In our last installment , I describe the three essential skills I felt were hallmarks of the best and most successful directors that I’ve worked with. Good directors, indeed good strategic leaders of all stripes, usually have at least one or more of these skills: strategic planning, visionary goals, and emotional intelligence.
The good news about these skills, and lots of other skills that can advance your career, is that you can learn them. Many people will spend a fortune on a classroom approach to learning these sorts of skills via an MBA. If you’re a penny pincher, you can get a leg up on these business and management-oriented skills by simply going to the web.
My favorite place to start for soft skills research with an IT-orientation is http://www.techrepublic.com/tech-manager/. It’s not a systematically planned course in strategy, but it is a good, free resource. You can learn about any number of important management skills from project management, to turning around dysfunctional teams, to managing budgets. There’s even a nice little topic dropdown listbox for a quick lookup for all topics related to strategic planning.
Another interesting trend that you can take advantage of is called OpenCourseWare (OCW). OCW is to higher education what open source software is to the IT industry. Are you considering the proposition of writing a business plan? Why not participate in MIT’s OCW class direct about writing business plans from the renowned Sloan School of Management? You can find all of the Sloan classes at http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/Sloan-School-of-Management/index.htm. Many other top quality universities offer including John Hopkins University, Notre Dame, the University of California – Irvine, and many others. The OpenCourseWare Consortium has a directory of worldwide universities participating in the program at http://www.ocwconsortium.org/use/use-dynamic.html.
There also hordes of books on business strategy. I can’t even begin to describe all of the good books that you might or might not want to investigate. However, since business strategy is something for the McKinsey set, I want to warn you that books on this topic fill the whole spectrum from dry and pedantic to breezy and uninformative. I strongly recommend that you do your homework before buying a book of this kind. Read the Amazon reviews, and make sure that there are many reviews on hand. A book with fewer reviews has a less representative take on how well it meets the needs of the readership.
A great book for absolute beginners in this area might be Guy Kawasaki’s Art of the Start. It’s about all the steps needed to get a successful start-up business moving, but he covers many of the necessary steps in detail without being boring or dry.
I’ve just gotten your foot in the door, but I’m sure our readership has a lot of great suggestions. Add a comment here about your favorite resource for strategy and business planning, setting vision, and emotional intelligence – as well as anything else you know of that might help raise the skills of our community. Thanks!