In order to assist IT architects to reach greater heights of performance, the coach must expand the architect’s ability to take effective action. This is not something you can simply tell someone to do. It’s an ongoing process that encourages the IT architect to dig deeper to create solutions that will bring enhanced results. It’s a form of accountability that builds a proactive outlook to the issues of management and leadership. Coaching is the foundation to deepening awareness of the architect’s individual talents and strengths. Enterprise architect coaching goes beyond mentorship. It fosters trust and confidence.
IT Architects who have taken advantage of coaching report their achievements are celebrated, and feel satisfied because they discovered answers to long-standing questions about self and purpose. Some of the markers of improved performance include more effective leadership abilities, a greater sense of confidence, an enlarged the vision of the future, improved productivity, better people skills, superior decision making abilities, communication clarity, a higher sense of teamwork, better financial stability, enhanced balance between personal and professional life, improved mental and physical health, stress reduction and greater job satisfaction.
This list offers a huge array of benefits for architects who get a positive coaching experience. Coaching is a highly effective and inexpensive method of developing people and strengthening an organization. During difficult economic times, companies which are stressed are better able to weather the financial storm by implementing coaching programs which keep morale and company loyalty high. This was ably demonstrated during the financial crisis of 1997 to 1998. “In a time of drastic change it is the learners who will inherit the future. The ill trained will find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists’s Eric Hoffer” In stressful times, people seek ways to boost peace of mind and satisfaction with their lives.
IT architecture coaching can meet these objectives in three ways, by improving individual well-being, building up the company’s ability to function using people as its most important resource, and assists individuals in transition which is what a beginning IT architect. Competition today involves learning as an ongoing component of life and a means of creating satisfaction. Changing behavior is a crucial stepping stone in the process of lifelong learning as an IT architect. And a good coach is the fastest shortcut there is towards making the necessary changes.
Is IT Architect coaching for you? A good question so let’s discover the secret behind successful people. We all know the use of coaching by athletes, but did you know that people like Bill Gates, Paul Newman, Oprah Winfrey, and even Eleanor Roosevelt had coaches or mentors to guide them. If you ask those people what difference a coach made to their personal and professional lives, I suspect that the answer would be they could not have achieved the success they enjoyed without their coach. Career coaches do a number of things. For instance they will help IT architects set more useful goals and then help them reach those goals. They will drive you forward because they ask you to do more than you can do on your own.
A coach will focus you better to produce your results more quickly and provide you with tools, support and a structure so that you can get a lot more done than you think possible. Coaching takes a lot from sports with the ultimate goal of being your best. But they do a lot more. A coach will strengthen your existing skill set instead of concentrating on improving weaknesses (although that is addressed to). A good coach will help you move forward and set career and personal goals that will give you the life you really want, both on and off the job. The best thing about getting a coach is that a good IT architect coach will help you reorient your life so that you can achieve your career goals.
After all there are so many skill sets that a good IT architect needs to possess, that you will need some kind of guidance as to which ones needs to be developed first, and how to go about it. Your coach will also challenge you and take time to discover what a well-lived life means to you. They will hold you accountable for your life choices, and make sure you really live up to your true potential. A good IT architecture coach will help you discover your real needs, help you to set your goals and work effectively towards a career of excellence and achievement in your IT architect role.
There are five generally recognized negotiating situations, of which competition and collaboration are two. As an IT architect you will need to learn how to use each one so that you don’t limit possible outcomes needlessly by competing when it is not appropriate. This is possibly the most common and most costly negotiating error, and if you get the right coach you will discover the importance of selecting the right approach before you start. Remember not to let other people who think they are great negotiators suck you into a competitive situation when it’s not called for. One easy way to lose the game before you start (by accident), is to lose your temper.
You don’t want to enter into a win-lose or lose-lose outcome because you don’t have control of your emotions. Conflict situations usually stimulate emotional as well is rational reactions and it’s important to keep perspective. You may need to develop processes and rules which prevent anger from taking control. Remember that negotiation is about conflict and conflict management and unfortunately sometimes it gets out of hand and the negotiation process breaks down. Prejudices surface and angry emotions creep into the conversation as communication decreases all sides become entrenched in their position and blame each other to the difficulty. This occurs because information is not flowing through and between all parties. Communication channels are blocked and people look for reasons why, because it’s easy to blame the other party.
The focus can move away from the issues and become a contest of wills. Extraneous issues may be introduced. Negotiation becomes us against them and a win lose contest where differences become key and similarities are overlooked. If we become angry or emotionally drawn into the conflict, natural instincts tend to take control and it becomes harder to use communication and problem solving skills effectively. Proper coaching so that you can fully understand your emotional reactions to conflict can help you achieve the objectivity needed to master your reactions.
This gets back to self-awareness, a soft skill where you can use the good advice offered to you by your coach. Different people react differently in conflict situations – some react with a classic flight response. Others withdraw in a classic flight response. Others compromise and try to balance the two. Others will cave in fast so they can make everyone 9except themselves) happy and then there are some whose natural instinct is to seek creative collaboration. Those are the people who try to turn conflicts into cooperative problem-solving sessions and this is a key skill you need to learn as an IT architect.
Your coach will help you to understand your current approach to negotiations. If you don’t know what your natural style is, you may make mistakes and blunders. Your negotiating skills will only work your benefit if you can use them properly. You will also need to learn some management skills to help you overcome common roadblocks to the effective use of negotiating techniques. Your coach can help you in learning how to handle situations such as the other party is unwilling to play the negotiating game, the other party negotiated only on price, the other party just doesn’t play fair or the other party engages in difficult behaviors. Learning how to discern any of these situations and then moving into the right sort of negotiation is one of the keys skills of and competent IT architect. If you want to develop these skills, a good coach is a must.
There are many things you need to do to manage groups in complex multi-party discussions. There is a lot to consider. The actual conditions of the meetings such as lighting, noise level, air quality and temperature, where people are placed, group size and seating pattern are all-important. If the meeting is going to last a long time remember that larger rooms give more opportunities for people to spread out and be comfortable. People need to be identified with cards or nametags and will need supplies like pencils and paper. A white board or flipchart are good tools for recording ideas, structuring the agenda and providing a focus place where amendments, wording of documents and motions can be proposed. It may be a good idea to have an impartial neutral person as a facilitator. They should be somebody who has no stake in the outcome and won’t the affected by it.
Make sure everybody understands the costs of failure. Is a viable best alternative to a negotiated agreement and is everyone willing to move towards it if the solution is poor enough? Everyone has to consider what can happen if there is an agreement. Everyone needs to understand all the options and it may be useful to review all these and discuss them as well as any alternatives. It’s a good idea to define how the decision will be made because it can cause conflict over the final outcome. Who makes a decision on how should it be made. Often group decisions are made by the minority because one party is stronger than the other. They have greater status or maybe are just better persuaders.
It may be that decision will be agreed to be based on a vote. Will it be passed with just a simple majority, or need a large majority? You even need to have a consensus. Consensus is likely to be a more important outcome, because everyone will be more committed to a decision reached by consensus rather than that of a simple majority. In group negotiations particularly, it is extremely important to have an agenda and to use it. It can be generated by the facilitator or by the group as a whole if that is feasible. The agenda defines what track you will be on and keeps people to it and can include a list of the issues which are being negotiated, definitions of what each issue is order of discussion, and the amount of time that will be allocated to discussion and resolution. Remember that an agenda can be a very strong control mechanism if used in a manipulative fashion.
The one who makes up the agenda can dominate the meeting. If you believe the agenda is unfair don’t hesitate to question it and how it was developed. Finally remember that the moderator in multi-party negotiations is there to manage the process only and not the outcome and there are some specific steps which can be taken if you happen to be placed in that position. Your IT architecture coach can teach you how to develop facilitation skills. As an IT architect you will find yourself using negotiation skills every day. If you want every day to be a good day you will learn to use them well.
Top IT architects are products of their habits. Average people think that habits are something they need to break, such as eating too much or smoking. Peak performers know that successful habits are what create their success. Every day the successful IT architect reinforces success habits even such things as exercise, proper diet, being punctual and keeping ahead of their profession.
Your coach will help you develop a respect for the power that habits can exhibit. Success coaches know that if you allow your habits to slip, the habit will begin to die off almost immediately. Your coach knows this, and will teach you that it is more difficult to develop a progressive habit than to lose it.
Understand this. Momentum can work for or against you and as a result if you don’t protect your success habits with religious fervor you will lose them, because the momentum you developed when building them up is not being maintained. Your IT architecture coach is keenly aware of how habits will impact every area of your life and they will teach you to look inside yourself and find answers. Unfortunately, average people are oblivious to the formation of success habits, unless the pain from unhealthy habits becomes too big.
One of the habits your enterprise architecture coach will ask you to develop is that of critical thinking. It’s a result of problem solving because it will lead to great ideas and money flows from ideas which solve problems and the bigger the problem the bigger the payoff. Many people tend to dismiss ideas before they have a chance to be properly evaluated and tested. Your IT architecture coach knows this and he will show you how to turn your attention to the inner workings of your own mind so you can capture and cultivate ideas which will help turn things around. You’ll also learn how to move an idea past the talking stage without hesitation. Anything at rest doesn’t have any momentum.
If you understand that thinking and planning has to be immediately followed by actions, you will create momentum and momentum producers are hard to stop. With the help of a good IT architect coach, you can create the idea habit and learn how to induce momentum so that not only will your career benefit, so too does the company you work for and the people you work with. Learning to recognize, and being aware of how to develop good habits is a skill, which will reward you throughout your whole life.
Here are some quick tips that any IT architect can use when dealing with difficult people. The main point to keep in mind is to recognize their behavior and to understand it. Then discover a way to cope with it whether that involves confronting their behavior directly or learning to live it in some way. Remember there may be cultural and ethnic differences at work, which means underlying values may not be compatible. If you decide it is worth trying to change the other person’s behavior during negotiations, you need to find out how much work it will take and whether a positive result will be the outcome. Are there risks involved? You may have to accept that some people are not willing to change and if that’s the case you’ll need to concentrate on the changes you can make and just figure out steps to cope with the behavior. If you go for change remember that successful conflict resolution depends on effective communication. And this will depend on two factors – acknowledging, appreciating and productively using the differences. And you then develop a personal strategy for dealing effectively with difficult people. Here are the steps:
1. Get really clear about the behavior that bothers you and not the values that may lie behind what people are doing. Remember to concentrate on the behavior and not the person.
2. Confront the way they are behaving in a non-threatening way and stay focused on what they are doing and try to avoid attacking the person. You can do this with a simple “when you do this, I’ll feel that” type of statement.
3. You have to be willing to hear what they actually want to say. You need to use listening skills (which your coach will help you to develop) so that you can identify the facts and the feelings from other people. Remember to keep discussion as impersonal as possible and just let the other person vent. You can resolve conflict when you try to meet the needs of each party – essentially a mini-negotiation which needs to be collaborative.
4. You then need to implement the resolution and hear the keys. Separate people from the problem. Remember that the problem is the relationship and not the people themselves. Acknowledge and appreciate differences. Be flexible yourself about the other people’s viewpoints or work styles. Avoid negative labels and be flexible. Stay focused on outputs rather than positions that people take. Note that a different opinion or approach is just different and not wrong. You need to remember there are differences in thinking styles.
There are four benefits of successful conflict resolution when people are being difficult. Behavior which is seen as negative is confronted and resolved. Parties learn about other people’s needs and viewpoints and better understand the reasons why they behave that way. Problem solving skills can be improved through good coaching and you can learn to discover solutions which are creative. Finally everybody can benefit from improving their understanding and friendship with others. This will build the trust that is needed to get successful outcomes in future encounters. You encounter many people who will make it hard to use your negotiating skills, people who will take a less educated and sometimes infuriating approach to conflict. As a developing IT architect you need to develop conflict resolution and negotiating skills and a good coach will place you on the fast track so you can effectively manage difficult people and negotiate successful outcomes.
One of the soft skills which your IT architecture coach will help you develop is the art of self-awareness. When you are negotiating to influence others your natural instinct is to leap into action because time seems of the essence. In fact, the best thing you can do (which is the most important secret) is to begin by thinking about your own position. Since negotiation is conflict resolution we must remember that sometimes our first reaction can be unhelpful. There’s the instinct to compete, to comment, an urge to lash out in anger or the desire to run away. These immediate reactions may not reflect your deeper feelings or long-term goals.
Never trust first reactions. Instead, you have to learn to search your mind to explore the emotional and rational dimensions of the situation. Remember that good negotiators don’t fight wars. Whenever you’re in a negotiation the first thing is to examine your own position and decide exactly what you want. Your position is that your argument or your side of the story is the first step in successful negotiation. Often in unsuccessful negotiations this step is skipped. The key question is “What do I want out of this negotiation and why is it important to me?” The reason why you explore this position carefully is that it will prevent unpleasant surprises.
You don’t want to be blindsided and realize that you didn’t discover a personal issue until it was too late during the actual negotiation. Goal setting is a key aspect when you analyze and plan your position. Think about what you want out of a situation and list your goals in concrete and measurable terms. It is useful to use dollar amounts or percentages when you’re framing your goals. However there are lots of intangible goals which must be addressed during a negotiation too. These can be difficult if not impossible to quantify. Sometimes you can make intangible goals tangible if you convert them to a measurable milestone. “Reform my husband” is not measurable but “get my husband to come home from the pub by six o’clock every night” is. Another interesting way to frame intangible goals and quantify feelings can be demonstrated this way. “I want to feel at least 50% better about my spouses overworking by the end of next month or I’m calling a counselor”.
This quantifies feelings which make it easy to think about how to achieve an emotional goal. In the end when you complete negotiations you’ll look back and judge the outcomes by thinking about and by feeling about them to. Thinking has to do with the tangible goals which are focused by your rational mind. Feelings are associated with the intangible goals, so this is where you need to develop your emotional intelligence otherwise you will not be keenly aware of your emotions and won’t get everything you want from a negotiation. You need to understand what your beliefs about negotiation are and if they require adjustment you will need the help of your IT architecture coach to change them.
The more lateral your thinking and the more expansive your viewpoint the more benefit you will get out of the negotiation process. As an IT architect you really need to know how your see yourself as accurately and as honestly as possible. This is so that you can plan action for every possible thing that can occur during a negotiation and will prepare you for most eventualities. Negotiation skills can be learned and your enterprise architecture mentor is the best person to help you do so.
There are lots of reasons why a junior or new enterprise architect should hire a mentor/coach. There are a number of skills that can only be really developed under the focused leadership of someone who has “been through the mill”. For instance do you understand the decisions and constraints in the wider scheme of things when you analyze the whole of the solution? This skill includes the ability to look at problems in an abstract way. This is called systems thinking. Few understand the organizational politics of the organization you are working in. Do you currently understand how those under-currents influence you and the outcomes you are trying to produce?
Can you clearly communicate without stepping on too many toes and still get your point across? You possibly need improvement in this area – most people do. Do you understand that people aspects and dynamics in human factors which influence the business? It’s called human relations and includes being pragmatic as well as understanding team plus personal dynamics. Have you had any training in strategic thinking and understanding how decisions are made on the constraints and alignments that affect the overall business of the company?
Not to mention leadership which basically means how to influence others to accomplish tasks and follow your guidance. If you are lacking in these skill areas then a good enterprise architecture mentor/coach can help you develop the skill sets needed so that you can effectively use these “soft skills”. And don’t dismiss these soft skills as being secondary to your role as an IT architect. After all if you don’t understand the business, the people who work in it, and the people who they work for (that is the customers) then you really have no way of designing a useful and profit driven IT architecture.
One of the reasons why you should hire a coach is so that you can take training and skills development in the “soft skills” areas at the right time in your journey from beginner to accomplished IT architect. A good enterprise architecture mentor/coach understands the importance of these skills and will enable you to plan (and give feedback on) your skill development as your career progresses. Soft skill development alone is probably one of the biggest reasons to hire a coach, because IT people are generally well known for their non-people skills. An effective enterprise architect is also a very strong influencer right from board level to the fellow who is cutting code. IT architect coaching is the fastest way for you, as an IT professional, to become an excellent people influencer.
As an IT architect you’ll have to learn to challenge all the facts.
Progress seems to rely on enterprise architects who stand up, challenge the status quo and push the envelope a lot. Many great breakthroughs are innovations made by architects who are able to ignore the so-called facts and figures. Whilst most people are content with the status quo, professional IT architects are always seeking a better, faster, more efficient, more effective method or way of doing things.
Despite the rhetoric, most corporations and the people within them quietly fear change. They are scared that it will create more demanding and less pleasurable working conditions. Particularly if there have been mistakes in the past with IT spend that has blown out or not given the returns expected. As a competent IT architect you have to be aware that innovation and progress can become non-existent unless you challenge the status quo.
Although you must take facts into consideration, good IT architects don’t allow them to carry as much weight as most other people do. An enterprise architecture coach knows that progress relies on standing up and challenging the facts and then taking intelligent action to actually exceed them. They can help you develop the skills necessary to accomplish this.
It’s why a good IT architecture coach will spend so much time developing your skills in dealing with other people. Understanding that human beings are emotional creatures, you can achieve huge success with other people in knowing and understanding one saying – “Help people fulfil their desire to feel important.”
If you remember that people in all levels of an organization crave validation and acceptance and you develop the skill of conversing in language that makes others feel important, you will be able to influence and persuade others to see your unique point of view as an IT architect.
An IT architect is nothing if not an agent of change, and skill development in smoothing the way for the changes you need to make within the organization is one of many you will have to develop and practise. After all, most people resist change. Also at Board and CEO level there may be some massive egos standing in the way of necessary change, especially if previous IT spending has been a cost rather than a benefit.
Your IT architecture career coach will help you develop the skills you need, because in the end, being able to influence people at all levels in the organization you work for is what you are being paid to do.
The Lively Business Journal states “HR managers say coaching is the most potent tool for creating lasting personal change.” One of the best things about coaching for IT architects is the opportunity to feel comfortable sharing your deepest concerns and fears. A learning atmosphere which is non-threatening helps with understanding and behavioral change and offers the chance to reflect on those changes. If you are a busy new or junior IT architect, time for reflection is like pure gold. Throughout communication and behavior, coaching helps you become more self-aware and successful.
It gives you an incredible opportunity to discuss challenges in a confidential relationship with a trained enterprise architect who has a thorough understanding of business AND IT architecture. The common saying is that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Basically coaching will break your insanity cycle of effecting the same habits or tasks in the same way every day and wondering why you aren’t getting anywhere. It makes you wonder who does this.
The truth is we all do. The productivity of a whole corporation can be distorted by poor leadership, the bad habits of the leaders and orbicular thinking. This is one reason why IT architect coaching incorporates leadership training because studies, surveys and reports prove that the coaching experience is a superior learning tool Research shows that the return on investment for coaching is high and creates improved outcomes, a lower turnover of staff, better satisfaction and increased morale. What problems can be overcome with architecture coaching? Examples include personal problems which affect overall work performance, high stress interfering with daily performance, failing to perform at the expected level and performing well but still having career development needs.
Not many life experiences prepare an IT architect for the leadership role that is expected of him or her. There are many leaders who rise because of outstanding performance, but who don’t actually have the skills needed to effectively lead. A good IT architect coach will fill this void. There are eight generally recognized core competencies, which your coach can help you with. These are personal mastery, interpersonal effectiveness, customer service, technical skills, creative thinking, systems thinking, flexibility with adaptability, and ownership. The big benefit of the coach is that they are not tied to your organization, your associates or anyone else. Your coach is only tied to you, so they support what you want and where you want to go.
The coach is not swayed by your decisions for your wins or losses or by anything else. I leave you with this quote from John Rasul, Managing Director of Harley-Davidson Europe “I never cease to be amazed at the power of the coaching process to draw out the skills or talent that was previously hidden within an individual, and which invariably finds a way to solve problems previously thought unsolvable.” If you want the fast track to career development as an IT architect, hiring a coach is essential.