loyal and very committed to what we do here," says Golshani.

Farzad Golshani

Farzad Golshani of Transamerica says his 15 direct reports "are very loyal and very commited to what we do."

Photo courtesy Manuello Paganelli

One illustration of this is a project that Golshani's team recently completed. A vendor brought in to evaluate feasibility before the start of the project said there was no way it could be implemented in the time allotted. "But we did it on time, within the budget, and the quality of the job was very good. I think everybody, including the vendor, was very surprised," Golshani says.

He cites employee loyalty -- the fruit of trust, personal involvement, staff empowerment, delegated tasks, and the responsibility and freedom his people have to do their jobs -- as the source of this success.

Steeping Staff in Business

At Watkins Motor Lines Inc., Dennis E. Michael helps team members understand the business by bringing it to them. "In our quarterly department meetings, we always have an outside presenter, usually from another part of the business, to explain what they do," says Michael, vice president of IT and strategic planning at the Lakeland, Fla., company.

For example, a recent presenter was a vice president who oversees the transportation company's long-distance drivers. "We had worked on six different applications for [the drivers] -- things like being able to give differential pay based on a driver's home location, issuing them a fuel card to give them our company discount at selected service stations across the country, and paying them for their orientation as our business partner," says Michael. After the presentation, Michael says, his team saw how those applications related to hiring and retaining drivers.

Michael also takes his people to the business. "We take someone in IT and send them to a terminal for a few days and let them see how it operates firsthand. This helps them understand what our business is like and gives them an insight into what IT can do to help them make money for the company," he says.

Picking Personable People

QUICK-HIT TIPS

1) Be patient: Earn loyalty over time by first building trust and allowing for individual responsibility.

2) Bring the business to them: Motivate by showing IT workers firsthand how their contributions benefit the business

3) Don't ask for perfection: Set high standards for the team, but ensure that expectations are reasonable.

Whom you manage can be as important as how you manage. "I try to find candidates who I know are very good communicators, who have had accolades for great customer service," says Cara A. Babachicos, CIO and corporate director at Partners Continuing Care System Inc., the nonacute care services division of Partners HealthCare System Inc. in Boston. According to Babachicos, good hires are people who have established a balance between job tasks and these kinds of skills.

"They need to be smart and technically astute, but it's all in how they present an issue and how people perceive it, and their communication of the matter," says Babachicos. And in the end, she says, it really comes down to whether people like them.

"Never let 'it's hard' be the reason that you don't tackle tough issues," says Matt Lynch, senior vice president and CIO at ShopKo Stores Inc. in Green Bay, Wis. Lynch sets very high standards and helps his people reach them.

He advises building a master plan. "The thing to do with the future is not to forecast it, but to create it. The objective of planning is to envision a desirable future and to invent ways of bringing it about," he says.

Lynch is quick to qualify this with a warning to "be constantly on guard against the pursuit of perfection." He also says, "People respond to challenges that are achievable. They truly flourish when they stop fighting fires and apply their talents to making measurable progress in driving IT and the business to the next level."

Geer is a freelance writer in Ashtabula, Ohio.

Special Report

2006 Premier 100 IT Leaders

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Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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