Reflecting on our Past to Move Forward

Reflecting on our Past to Move Forward

Recently, I was visiting with my five-yearold grandson Cole and his family. He is the second child in a family of four children and the only boy. Most of the time it is easy for him to live in the shadow of his three sisters. However, on this day, all of us were outside enjoying a balmy Arizona evening when I noticed Cole was no longer among us. I went inside the house to see what mischief he might conspire to get into.  

Instead, I found him quietly sitting in a folding chair, and I asked him, “Hey little buddy, what are you doing?” Cole replied, “I am reflecting.” “Reflecting?” I asked while attempting not to let my surprise and amusement show.

“Yes, Gramma…Reflecting is thinking”. “What are you thinking about?”, I asked.

His reply was precious, “Mommy made a reflection chair.  We must sit on it when we get in trouble. I have to sit for five minutes because I am five. When the alarm goes off, I have to talk to Mommy about it.”  (By now, I am thinking my daughter-in-law is a genius on top of being a wonderful mom.)  

“Oh, I see. What are you reflecting on now?”  I said it with a serious tone. 

“I was thinking about getting into trouble. Sometimes I can’t help it.”   

We proceeded to talk a bit, and before long he let me know that he had talked about it enough and left me to sit and reflect on my own life lessons.  

The first thing that came to me is the famous quote: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana said it. He was an early 20thcentury philosopher and poet who focused his work on the birth and development of human reasoning. I am cherishing the idea of reading all five volumes of “The Life of Reason” when I retire. For now, I relish in his amazing life sentiments.     

Though we are reminded regularly to stay in the present, we do ourselves a disservice by not reflecting on our past. There are very good reasons for studying history and remembering our past. Our history is our story.  It is important to learn from the past, and it helps us to understand the present. We have the opportunity to learn from our ancestors and our history. Our history is connected, just like the threads in fabric — the tighter the weave, the stronger the cloth. When we learn from our past, we are cultivating a better future. 

Think about it.  Have a great week!  

ITeffectivity LLC was founded in 2013 with the mission of helping to bring order to the ever-changing world of the IT leader.  Since then Mary’s have advised over 70 leaders as well as conducted over 20 major consulting assignments on behalf of Fortune 100 firms to small non-profits.   

Are you interested in learning how Mary might assist you?  Let’s Talk Link here to schedule a complimentary consultation designed to explore your possibilities.  

Mary Patry 
IT Executive Advisor and Leadership Coach   
 480.393.0722 (AZ) 
 Mary.Patry@iteffectivity.com 
LinkedIn: http:// www.linkedin.com/in/mleonardopatry 

Let’s Talk sponsored by ITeffectivity.com an IT Executive Coaching and Advisory practice targeting CIO’s challenge of leading and delivering business solutions with a focus on effective people and process capabilities. Discover the possibilities by scheduling a complimentary strategy session with Mary Patry. 

Positive Networking – Six Tips to Make Networking Easier for the IT Professional

Positive Networking – Six Tips to Make Networking Easier for the IT Professional

Last week’s article ended with a commitment to discuss techniques designed to help you with networking.   

Let’s face it; networking is awkward. Small talk is challenging for even the most seasoned professional. Even as an extrovert, I have to work at adjusting my attitude. I remind myself of its importance and the crucial role it plays in building professional friends and connections. The connections we build play an equally important role in building our career.  

Positive networking benefits from a positive attitude. Instead of focusing on our fears of facing strangers, flip your focus to look forward to the opportunity to meet new friends. To meet new friends, we have to get out of our workplace and homes and attend industry conferences, conventions, and networking events. In most cities, you can fill each day and night with opportunities to network. In small towns, you may need to travel to meet new people. In either case, be thoughtful in scheduling. It is easiest to go to the events of our peers, but those we know well, won’t stretch our comfort zone. However, will it get you to where you want to be? 

There is nothing wrong with this approach per se – as long as you are honest with your intent and realistic with the potential outcome. I encourage you to stretch beyond yourself and look to your future self by seeking out those events frequented by those where you want to be.  For example, if your current role is a systems developer and you aspire to be an enterprise architect – find the conferences, organization meetings, local meet-ups, vendor briefings targeting enterprise architects. If you are an IT manager and aspire to be a CIO – join SIM Society for Information Management.  Trust that I joined ICF long before I was a certified ICF coach. “Learn from those already there” is a good mantra to adopt.  

Before you head out to your next networking event, here are some tips that I learned to make conversations start and flow with less effort. 

  1. Take a few minutes to prepare: Many networking experts recommend taking a glance at the day’s news stories before you head out to an event so you can ask others about current events. To keep things light, you can also scan popular culture news — list one goal with one or two professional questions that are at the top of mind. Preparation gives you a place to start and allows the discussion to flow. Whatever you do, remember to avoid the conversation pitfalls – avoid politics and religion.  

     

  2. Don’t stress the elevator pitch. Many will tell you that you need to have an elevator pitch ready and memorized so that you can succinctly state what you do at a networking event. As a business owner, I even attend classes to help me to build the just right compelling phrasing that I don’t use as they feel what they are – contrived and rehearsed.  When asked, I say something like “I work with amazing clients who are…..”  I find it much more rewarding to talk about the results of my work instead of me.  Focusing on my clients expands the conversation beyond me. I trust that people remember me as the person who helps people.  So let’s apply that logic to the corporate IT leader.  As an IT leader, you might reply something like “I am helping my business adopt a new digital platform targeting…. “  Or “Wow, we are doing amazing work at Employer Inc deploying, integrating, etc.”  it is a much more interesting and compelling discussion starter than saying “I am IT executive coach” or “I manage Infrastructure.”  
     
  3. Ask and listen. Sometimes the best small talk is not talking at all. Learn to ask great questions that get others to talk. Remember that people love to talk about themselves, especially when they have an attentive listener.  Be curious about your questions. People’s responses will make you ask more questions, and you’ll soon find you’ve had an entire conversation, just by encouraging the others to talk person to talk. More than once I’ve been told I am a great conversationalist – when in reality I only asked a few questions. 

     

  4. Ask questions that matter. Openended ones are best (start with How or What) rather than closedended ones (start with Why or Do). An example is: “What’s keeping you busy these days?” rather than the more conventional and expected “What do you do?”  The openended question allows someone to talk about their professional and personal lives, while the latter will immediately box them into just their job. 

     

  5. Ask for advice. Asking for advice can be both a conversation starter and a useful way to get helpful information. If the person you’re talking to has attended the event before, ask what they thought was helpful about it, or what other events they attend. Or you can ask them for unrelated advice on common interests like a restaurant or movie suggestion. These kinds of questions can get the conversation flowing naturally and illuminate common interests. As an additional plus, it feels good to have your opinion requested.

     

  6. Be courageous in sharing yourself. Most networking talk is forgettable because it’s so generic. No one shares much, and they stay clear of controversial topics. While it’s not good form to provoke an argument, it is fine to share your opinion. Be brave enough to be real with others, and to allow yourself to be a well-rounded and interesting person is far better than the alternative.  That does not mean you should feel the need to tell your life story; just keep it interesting.  

In Closing 

I encourage you to stretch beyond your self and look to your future self by seeking out those events frequented by those where you want to be.  For example, if your current role is a systems developer and you aspire to be an enterprise architect – find the conferences, organization meetings, local meet-ups, vendor briefings targeting enterprise architects. If you are an IT manager and aspire to be a CIO – join SIM Society for Information Management.  Trust that I joined and attended International Coaching Federation meetings long before I was a certified ICF coach. “Learn from those already there” is a good mantra to adopt.   

Remember networking is about making connections.  You have as much to offer as those you seek to make a connection That realization will make it much easier to start a conversation and keep it going into the future.   

Have a great week!  

Mary Patry 
IT Executive Advisor and Leadership Coach   
 480.393.0722 (AZ) 
 Mary.Patry@iteffectivity.com 
LinkedIn: http:// www.linkedin.com/in/mleonardopatry 

Let’s Talk sponsored by ITeffectivity.com an IT Executive Coaching and Advisory practice targeting CIO’s challenge of leading and delivering business solutions with a focus on effective people and process capabilities. Discover the possibilities by scheduling a complimentary strategy session with Mary Patry. 

Networking Beyond Your Current Vision of Yourself

Networking Beyond Your Current Vision of Yourself

You’ve all heard it. You might have even said it, “I don’t have time to network,” “Ugh, networking is not in my comfort zone,” “I am not good with small talk,” “I don’t have anything to say that anyone would care to hear. 

Yes, that may all be true – until the day you need it. Networking is particularly challenging for IT people. Let’s face it, many of us are introverts, and many of our non-IT friends don’t always understand what we do for a living. Regardless of your discomfort with networking, it is highly likely that someday you will need or want to find a new job.   

I am certain you are aware that networking is one potential path to finding a new job. However, did you know it might be the best way to get the job done? (The job of finding a new job, that is.) Some estimate that upwards of 85 percent of open positions are filled through networking. If you’re looking for work, it might be better to put your time into building your professional network rather than poring over all of the online listings.  

Is it possible that networking might be the best way to find a new job?  I believe so 

Let me offer you an approach that may resonate, and that is to take a projectbased approach to the network.   

Traditional networking advice suggests that you look at your current network and think about how to nurture your relationships. The problem is that this is a purely relationship based approach and looks at who you know and have known. It is based on your strategic vision for where you want to go in your career. 

A more powerful way to think about your network is to start with a vision of where you want to be in your career in three to five years, and then work backward from there. Sound familiar? It should. It is how we build a strategic plan.  

To make this more concrete, follow these steps: 

  1. Take a moment to envision your best possible career in five years. Where do you want to be, what do you want to be known for? 
  2. Who will the people be that you know, and who will know if you achieve your vision? Don’t limit yourself; get creative! Think about leaders in the IT field locally and globally who you admire. Who do you want to have coffee with?  
  3. Put yourself into that future space and work backward to write the story about how you came to know these people. Which associations did you join? What conferences did you attend? What assignments did you complete? What leaders did you follow? Who did you look to for introductions? How did you develop new skills and abilities?
  4. Where do you need to be to interact with the people in your story? What do you have to do now to show up differently to attract the types of people you need to make the story come true?  
  5. What are the key steps you can take right now to start building your ideal network and moving powerfully into the future? What would it mean to you to take these steps?  How important is your vision for you? What are the barriers and who can you look to for guidance in knocking them down?  

This approach is a new way of looking at networking. Instead of starting where you are, you start from the future and work backward. 

This “from the future” networking can be scary for many because it may mean that you have to reinvent yourself and show up differently than you have been.  

It has been said that we are who we hang out with. That is true, and the same is true for our network of professional relationships. If you want to be associated with top-tier professionals, you must be one yourself, and you can become one by choosing to hang out with these types of people and choosing to model yourself after them 

 The strategic network approach outlined here forces you to think about how you show up now as a professional and as a leader. Next week, I will expand on networking techniques that will help you in your quest to achieve your strategic career goals. You can do it. I know you can.  

Mary Patry 
IT Executive Advisor and Leadership Coach   
 480.393.0722 (AZ) 
 Mary.Patry@iteffectivity.com 
LinkedIn: http:// www.linkedin.com/in/mleonardopatry 

Let’s Talk sponsored by ITeffectivity.com an IT Executive Coaching and Advisory practice targeting CIO’s challenge of leading and delivering business solutions with a focus on effective people and process capabilities. Discover the possibilities by scheduling a complimentary strategy session with Mary Patry. 

IT People: Flexible Staffing Part 2 – Contractors are People Too

IT People: Flexible Staffing Part 2 – Contractors are People Too

“I have always believed that the way you treat your employees is the way they will treat your customers, and that people flourish when they are praised.” Sir Richard Branson.

Thanks for coming back and welcome to our 4th conversation on my favorite subject – IT People.

Our series on IT People touches on topics specific to leading and managing People.

People working together is what makes work – WORK!

Last week we discussed flexible staffing models utilizing contract labor and touched on co-employment. Today we will focus on co-employment risk mitigation. Please review the case studies in last week’s discussion if you are unclear of the risks.

As a reminder, “Co-employment is the relationship between two or more employers in which each has actual or potential legal rights and duties with respect to the same employee.” Co-employment status comes into question when work is contracted to perform a job which would typically be performed by an internal employee.

Before we begin, trust that contract labor is a good and necessary employment status. It allows for flexibility in staffing models for an individual company. The key is to assure you know the differences between managing a contracted resource and managing a direct employee.

It can be confusing because, most of the time, a contractor is performing the same or similar role as a direct employee. The main difference between an employee and a contractor is that the employer has control over the activities of the employee, but the contractor does his or her work independently or under the management of a contract management firm. The employee has a specified salary or wage and is bound by an employment contract whether it is written or implied.

Typically, a contractor’s employment is managed by a contractor management firm that owns and manages the contractor’s insurance information, their health and safety information, training programs, and other specific documentation that pertains to the contractor and the owner client. It is best to look to HR to assure you are working with the employment laws for contract employees. At the same time, it is very helpful for IT leaders to understand the implications and risks of co-employment when contracting individuals in staff augmentation roles.

The Risk

The first step in any risk mitigation strategy is simply to identify if there is a risk. As a self-check, the IRS and many states use the “20-factor” or the “common law” test, a checklist of 20 criteria, to identify the degree of control a company has over an individual and to determine employment status. If a contractor meets most of the criteria in the common law test and the client is found to be the primary employer, the contractor becomes their “common law employee” and the client will bear greater liability for that contractor, thus creating risk.

Here’s a summary of the 20 Factor Test questions:

20 Factors for Determining Worker Status

  1. Instructions. Who gives them, and must the worker obey them? A worker who must obey company instructions about how to perform the job is usually determined to be an employee of the company.
  2. Training. Who trains the employee? An independent contractor comes to a company fully trained.
  3. Integration. How integrated is the employee’s work with the operations of the company? The closer the relationship between the work of the company and the work of the worker, the more likely the worker is an employee.
  4. Services Rendered Personally. Does the job need to be performed by a specific worker? If the company demands that services be performed personally by the worker, this shows control by the company over the worker, which makes it more likely that the worker is an employee.
  5. Hiring, Supervising, and Paying Assistants. Who hires, supervises, and pays a worker’s assistants? If a company hires, supervises, and pays a worker’s assistants, this also shows company control, making the worker most likely an employee.
  6. Continuing Relationship. Does a continuing relationship exist between the worker and the company? A continuing relationship between worker and company tends to show an employer/ employee relationship.
  7. Set Hours of Work. Is the worker required to work set hours? Independent contractors have the freedom to plan their own work day.
  8. Full-time Work. Is the worker required to work full time? An independent contractor should be free to accept or reject a job offered by the company.
  9. Place of Business. Does work need to be done on the premises? An independent contractor should possess his or her own place of business separate from the company.
  10. Work Schedule. Does the worker need to follow certain established routines and schedules? An independent contractor will set his or her own work schedule.
  11. Reports. Is the worker required to submit reports, and if so, to whom? Employees are often required by employers to turn in reports, a practice that is viewed by the IRS as evidence of control.
  12. Method of Payment. Is the employee paid by the hour, week, month, or in a lump sum? Payment to independent contractors should be by the job, rather than by the day or by the hour
  13. Business/Travel Expenses. Who pays for any travel expenses? An independent contractor should pay for all of his or her own expenses.
  14. Furnishing Tools, Equipment, and Materials. Who covers the cost of a worker’s tools, materials, or equipment? If a company covers the cost of a worker’s tools, materials, or equipment, independent contractor status is weakened.
  15. Significant Investment. What degree of investment does the worker have in his or her own business? The larger the worker’s investment in his or her own business, the more likely the IRS will accept independent contractor status.
  16. Realization of Profit or Loss. Does the worker bear profit or loss responsibility? An independent contractor should be capable of either realizing a profit or suffering a loss.
  17. Working for More Than One Company. Does the worker have a diverse client base? Independent contractor status is strengthened when a worker has a diverse and significant client base. However, a worker can perform services for several companies and still be classified as an employee at one or all of them.
  18. Making Services Available to the General Public. Does the worker make himself or herself available for other jobs? An independent contractor’s name should be advertised or held out to the general public as being in business for himself or herself.
  19. Right to Discharge. Who holds this right, and is there a notice requirement? While an employer may discharge an employee, parties to an independent contractor agreement typically have an obligation to terminate their contract according to a notice requirement.
  20. Right to Quit. Can the worker terminate without incurring liability? If a worker can terminate employment with a company at any time without incurring liability, it suggests an employee-at- will relationship. An independent contractor, on the other hand, cannot simply walk away from a contractual relationship with a company.

Engage with your HR team in reviewing the 20 criteria and determine your risks. If after a joint review you are unable to determine your risks, the IRS is available to help you determine whether a worker is an employee. To ask for their help you need to file Form SS-8 Determination of Employee Work Status for Purposes of Federal Employment Taxes and Income Tax Withholding with the IRS. http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fss8.pdf    

A word of caution here. To avoid the risk of co-employment, some companies limit contract worker’s length of service to a specific period of time as the solution. Some of these policies are based on the belief that such workers are automatically eligible for benefit plan coverage under the company’s plan after a certain amount of time.

In my research, I have discovered that to always be true. In fact, assignment limits may even carry some risk of violating ERISA. If the limits or policies are construed as an unlawful effort to prevent workers from reaching the hours needed for plan participation. In addition, continual staff turnover is inefficient, disruptive, and not a good solution for companies with long-term temporary staffing needs.

Mitigation 

What is an employer to do? While researching best practices for mitigating co-employment risks, I found this very informative website:

http://www.corporatecomplianceinsights.com/best-practices-for-mitigating-co-employment-and-independent-contractor-compliance-risks/

Let me share an excerpt from this page relative to avoiding co-employment.

Best Practices for Avoiding Co-Employment

  • Implement specific policies and procedures for temporary or contract employees. Highlight the types of interactions and conversations that are appropriate to have with your contract employees and those that open up the company to co-employment risks. In addition, provide adequate training to your managers, so these policies can be adequately implemented and followed throughout the organization.
  • Share responsibility with other departments and your staffing vendors. Create a detailed process that delegates which parties are responsible for which tasks. Who is responsible for touching base with the staffing agency regarding contract details? Who trains managers and internal employees on appropriate business relationships with non-employees? Are non-employees aware that employment issues should be directly addressed with their temporary agency? Is there language within your contract with the vendor that states they are the sole employer? Has the non-employee signed a waiver that they are not entitled to or will not seek the benefits of the company?
  • Utilize a single point of contact that is responsible for coordinating efforts throughout the organization. To make sure nothing falls through the cracks, identify someone within the business to monitor processes, supervise any processes where handoffs occur and coordinate with vendors. This is particularly important during the onboarding and offboarding processes. For example, deciding who will facilitate getting the non-employee a security badge, identifying a place for them to sit in the facility, what equipment they will receive, and how those things will be tracked and recovered at the end of the assignment.
  • Consider using a managed service provider. Having a single point of contact for vendor management, processes and procedures will help keep communications clear and provide an additional level of visibility and risk mitigation. A managed service provider can also monitor compliance, quality and vendor performance.

Matt Yoh, Director of Customer Solutions at Yoh.

This site is a rich source of compliance guidance.

In Conclusion

The flexibility offered by contracting employees is a risk worth managing. There is guidance available to mitigate the risk. Engage your HR and sourcing teams to mitigate and manage the risks utilizing policy and management practices. Test their awareness of the risks and expect to share the burden of mitigation with your vendor partners. You will be surprised by how many of the vendor account executives are not informed of co-employment issues or risks. Don’t forget to provide training to your managers as they are your front-line face to the contracted employee.

Finally, create a culture of inclusion and welcoming without tipping into the risk zone. After all, the contracted resource is more than a flexible labor solution, they are a human being. Give me a call if you want to discuss techniques for managing teams with members from mixed sources.

Until next time, have a great week! To further this week’s conversation with me –  Let’s Talk!

Mary Patry 
IT Executive Advisor and Leadership Coach   
 480.393.0722 (AZ) 
 Mary.Patry@iteffectivity.com 
LinkedIn: http:// www.linkedin.com/in/mleonardopatry 

Let’s Talk sponsored by ITeffectivity.com an IT Executive Coaching and Advisory practice targeting CIO’s challenge of leading and delivering business solutions with a focus on effective people and process capabilities. Discover the possibilities by scheduling a complimentary strategy session with Mary Patry.