Episode:15 Technology’s Foundational Seat at the Organizational Table

Episode:15 Technology’s Foundational Seat at the Organizational Table

In this episode Brian Comerford and Nick Lozano discuss the evolving role of Technology, from back-office cost-center to front-office digital business strategist and beyond. Arguing we live in an era where every company is a data and technology company, our hosts explore why technology deserves a seat at the executive decision-making table, as well as the soft-skills necessary to bridge that transition.


0:12 Opening
1:58 How has the role of IT changed
36:17 Nick's recommended books
40:31 Brian's recommended books
42:31 Closing


Books mentioned:
https://www.amazon.com/Extreme-Ownership-U-S-Navy-SEALs/dp/B015TM0RM4/

https://www.amazon.com/Creativity-Inc-Overcoming-Unseen-Inspiration/dp/B00IPJTQQW/

https://www.amazon.com/Never-Split-Difference-Negotiating-Depended/dp/B01COR1GM2/

https://www.amazon.com/Paranoid-Survive-Grove-Andrew-Hardcover/dp/B00OX8Q7SY/


Hosted By:

Brian Comerford
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/briancomerford/

Nick Lozano
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nick-lozano-97356621/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/NickLLozano          ‌

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Show Transcript:

Nick Lozano  0:12
So what's going on today? Brian, today we got a episode. It's just you and me. Today,

Brian Comerford  0:19
we don't always have to have a guest bring plenty of brainpower to these topics.

Nick Lozano  0:23
Yeah, of course at least the at least you do. With me it's debatable.

Brian Comerford  0:29
I'm counting on you, my friend.

Nick Lozano  0:31
But we went through a wide ranging of topics. And and you know, the listeners today can kind of, you know, listen to us, we kind of started with what's ITs role in the business units today? That That was a good one. We talked about, you know, relationship building up and down your chain of command. Good stuff. What are you looking forward to?

Brian Comerford  0:55
Yeah, I think we talked a lot about listening, listening and dialogue, right. Those are two facets of communication that are critical. They're really foundational to leadership roles, whether or not you're sitting in a technology leadership role or elsewhere in the business. It's really, you know, those are the critical components of communication, effective communication, so that you can ensure you're putting the right solutions in place to solve both the challenges that your organization faces, as well as fulfilling leading the organization towards those strategic imperatives.

Nick Lozano  1:32
Awesome. Well, with that, go ahead and enjoy the episode.

Brian Comerford  1:39
Thanks for joining us for another edition of lead dot exe. I'm Brian comer forward in Denver, Colorado.

Nick Lozano  1:44
And I'm Nick Lozano in Washington, DC. So today, Brian, it's just me and you, we we don't have a guest. So hopefully, our viewers sort of listeners aren't crushed. Just hearing our voices. But

Brian Comerford  1:57
I feel so lonely.

Nick Lozano  1:58
I promise next time we'll have somebody next time we'll have somebody move. But I have a good topic for you. You know, that's kind of something we've talked about a lot recently in the past and how it is role has changed. And I was curious what your thoughts are on that, you know, in the past, we were kind of more the brake fixed guys, right? The cost center, reported to finance everything was a black hole, they give us money and got no return on value back or on investment back on it. But what do you see it as role as today compared to what it was in the past?

Brian Comerford  2:34
Yeah, that's a great question. And it's near and dear to me. I have, you know, been an advocate of the Mark Schwartz book A Seat at the Table. And I think that phrase is almost, you know, disingenuous in terms of what's being asked of it. And, you know, today's modern corporate atmosphere. I know, you and I have talked about that before as well. If today's corporate environment where the court of King Arthur, I think it plays the role of Merlin, in that, you know, we're seen as the wizards who can solve any challenge, it's not just the technical challenges anymore, it's the compliance, it's, you know, what is out there? from a legal perspective, you know, go ask the IT director. It's,

Nick Lozano  3:24
you know, GDPR very well, we were legal advocates, we, you know, we went to law school, we can understand all that. Right?

Brian Comerford  3:32
Well, and that's the thing I, you know, I see it as having merged into the most critical collaborative role within the organization. All the functional divisions tend to have a strategy that leads into some form of technological need. And, you know, we've we've often said that, you know, every company is a data company and a technology company, whether or not they know that, right, they just happen to have some other practice that is part of their service offering and delivery. So how do you then step into harnessing some of those things that for, you know, modern technology leaders, we tend to be challenged with, you know, early on you and I talked about how everything that is related to what we would consider modern day communications, tends to land in the lap of the technology camp today, and are, and I'm okay with that, because I came up through, you know, technology from the communication side. So, you know, long term CRM guy, I feel like I've got a great command of that sort of thing. But that's not necessarily the comfort zone of most technology leaders. We've got a lot of folks who have ascended through having very strong backgrounds, as engineers, as you know, people who have built very successful fault tolerant environments, you know, and that's a completely different skill set. And then being able to sit down across from all the other sea level members of an organization and say, hey, let's talk about what this business looks like in the next two to three years. And what's the Technology Roadmap to get there? So long winded answer to your starting question, Nick. But I think it looks, you know, or technology leadership, looks more and more like a member of the business than a member of it.

Nick Lozano  5:34
Yeah, now, and I'll agree with you, 100%. And I think, you know, we're part of the business now, instead of being the black hole cost center, where we're buying servers and spinning them up and Equinox data centers. And people are like, we don't even know what those words mean. It costs a lot of money. So, so, so as we look here, and you know, someone comes up through the ranks, and maybe they're an engineer, right, they don't have the soft skills. I think, for a lot of people that engineering, talent mindset, is actually good for coming into business roles. They have that mentality where they like to ask questions out of curiosity. It's not that you're accusing somebody of something they're seeing is wrong. They just want to know why. Right? Because they're trying to understand what they're trying to do. It's like, Okay, well, we're trying to implement this car CRM system. Okay, well, why do we want a CRM system? While we're trying to track our customers? Okay, well, why are we trying trying to track our customers? Well, because we're trying to find out what they're actually buying. They're like, okay, there's the answer, right. And that's where the engineering mind set comes in. Good. But I mean, sometimes, when people are very intelligent and bright, and maybe behind the scenes workers, they just don't have the tact right there initially going into those business dealings, right? You know, you're sitting down you had it's maybe you an engineer, a business analyst, and somebody from a line of business, let's like, let's say marketing, when you start asking those questions, and they come off, as, you know, you're accusing somebody of something, because we get very used to in it. And I don't know, I know, you coated before Brian, cold fusion, and I've done some Python and stuff in the past. And we're used to peer reviews, right? And asking those questions, looking at it as lines of code, and you're asking questions, why did you do this? Or why are you doing it this way? Not that we're accusing anybody of doing something that correct or just all trying to understand the process behind behind your method. And I feel like those types of skill sets are what are good to help people, you know, to bring them up to that level. Also, some additional training as well.

Brian Comerford  7:41
Yeah, I like your approach on really connecting that to, you know, sort of the development mentality, because to me, I, I have some, you know, distinction between what I consider to be more of an engineering type, and what I think of as more of a developer type one tends to be more binary, and a lot of how they see the world. One is a lot more creative, and a lot more comfortable with gray area. Part of my own, you know, career experience, I have found that the strongest leaders are those who are able to deal with that gray area, right, you're able to take a a plurality of opinions, a, you know, plurality of ideas about how to solve any one issue, and sort of cherry pick from that and come up with the best approach where you're able to bake that in, right. And as developers, I think that's part of what you're challenged with, you can go out and you can review code online, you can see, you know, the actual, you can crack open the code in a module from a code snippet that some other developer has written. And you can see the way that they're solving a particular issue, that might not be your way, but it can help influence seeing that there are some alternate paths that you can take. Part of the challenge that I've run into with folks who have risen through the ranks more on the engineering side, is that they, you know, part of what you were talking about the accusatory nature, of the perception of the accusatory nature of asking questions, that often tends to be very abrasive to those who, you know, I've worked with who are engineers, because they're very cut and dry, you know, it's this way or that way. And there's not really any gray area, there's not any room, you know, for flexibility in between. And so that can create some communication challenges, when you're dealing with folks who are just pure business, pure non tech, and might not see the world in that same kind of way. So I think, having the emotional intelligence and the starting point for that comes with self awareness, right? To be able to identify, where might my own preconceived set of biases or expertise, get in the way of how I can actually contribute to be one of those prize leaders who does in fact, have a seat at the table. And it doesn't usually come from acting offended that you're being asked questions and shutting other people down when they don't have a simple on off? You know, recommendation themselves.

Nick Lozano  10:26
Yeah. And I'd also add to that, too, I think what helped me a lot when when I was transitioning, you know, from being more of a hands on guy to being more of a leader is when people are talking, just stop and listen, right? We have an instance, you know, especially of us, you know, with tech backgrounds, or engineering backgrounds, or coding backgrounds, to want to give the answer right away, when we should really just be stopping and listening, stop and think for a second about what you're going to say before you say it and decide if you actually need to say it. Right. I always like to do this thing. You know, we've talked about this before, you know, Extreme Ownership. And Jocko Willink. He has the same where he likes to detach himself from a situation right? He says, Okay, I'm gonna step back from this. And if I were on the outside looking in at this, what is actually happening here? or What should I be doing? You know, to take your own intelligence out of that, right to take your own emotions out of it. It's just like, what we're talking about the self awareness, it's another way to put it without being you know, you know, mushy and soft, right? Which is what stops some people from exploring these topics, right? Because they're very academic terms. You know, you look at Chicago, emotional intelligence, diversity, it's like, what am I going to school for HR management, like I didn't, I'm not going to go to any of this. Like, if I wanted to do that I would join, you know, the Society for human resource management, if I wanted to do that. But as leaders, you know, we kind of a what to ourselves to help us go retry to grow ourselves to help Ben so that we can reach out and help others grow. Right. And you had a great quote, quote, you were talking about when we're talking to Peter Lynch, about that was on your monitor, right? I don't remember hundred percent what the quote was, but it was really good.

Brian Comerford  12:18
shape it in your mind, and you can make it possible in your life. Yep. Yeah.

Nick Lozano  12:24
I mean, that's great things right there, man.

Brian Comerford  12:27
Well, you know, it may sound like a, you know, fortune cookie kind of statement. But, you know, I really do believe that that mindset is critical. And some of the, you know, Buzz terminology that I find annoying, and you just sort of touched on it, you know, active listenership, isn't it just listening? But, you know, I know

Nick Lozano  12:50
that everyone's always perplexed me, I'm like, I'm actively listening. So I'm supposed to be act, I'm supposed to be listening, but I need to be actively doing something.

Brian Comerford  12:59
Well, or it's almost like we're so caught up in a myriad of distractions in multitasking, multitasking kind of world. That perception is, oh, yeah, well, if we call it active listenership, then that that sort of distinguishes it, as you know, it's this activity that we're engaged in, where we're giving it our full focus. And if you're not already doing that, as a leader, you know, I don't care where you sit in an organization, that is a critical thing, hearing the stories of what people are telling you. And sometimes people don't know how to articulate exactly what the problem is, you walked us through an example before where you have to go through sometimes 357 wise, however, deep enough to continue to probe things, before you actually get to that level, where you have a fundamental understanding, you know, okay, this is the actual challenge that's being positive here. And this is what needs to be solved. Everything else is just hearing out the stories and trying to elicit details through further questions. You know, you and I've talked a lot about the criticality of that diagnostic mindset. Again, to me, that's a, that's a practice area that has been more on the developer side of technology, necessarily, then on the, you know, engineering infrastructure, you know, sort of side of what we consider to be technology.

Nick Lozano  14:30
And I think we were talking about that, right. Somehow, you know, technology went from being a science, right, was computer science. And a lot of us followed, you know, the scientific method for processes. And somehow I feel like we've gotten away from our curiosity of the world, right? Things are just binary now it's yes or no, this can be done or this can't be done. Instead of just being curious about something, right? I feel like we've lost that curiosity. Someone that's maybe, you know, been in the corporate world kind of drives it, you know, your curiosity has to go certain directions, instead of going wandering around the world and just trying to figure something out. I don't really know where I'm going with this. But I feel like, you know, we've kind of lost the scientific part about that the questioning the trying to understand the why behind things. You know, it can help be fun for someone to be an IT role and be put on a marketing product marketing automation project. Don't stop and look at it, like, oh, how is marketing going to convert sales? I'm thinking about, like, what cool technology can I implement, that can help them do their job instead of you now thinking about it from the marketing perspective.

Brian Comerford  15:44
You know, I think about it in terms of really helping to be part of a culture of honest inquiry, right? So bringing a technologist into a conversation where you may not necessarily have a specific technological need that's been identified. But you might also know that, you know, there's some challenge to a problem you're trying to solve, that at some stage may involve some sort of technology, having someone who is in a technologist role, who can help work through those questions in a strategic dialogue, that ultimately can help you actually get to identifying, okay, this feels like a technology challenge, because everything that we're talking about, you know, let's say it has to do with CRM, and might not actually have anything to do with the tool itself, it could actually have to do with the mismanagement around your sales team, right? If they lack a rule, a set of rules of engagement, or if they lack accountability standards for how they're interacting in the system, or inputting data or completeness of data, none of those things are actually technology issues, although sometimes it can be misinterpreted that way, because there's a technology at the center of the problem. So you know, where I came up through my own academic background, as well as my own, you know, professional experience, my work with technology originated from using technology to do something creative. And by the time I was going through my own masters work, I was in interdisciplinary program that looked a lot more like what Marshall McLuhan had written about in his book, understanding media, then you know, about engineering concepts, you know, that might have been authored by someone like Andy Grove. So, I think about that quote from Steve Jobs, you know, I'm paraphrasing, that, you know, the modern technologist is someone who's at that intersection point of Liberal Arts and Technology, right? It's bringing together those different perspectives, to kind of round out that plurality of viewpoints. If you as a leader, and a TechCrunch role, can help elicit that from other senior leaders within your organization. I think that you've got a real area of differentiation for yourself as an organizational leader. And that's powerful, you know, because then you really are Merlin, right? With any challenge that's been brought forward by the entire organization.

Nick Lozano  18:25
Now, and you brought up a good point, you know, we're talking about CRM and you know, I had a conversation before you know, the the big thing people talk about, we need a CRM, right, we need Salesforce, right? Because the company XYZ has Salesforce and sales have shot through the roof. I think a lot of times what gets lost with these technology tools is that their tools, right? To help you do the work and this is just what your discussion, discussing. You know, you don't go buy a hammer, set it down on the ground and go while you know, that thing didn't nail any nails into the wall for me that the things broken. I bought the best one they had, why isn't? Why don't we have the, you know, the straightest nails in the wall, put it on the floor, it doesn't do anything. Well, there's a lot of lifting and everything that has to go in between there to make that actually be a tool. And us as leaders, sometimes we don't do the greatest job, stressing, you know that this thing is a tool, you know that it's still going to take a big chunk of the business units time to help figure out what our business processes, right technical documentation, all that stuff that sucks that nobody likes to, but those are the things that make technology projects successful. So I just want to kind of ask you one other question, what do you feel like, is a big myth about it these days when you work with your other leaders, right? You know, in the past, we used to be seen as a black hole, right? We give it a million dollar budget, and we don't know what we spend it on. There's computers here, but they suck. They're not as nice as my MacBook know what it is? Now it's kind of like, we're almost like a black box. Because we're everywhere, right? We're with the marketing team. And we're with the HR team, maybe implementing the learning management system, we're with, you know, the traditional IT roles, helping them, you know, implement a ticketing system, and maybe we're with the sales team, you know, doing a customer portal. What do you think's one of those myths that kind of goes around about it executives? You know, that, that that's just not true in your own opinion?

Brian Comerford  20:30
Honestly, I think you've kind of answered it in the way that you asked the question, because to me, the, you know, the thing that I probably still hear most often, and this is after, you know, decades of doing this kind of work, is we don't know what it is doing. And having a variety of forums to be able to provide that feedback, whether it's a CIO dashboard, whether it's a shared project management system, whether it's you now a page for your department, on your intranet, whether it's a membership, at the executive committee level of your organization, the myriad of updates that are sent out via email or corporate newsletters, you know, I mean, there's all these different penetration points in which it is called upon to, quote unquote, Rob poured out, what's keeping you guys so busy? Why do you cost so much? Why do you actually need more people? And, you know, to kind of flip that part of, you know, what I've tried to work on organizationally in building, you know, more of that Alliance, around what the technology demands are for a company is to have that seat at the table created for everyone who's also a functional lead within the operational divisions of your organization, and have a joint session between, you know, what is technology and what is operations using those terms and broad strokes, but being able to bring everyone to a single table, and it shouldn't necessarily be technology that's reporting out. And that's the meeting, it needs to be all of those functional areas, bringing forward ideas or concerns about challenges, that they're facing. Things that competitors are doing that, you know, has them keeping you up at night, you know, so that you can actually start a discussion and develop some strategy out of, you know, the the details that rise up through that. I heard you mentioned, you know, we need sales force. Why do we need that? Well, because it's the Cadillac product, everyone who's like killing it with sales. That's what they have. And, again, the question ends up being well, why? What is it, that's making the difference? Right? It's that it's again, you know, having that conversation, it's not, let's just rush out and buy our product, we need to, you know, bring it in, because we've decided, this is what we're going to do. And now, you know, we need to do a systems evaluation Bake Off between three vendors, the conversation needs to start earlier than that it needs to start around, what are some of the challenges. And once that happens, then, you know, we in the technology leadership role can also go back and say, Hey, this needs to be part of your own stewardship report back to the organization, you operational functional leader, need to help identify where your technology partners have come in, and helped on some of these initiatives, so that there starts to be more of an understanding, you know, that, you know, there's value that's seen from across the organization, it's not just it leadership coming back and saying, Oh, no, we're killing it. We crushed it this year. And here's all the areas that we help, you know, here's our project list. When it comes, when that information comes was back from the business, and my experience, it starts to diminish that mythical question, we don't really know what it is doing. But you sure cost a lot.

Nick Lozano  24:12
And I think the key thing of what you basically said there's communication, right? Absolutely forwards and backwards and all around. And I feel like most most departments in any, you know, firm or or company deal with communication, all the way around, whether it's the executive level or the lower level, it can bring us back to leadership, right? You know, if we don't know as it What, what the the intent of the organization is, what the main goal mission vision of the organization is, it's very hard for us to make those technology decisions, right. I've seen it before, you know, we will talk about the CRM example, right? We need to CRM so that we can talk to our customers, okay, well, you know, what, what's our mission, you know, like, at least with, let's take, for example, like Zappos, right? Their whole thing is that they are customer service company who just happens to sell shoes, right. So that's an easy thing for us to solve, we know what the mission is customer service, always. So when, whereas it there, they tell us, they need a CRM system, okay. As long as we nail everything on the customer side, all the customer interactions are hundred percent polished, if things suck for the back end, initially, on the staff side, everybody in the whole company knows that our focus is on the customer, we are a customer service company. And it's understood that we, you know, we're not going to leave everything a hot mess, you know, on the backside for the employees. But that our main goal, our number one goal, going out to that should be, you know, taking care of our customers. So I think a lot of us, and it sometimes struggle with maybe not having a great vision from the company, or a great mission, which kind of makes our jobs more difficult sometimes. I don't know what your experiences with that. I mean, I know at every point somebody has dealt with kind of being in a murky area, from leadership from above, about, you know, what the goal is what we're trying to do here?

Brian Comerford  26:14
Well, the the sales topic seems to be one that keeps coming up. So I'll just stick with that as a as a motif to explore. So where you said communication, I might insert the term dialogue, right, because to me, that's a, that's a critical component, it's got to be the exchange of ideas. And it has to be a back and forth. Dialogue can include a lot of questioning, it can include disclosing a lot of information, it can include, you know, exploring a lot of variables and options. If If you don't feel like you're on equal ground to be engaged in dialogue, That, to me is the first critical obstacle. And that appears at times because it has had a very custodial perception in terms of how it operates. I mean, this is you touched on at the beginning of the program. This is part of why traditionally, a lot of it is reported up through the CFO, right? It's not because the CFO necessarily knows anything about technology, or can help steer the vision for technology. It's because technology has been a cost center, and it needs to be managed, and it needs to be controlled, and there needs to be procurement, oversight, and all of these things which are still valid. But that's not the overall thrust of what it can deliver in terms of value coming back to the organization. Part of you know, my contention for a while, and I see this reflected a lot of other opinions coming from thought leaders, you know, across technology leadership, having that seat at the table directly with the CEO reporting directly to whoever the visionary is, who's helping to lead some of these things, that tends to be what creates accurate harmony between, you know, what are the strategic imperatives? And what can technology help deliver? So, back to the sales example, right? This is an area where, you know, having spent, you know, better part of two decades working on CRM systems myself and feeling like I've got a good command of a variety of sales methodologies and processes. You know, when I get the question about, we've got to go out and pursue purchasing a Cadillac product, my first set of questions have to do with, hey, that's great. There are a lot of products out there, not a single one of them is going to be a silver bullet. But let's start to have a dialogue around what are your needs. And when I through, you know, and last time I went through this kind of process, when I threw the phrase out, let's have a dialogue around what the sales strategy is. It's like it sent alarm bells off through our sales leadership council, because no one necessarily put those two pieces together right sales and strategy. Well, the strategy is simple. We need to sell more. We need to retain the clients who sold

Nick Lozano  29:16
to me you're in business to make money What?

Brian Comerford  29:22
So, but that, you know, I mean, ultimately, that's it to me, I end up having to drive, you know, some my intent through asking specific questions. And so a question. If my intent is to get to what are the strategic imperatives, then my questions end up having to conform to that, right? So there are things like, if you could wave a magic wand, what are the key obstacles that you would remove from what your sales processes today? Or what makes a sale look successful? for how you envision the process goes for both our company and for the client? Or how much time ultimately needs to be spent on gathering data versus direct consultative interaction? You know, with your prospect, all of those types of framing of questions. They may actually have some underlying technological solution to them. But they're really trying to elicit through dialogue, an understanding of what the strategic imperatives are, once you have a handle on the strategic imperatives, that's your Northstar. And it's easy to work backwards from there to start to determine, you know, what are the various products that can fulfill that, you know, what are the feature sets that are absolutely, you know, baseline requirements for you? And then what does a timeline and a budget look like to be able to achieve those things?

Nick Lozano  30:59
It's stuff. Now ask you one more. I'll ask one more question here to what do you think the biggest thing, you know, current IT leaders are lacking? Now, is it a skill? Is it soft skills? Is it more technology based driven skills? What do you feel like? What is the one big skill set that most IT leaders are missing when when you're talking with them?

Brian Comerford  31:25
I think that's dependent on what type of technology leader you are as a starting point. And what I mean by that is, today, we've seen a lot more of what I would qualify as strategic technology leaders. And what that means is there someone who have been successful, and some facet or domain in their career, that is not necessarily technology related. In fact, typically, these are business people who don't actually have any technology experience whatsoever. Or if they do, it's as a consumer of technology, or someone who's led a key enterprise wide initiative. But they themselves, they don't hold any sort of technical certification, they don't have any kind of degree work in computer science or any work really, in their career experience related to a technology practice area, that set of challenges to me is different than you know, someone who has risen up through the ranks of technology. So in that first instance, I think a lot of what can turn into a constraint is ultimately you're really beholden to having a cadre of trusted advisors who are providing you with the right information. And if you're not certain about that, then To my mind, the best way to validate that is a couple of different ways. One, using the five wise approach that we just talked about, right? Every time there's a here's the challenge, what are some of our options? Well, it's going to be this. Okay. And let's talk about that. Why, why is that the case? Well, because of items A, B, and C, okay, why? What is it about this, that fulfills those things, using that mentality where you're drilling down? And you can even characterize it as I'm seeking to understand, right? I'm not trying to question your expertise, your authority in that area, but I'm truly seeking to understand. So that's, that's one component, a second component is making sure that you've got a strong network of peer advisors around you. And one of the things that I loved that Peter Lynch, on one of our prior programs had talked about is the idea of having someone who's a generation above and a generation below, right, so that then you've got these different perspectives that can feed where you're at in your career, from someone who may be more seasoned then you and someone who, you know, they're closer to, you know, what's hot and fresh, and, you know, the latest and greatest, so that you can start to really pull those things and, and try to create more of a holistic, you know, quilt work, of putting the pieces together. On the on the technology side, you know, where you've got someone who's risen up through the ranks of technology, a lot of the challenge areas that I've seen for those types of leaders, where I've seen them be least successful is, number one, what we've already touched on a lack of inquisitiveness, right? It's a very binary, it's either this or that, you know, if we don't do this, we won't have fault tolerance, therefore, it's a failure. Or if we don't have, you know, products that are five years from end of life, I refuse to support it. Because there's, you know, too many unforeseen variables that could introduce the stability of those things. Right. So that inflexibility, that inability to understand, you know, hey, the business needs some capabilities here, but it needs to also have enough flex, so that it accommodates some of the gray area, you know, that is a real leadership characteristic to me is being able to navigate through what is a little less certain. But, you know, it's nothing has to be perfect, necessarily, right? It has to be good enough. And that's that iterative mentality, right? Let's make sure that it's good enough, it's solid, it's secure, you know, all those things that it functionally needs to be capable of doing until we can get to that next phase. And technology moves so fast today that the next phase may be coming very quickly, right?

Nick Lozano  35:53
It can be it could be a month from deployment and a little Do you know your your deployment outdated. obscene happened before? Obviously, a product and then the company announces that will be end of life, and like two years, just deployed that when you start planning all over again.

Brian Comerford  36:17
So here, I've got a question for you, Nick, I know that you're a book guy, and you always like to ask our guests, what books have been influential for them. On the set of topics that we've talked about today? What are some of the titles that kind of rise to the surface for you, that are really critical.

Nick Lozano  36:35
I mean, for me, when I look at this, you know, like leading teams and leading people, a big one on my list is always that Creativity, Inc, by John Lasseter, you know, one of the founders of Pixar, really, who's the founder of like, one of the Lucas animation even before that, you know, before, you know, George Lucas sold it off, and Steve Jobs bought it. And he just goes through this really great method of how he developed a creative team. And it's just really good leadership advice, just in general. And one of the things they talked about in that book is their peer reviews for the stories. Basically, everybody sits in the room, a bunch of staff, you know, whether, you know, you're the janitor, or you're here this, they just want feedback on the story. They're like, is it believable that this character would do this, and they're giving feedback to the director, but it's not feedback that the director has to take, right. It's just feedback in general where they can get criticism, or information based off of what they're doing to see if you know, they're going down the right path, doesn't mean you have to take that advice. And one of his things with that was, you know, like, you need to be able to foster you know, a culture of trust, where people trust each other, that you can do stuff like that, where they know that, hey, I'm not accusing you that something's bad here. I'm just asking a question, why is a believable? Do you feel that that that's always a big one for me. And then the other one, I'll add, you know, being a military history buff guy, for me, is going to be that Extreme Ownership by Jocko willing and like Batman. I mean, it's because it's not anything that they saying there's nothing new, right? What I like about that, is it It draws back and it takes, you know, a war based experience military base experience that applies it to business, when they give you the definition of a role. It's pretty short, sweet, easy to understand, not heavily academic, with great principles like that commander's intent, right. We need to know the mission of the organization so that, you know, I don't have to ask you, Brian, every five minutes what I should be doing, if I know the mission of what we're trying to accomplish, I know generally, how to get there, right, was some type of, you know, autonomy, that that's always a big one for me. And then I would also add, you know, a big one for me, too, has been a book called never split the difference by Chris Voss, which is just a really good book based on so he was an FBI hostage negotiator. I think, like 20 years, I think. And, you know, he goes through this whole thing about how they analyze and profile somebody when they're speaking to them. It's like, Hey, you know, first one, you're talking to somebody, you'll deal somebody with this type of personality, you need to think about doing this. It's not about manipulating somebody, it's about how do you deal with that interaction, when you have this type of personality. And before he even got into hostage negotiating, he wanted to do it. And basically, if guys like, well, you need to go get some experience, go volunteer at a suicide hotline for two years, and then come talk to us. And he went out and did that, and just goes through his whole experience. And a lot of it's about negotiating prices and deals, but it's really good, just in general about how to deal with him interactions. And you know, how do you deal with the person like we were just talking about who's highly analytical, who needs information for everything. It's like, hey, when somebody is highly analytical, you need to stop for a minute, they need to think about what you just said, they might write it might be quiet, but you need to allow them to MIT to think instead of just assuming, right there that they don't think you're wrong. They do this need the second to compile their data, their information. You know, it's it's, it's a really great book. What about you, Brian? What books come to mind for you?

Brian Comerford  40:31
Hopefully, I haven't mentioned this one for all I'll add to the mix. Andy Grove's only the Paranoid survive.

Nick Lozano  40:38
Classic. Yeah,

Brian Comerford  40:39
one of the management books that I think just still stands up there, as you know, just chock full of fantastic wisdom. And the the title is, you know, it fits the story that Andy Grove talks about with his company, Intel, where you really have to be, you know, constantly looking over your shoulder for what's coming next, where the business impacts, you know, one of those crisis points that, you know, can really send your company quickly into a tailspin. But for me, the underlying message that we've been talking about in today's program is really about that dialogue, right? It's about surfacing information. It's about asking the right questions, it's about listening. Having all of those details at your command, it doesn't matter whether you're in a C level position, or in a junior level, you know, technology leadership role. It's having that kind of mindset where you recognize if we don't get all the information on the table, and we're able to have a dialogue around it so that we can identify what are the real priorities here? What are the real challenges that need to be solved? Pretty soon, you can have havoc on your hands. And it's not pretty because if you're, you know, getting close to the end, an enterprise implementation that's cost to, you know, high six figures, and things aren't going the way that they need to, that's going to be you know, the kind of thing where someone's going to come asking for heads to roll. Getting all that stuff open and out on the table early on. You know, being paranoid about it is maybe not the way that I would characterize it. It's more, make sure that you have an inquisitive mindset so that you're open to exploring, you're looking for details from a plurality of voices so that you know you can get things right.

Nick Lozano  42:31
Good stuff, we're talking about building relationships, right. It's all about relationships up and relationships down and across the aisles. You know,

Brian Comerford  42:42
you got it.

About Nick Lozano

Co-host of the > Lead.exe_ Podcast and owner/consultant at CornerStack, LLC.

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