Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The Top Ten IT Management Mistakes and How To Avoid Them - free ...

Want to rise to the top without all the pain and suffering that goes along with it? The following article will help you soar by keeping you from making costly career-ending mistakes.

Working with IT Managers on a regular basis allows me to see some great management styles and some equally poor ones. There are ten major mistakes that I see IT Managers make on a regular basis. Some of these errors have even cost some managers their jobs. While there are certainly more than ten, if you want to prevent the most widely made mistakes, please read and endorse the following top ten.

Number 1 – Focusing On the Technology and Not the Business

Focusing on the technology and not on the business is an entire subject in and of itself. There are so many IT Managers focusing on the wrong things, technology included. The typical IT Manager comes from a technical background in either infrastructure or development. Based on their technical roots, they tend to focus their efforts in their expertise when in fact they should be looking for ways to support, enable and improve the business. In order to be successful, it is imperative that IT Managers become a business leader and turn their focus and expertise on business issues and problems first and foremost.

Number 2 – Thinking “Out of Sight is Out of Mind”

IT Managers are busy people and have so many priorities coming at them all the time. The problem with not having a scorecard or checklist is that IT Managers tend to keep going, going, going without ever looking at their progress. The most powerful task an IT Manager could ever do is an assessment. There are several ways to do this. First, you can do a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis. You could do a full blown formal IT Assessment and or you could use a scorecard system to track where you are as a department. See: 11-5670861.html for a scorecard developed specifically for this purpose. Not continually taking a check where you are at leads to significant trouble. This is no different than continually checking your dashboard gauges in your car. No news is not good news in IT. The IT Manager mantra should be “if it isn’t broke, fix it anyways.” 

Number 3 – Thinking That Your Team Has It Covered

This concept is straight out of the lessons learned from the popular hit show with Donald Trump “The Apprentice.” So many teams ended up in the boardroom because the leader delegated a job, but didn’t follow up to make sure it was done right. IT Managers are not exempt from this mistake. The major reason this happens is because “I” is not in team, but is in “IT”. Most IT employees are solo players. They work well alone. This is due to the fact that they are generally introverts. There are some exceptions, but this is the majority. This has an adverse affect on various management, leadership and ultimately social skills needed to delegate effectively. The biggest skill in delegation is the follow-up or checkup. No, this is not micromanagement. It is your job as a leader to insure that the task gets done correctly. To avoid this mistake, you must follow up.

Number 4 – Not Inspecting What You Expect

This mistake has its roots in mistake number 3, but can be carried forward into other aspects of IT. For instance, you could possibly expect great performance out of your servers, but may not have a system to make sure they are running at peak capacity. This ultimately leads to poor planning, budgeting, staffing etc. If you want to avoid this common pitfall, make a comprehensive list of your expectations for your entire department which could include critical projects, network and server performance, client satisfaction and many more. Double-check the list to make sure you are inspecting all expectations on a regular basis. Keep a checklist or develop a daily disciplines worksheet to follow everything that needs daily inspection. As Joe DiMaggio use to say, “It is the punch that you didn’t see coming that knocks you out.”

Number 5 – Not Creating a Partnership with Business Management

There is a difference between number 1 and number 5. The difference is people and politics. I find a great deal of IT Managers reporting to operations and finance personnel instead of presidents and CEOs. This is a major mistake and should be a fighting point on your agenda if this is you. The only way IT can be an effective and a strategic element to a business is through partnership with the business executives. A 360 degree leadership focus must be in place for the IT Manager. You must lead and influence your reports, peers and leaders to have a maximum impact on the organization. The quicker you can get on the leadership team, the quicker you will have the ability to execute on number 1.

Number 6 – Burning Yourself Out

I can’t tell you how many IT Managers I coach that have not had vacations in a year or longer and routinely work over 70 hours per week. This is not only a mistake, but is a formula for disaster. Sometimes the thinking is that your business cannot live without you. I hate to burst your bubble if this is your thinking. You are absolutely incorrect. Your business cannot live with you burning yourself out. This only leads to less productivity and eventually you quitting, giving up or getting disgruntled. Do yourself, business, employees and family a favor and take some time off. Recharging your batteries is extremely important for peak performance. Always remember to stop and smell the roses. If you don’t, a train wreck is around the corner. It will not be a matter of “if”, but “when.”

Number 7 – Not Testing Your Backup Solution

I always tell my new IT Managers that one of the most important aspects of their jobs is insuring a reliable backup. Breakdowns in technology hardware are inevitable. The next best thing is fault tolerance, but I have even seen that fail. Under this circumstance, you can either be the hero or a person in the unemployment line. Don’t think for a minute that if you have tapes and if everything looks ok in your system that everything is ok. Make sure you test backups regularly. Do test disasters and make sure you can recover. I call this IT Manager calisthenics. Athletes train continually before they compete. You need to do this as well with backups. If you haven’t tested your backup solution lately, do it immediately.

Number 8 – Not Asking For Help

All too often have I seen costly mistakes made by managers and technicians alike trying to solve an issue solo without informing anyone or even reading the manual! This is a costly mistake in terms of time, expense as well as potential disasters. If you get in over your head, do the right thing and seek help. The key to successful IT Management is not knowing the right answers, but being able to find them and executing a solution as quickly and cost effectively as possible. Don’t hesitate to bring in the experts where necessary. This will not make you look bad. There is nothing wrong admitting you don’t know how to fix a problem. Rather than wasting you or your company’s time, bring in an expert and make it a learning experience. The key here is knowledge transfer. By including training in every outside engagement, you build you and your team’s depth and expertise. Last comment; there is nothing wrong with reading the manual.

Number 9 – Not Devoting Time to Personal Development

There is no excuse in mistake number 9. Personal development is not your company’s responsibility. Plain and simple, it is yours. Only you determine your success, attitude and altitude. I can always tell a person’s success potential by the last 5 books they have read and by the seminars they attend. Every IT Manager should be devoting at least 30 minutes a day in personal development. The truly successful and top ten percent in their field devote even more and in some cases in upwards of two hours or more per day. The most common excuse I usually hear is that they don’t have the time or money. There are two things I know for sure. Number one, money is never the problem and number two, neither is time. Both excuses are within the manager’s control. The underlying key is in the successful management of money and time. The most valuable investment in any career is that of personal development. It is an investment that multiplies rapidly and pays over and over again for life.

Number 10 – Not Finding a Mentor or Coach

The quickest route to success is to find someone who has been there and emulate them. The quickest road to pain, hardship and failure is to go the journey alone and is therefore the biggest mistake an IT Manager can make. Whether you are in management or not, you should always have a mentor or coach and you should always be mentoring or coaching someone else. A coach will simply help you achieve more than you could by yourself by imparting wisdom, accountability and crucial advice where necessary. By coaching or mentoring someone else, you are doing the same, but you are also solidifying your own concepts by teaching them to others. If you do not have a coach, acquire one as soon as possible. There is no such thing as an Olympic Gold Medalist without a coach. If you want extraordinary results, you have to go beyond ordinary. To win the IT Gold, you must have a coach or mentor. For more information on obtaining an IT coach, go

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Thoughts on Empowerment by Rick Maurer - - Free ...

People are empowered when they are given the authority and responsibility to make decisions affecting their work with a minimum of interference and second guessing by others.

Empowerment is an overused and under practiced term. When people are empowered they bring their minds to work. They are engaged in making decisions that affect their part of the business. They take responsibility for their actions. They work free from the petty bureaucratic hassles that diminish value and waste time. They add value to the organization by embracing the principles of quality and service. They search for ways to make a difference.


Most organizations need knowledge workers men and women whose chief resource is their ability to think and act on what they know. Computer programmers, systems analysts, accountants, lawyers, managers, sales teams, and even factory workers must use their best judgment to solve problems and respond to opportunities.

Nordstrom is legendary in its customer service because it encourages and expects staff to make decisions that will make customers happy. A local Nordstrom store gives new staff a one page employee handbook to illustrate this point. It reads: Use your best judgment at all times.


In Caught in the Middle (Productivity, 1992), I suggest that most people want a few basic things from work: meaning, results, challenge and an opportunity to learn, respect and recognition, control over their own part of the work, affiliation or knowing they are part of a bigger team.

These six items form the foundation of all good empowerment efforts. Remove any of them and you weaken the individual's commitment to his or her work. Fortunately, with regard to motivation, what's good for the individual is also good for the company.


Build on the six basic things people want (these are listed above.) Consider these items as a bedrock for all initiatives to increase empowerment. In addition, consider the following:

Clear Vision and Direction. Corporate leadership must know why it wants empowerment.

What do you want to achieve from it?
What would empowerment look like here?
How committed are you to making empowerment a reality?
Is empowerment essential or simply something that would be nice to have?
Examine Corporate Actions.

Policies. What gets rewarded gets done. What gets punished gets avoided. Corporate policies and procedures such as performance review and merit increases show people what is really important to senior management. For example, if people are told to work collaboratively but their performance reviews pit them against each other in forced appraisal ranking, people will protect their own self interests. If you encourage cross functional teamwork, but performance reviews only acknowledge work accomplished within a department, interdepartmental cooperation will suffer.

Unwritten Rules. These norms tell people how the game is played. People learn that these unwritten rules are as important as any written policy. For example, a manager may tell staff to always tell him or her the truth, but proceed to punish the messenger who brings the bad news.

Structure. To borrow a phrase from David Hannas book, "Organizations are perfectly designed to get the results they get." NUMMI is a highly successful auto manufacturing plant that relies on high worker commitment and skill. It replaced a terrible GM plant in which absenteeism was running at 25% the year it closed and where quality was a joke. Ironically, when NUMMI opened it hired back many of the same seemingly unmotivated workers from the old plant. The only major difference between NUMMI and its predecessor was how it was managed. People were free to stop the assembly line to solve quality problems. They were encouraged to learn many different tasks so they could add greater value to the assembly process. In short, they were empowered.


Tom Peters once said, "we are only at the advanced lip service stage." I agree. We often are afraid to trust that others will actually do the work without close scrutiny. I never met anyone who said that a rigorous performance appraisal system helped him or her do better work. Yet most managers believe that it is an essential tool to use to motivate others. (If only those other people were as trustworthy as we.)

Watchful eyes breed dependency. When people try to please mom and dad they fail to take the risks and initiative needed to help a dynamic organization thrive. People wait to be told what to do. As the sign in a French civil servant's office read, "Never do anything for the first time."

If your work is going to be reviewed, folded, spindled, and mutilated by five others up the line before it is approved, why bother giving your best effort?

Our view of organizations is based on hierarchy and chain of command. People above you make the decisions, people below carry them out. This model is firmly entrenched. Sometimes I think it is encoded in our DNA. It can only change when we see that it works against initiative and empowerment, and when we are willing to step back and take a cold sober look at they ways in which our own actions may be creating the dependency and lackluster performance we abhor.


There is a revolution going on in corporations. Since Peters and Waterman's watershed book, In Search of Excellence and our discovery of W. Edwards Deming in the early 1980's, organizations have been experimenting with ways to increase employee involvement. Even the federal government is trying to reinvent itself using principles of empowerment. Some organizations succeed, others fail but we can learn from them all. These brave companies and agencies are providing the living textbooks that can point the way to new models of organization that treat people with dignity and respect and serve the interests of the business.

Here are some examples of how others are using the principles of empowerment.

Large System Change. Organizations such as Corning get everyone (or at least a representative sample of all levels of the organization) in a room to reengineer their portion of company. Since this planning process involves those who must implement the changes, resistance decreases and commitment increases, planning and implementation time are compressed, and the quality of the plan often far exceeds what outside consultants or a small team could have created.

Cross functional Teams. Companies such as Conrail pull together talented people from the middle of the organization and empower them to tackle pressing business challenges. These teams are more than task forces they have the power to recommend and implement change.

Access to Information. Many organizations are examining how work is done in an effort to streamline service to customers. They develop new procedures that ensure the people closest to the work have immediate access to the tools and information they need. (In traditional organizations information is power and often kept away from those who need it most.)

Promote the Best. Back in 1991, Jack Welch introduced his theory of leadership in General Electric's Annual Report. (At the time, I called these few pages the best leadership book of the year.) In it, he said that GE needs people who keep commitments (meet deadlines and financial targets) as well as people who promote the values of the company (empowerment, etc.). In the past, they only gave lip service to the values goal. It was nice, but it didn't drive promotions. To get ahead you had to meet the numbers. Welch went on record as saying those days were over. He wanted men and women who could accomplish both goals. To prove his resolve, he timed the firing of some visible old line managers with the publication of the report.


Here are a few random questions to begin a conversation on empowerment.

Do we agree that empowerment is a key ingredient in our continued success? If so, why? If not, why not?

Does our performance review process support or hinder participation and commitment of all staff?

Do we compensate and promote those who embody the values we espouse?

Do our communication channels promote or inhibit free exchange of information and ideas between individuals and departments?

What informal messages do people receive about our culture? What impact does this have on productivity and morale?

What do we suppose employees say about Fannie Mae when we aren't in the room?

Once people are trained and have proven their competency, do we have the courage to trust them?

What happens when someone takes an educated risk and fails?

Of course the list could go on, but these should be sufficient to begin a provocative dialogue on the subject.

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Thursday, 9 August 2012

Strategies to Success

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Friday, 29 June 2012

Website as Storefronts

A customer walks into the store, browses through products and shelves, picks up items, inspects, considers the prices, chooses a product and takes it to the cash register to pay. Now if you want to sell your products online, then your site must be enabled for e-commerce, where you must have the following features:

  • You need to provide plenty of content and product description like sizes, dimensions, colors and comparisons with other similar products. It must allow the customer to choose a product, get a clear pricing and shipping costs on the product, complete the transaction and get an order number, and/or invoice confirmation via email. Allow your customer to choose a shipping method.
  • You must tell the customer if the item is in stock or delivered against order. Ideally, you should have an email contact or live help if the customer has a question. Most importantly you must respond immediately! If you want to provide your own live chat and help desk services on your website, specialized software are available for purchase.
  • Be sure your customer service links are large and clearly marked, so your client does not have to dig around to find information.
  • Provide an ‘about us’ section or a section about your policies. If you have privacy statements and customer satisfaction policies, your customer will feel better about shopping in your store.
  • You probably want to have customer quotes and references on the storefront page, as well, to let your prospective client know that others are happy with your service.
  • Provide an FAQ with information about your return-back policies, guarantees, shipping prices and insurance charges if any.
  • If you are so inclined, you can offer a print catalogue if the customer prefers to order one from your storefront and shop in the privacy of their homes.
  • Do not annoy your customers by presenting products that are marked ‘sold’ or pages that say ‘under construction’ or ‘coming soon’.
  • Do add new content frequently, so your returning customers will not be bored by seeing the same products they saw four months ago.
  • If your site has got a date tag or has current references, be careful to change these references frequently so you don’t give the perception that nobody is attending or reading your site.

To your continued success.
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Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Tips to Increase Ranking and Website Traffic

It is worth cataloguing the basic principles to be enforced to increase website traffic and search engine rankings.

  • Create a site with valuable content, products or services.
  • Place primary and secondary keywords within the first 25 words in your page content and spread them evenly throughout the document.
  • Research and use the right keywords/phrases to attract your target customers.
  • Use your keywords in the right fields and references within your web page. Like Title, META tags, Headers, etc.
  • Keep your site design simple so that your customers can navigate easily between web pages, find what they want and buy products and services.
  • Submit your web pages i.e. every web page and not just the home page, to the most popular search engines and directory services. Hire someone to do so, if required. Be sure this is a manual submission. Do not engage an automated submission service.
  • Keep track of changes in search engine algorithms and processes and accordingly modify your web pages so your search engine ranking remains high. Use online tools and utilities to keep track of how your website is doing.
  • Monitor your competitors and the top ranked websites to see what they are doing right in the way of design, navigation, content, keywords, etc.
  • Use reports and logs from your web hosting company to see where your traffic is coming from. Analyze your visitor location and their incoming sources whether search engines or links from other sites and the keywords they used to find you.
  • Make your customer visit easy and give them plenty of ways to remember you in the form of newsletters, free reports, reduction coupons etc.
  • Demonstrate your industry and product or service expertise by writing and submitting articles for your website or for article banks so you are perceived as an expert in your field.
  • When selling products online, use simple payment and shipment methods to make your customer’s experience fast and easy.
  • When not sure, hire professionals. Though it may seem costly, but it is a lot less expensive than spending your money on a website which no one visits.
  • Don’t look at your website as a static brochure. Treat it as a dynamic, ever-changing sales tool and location, just like your real store to which your customers with the same seriousness.

No go out there and just do it!!!

To your success.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Tips to Get Repeat Web Traffic

1. Update the pages on your website frequently.  Stagnant sites are dropped by some search engines.  You can even put a date counter on the page to show when it was last updated.

2. Offer additional value on your website.  For affiliates and partners you can place links to their sites and products and ask them to do the same for you.  You can also advertise their books or videos, if these products relate to your industry and are not in competition with your own product.

3. You can allow customers to ‘opt in’ to get discounts and special offers.  Place a link on your site to invite customers to ‘opt in’ to get a weekly or monthly newsletter or valuable coupons.

4. Add a link to your primary page with a script ‘Book Mark or Add this site to your Favorites’.

5. Add a link ‘Recommend this site to a Friend’ so that the visitor can email your website link, with a prewritten title, “Thought you might be interested in this”, just by clicking on it.

6. Brand your website so that visitors always know they are on your site. Use consistent colors, logos and slogans and always provide a ‘Contact Us’ link on each page.

7. Create an ‘Our Policies’ page that clearly defines your philosophy and principles in dealing with your customers.  Also post your privacy policy as well so that clients know they are secure when they visit your site.

8. Create a FAQ page which addresses most of the doubts and clarifications about your product or your company that are likely to be asked.  This helps to resolve most of the customers doubts in their first visit to your site.

8. Ensure that each page on your website has appropriate titles and keywords so that your customer can find their way back to your site if they lose the book mark.

9. Never spam a client, who has opted for newsletters, with unsolicited emails.  Later if they decide they want to ‘opt out’ of the mailings, be sure you honor their request and take them off the mailing list.  They may still come back if they like your products.  But they will certainly not come back if you continue to flood their email box with mails they no longer wish to receive.

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Friday, 11 May 2012

What Is Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization is a process of choosing the most appropriate targeted keyword phrases related to your site and ensuring that this ranks your site highly in search engines so that when someone searches for specific phrases it returns your site on top.  It basically involves fine tuning the content of your site along with the HTML and Meta tags and also involves appropriate link building process.  The most popular search engines are Google, Yahoo, MSN Search, AOL and Ask Jeeves.  

Search engines keep their methods and ranking algorithms secret, to get credit for finding the most valuable search-results and to deter spam pages from clogging those results.  A search engine may use hundreds of factors while ranking the listings where the factors themselves and the weight each carries may change continually.  Algorithms can differ so widely that a webpage that ranks #1 in a particular search engine could rank #200 in another search engine.  New sites need not be "submitted" to search engines to be listed.  A simple link from a well-established site will get the search engines to visit the new site and begin to spider its contents.  It can take a few days to even weeks from the referring of a link from such an established site for all the main search engine spiders to commence visiting and indexing the new site.

If you are unable to research and choose keywords and work on your own search engine ranking, you may want to hire someone to work with you on these issues.

Search engine marketing and promotion companies will look at the plan for your site and make recommendations to increase your search engine ranking and website traffic. If you wish, they will also provide ongoing consultation and reporting to monitor your website and make recommendations for editing and improvements to keep your site traffic flow and your search engine ranking high.  Normally your search engine optimization experts work with your web designer to build an integrated plan right away so that all aspects of design are considered at the same time.

In short; Search Engine Optimization is the ability of webmasters and site owners to optimally utilize the capabilities of Search Engines.

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Thursday, 3 May 2012

Email Courses and Auto-responders

Offering free things to your website visitors is one marketing method that often results in a lot of sales.  Free courses that are delivered via email are very popular, and people sign up for such courses on a regular basis to learn more about a topic of interest to them.  These courses are best maintained and delivered with the use of auto-responders.

An auto-responder can be set up to send out a series of lessons for an email course. The lessons can be set for distribution at specific intervals.  You determine how often the lessons for the course are sent to the people who have signed up for it.  

Email courses are very different from traditional courses, web based courses, or any other type of course.  There is no student and instructor interaction.  The instructor writes the information out, puts each lesson in an auto-responder series, sets the timing for the lessons, and the rest is automated.  You can opt to have lessons delivered daily, every other day, every three days, or any other time frame that you think works best for your email students.

Email courses are commonly used to sell products and services.  For instance, if you sell widgets, you might develop a course that teaches people how to use widgets or how to care for their widget.  Experts agree that an email course can be written for almost any product that you can imagine – if you put enough thought into it.

Start by determining what your course will be about, and how long it should be.  If the course should be delivered every other day for two weeks, you know that you would need seven lessons.  Write the lessons, and load them in the auto-responder.  Set the interval for each lesson, which in this case would be 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, and 13.

This means that the first lesson would be delivered one day after the person has requested the course, and the second lesson would be delivered three days after the person has requested the course, and so on.  The interval for each lesson is set for the number of days after the person has signed up.   Make sure that everything is spelled right, and that your sentences are grammatically correct.  You want the lessons to look and sound as professional as possible.

Next, simply advertise the email address that will activate the auto-responder.  Make sure that you run a test first, sending each lesson to yourself.  This will allow you to see what your email students will see when they sign up!

To your success,

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Tuesday, 13 March 2012


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Tuesday, 28 February 2012

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