Personal Ownership–The Vision Within

vision-imageIt has been said that the very essence of leadership is that you have a vision. It has to be a vision you can articulate clearly and precisely on any occasion. There is a vast difference between a person that has a vision and what is called a visionary person. Think of it in this manner:

  • A person with a vision talks little but does much.
  • A visionary person does little but talks much.
  • A person with a vision finds strength from inner convictions.
  • A visionary person finds strength from outward conditions.
  • A person with vision continues when problems arise.
  • A visionary person quits when the road becomes difficult.

Some of my personal experiences have taught me the following:

  • The credibility of a vision is determined by the leader.
  • The acceptance of a vision is determined by the timing of its presentation.
  • The value of the vision is determined by the energy and direction it gives.
  • The evaluation of a vision is determined by the commitment we the people have.
  • The success of a vision is determined by its ownership by both the leader and the people.

Take a look around you; what is happening to others

A good idea can become great when the people are ready. The data professional who is impatient with people can become defective in their leadership. The evidence of strength lies not all the time in blazing a trail ahead but instead adopting our stride at a slower pace while not forfeiting the end goal. If you run too far ahead then you run the risk of losing your power to influence.

The ability to decipher the big picture

The ability to decipher the big picture is oftentimes what separates leaders. They are concerned with the shop’s basic purpose of why it exists and what it should achieve. Some things to think about that may hinder a vision:

  • Limited Leaders – everything rises and falls on leadership.
  • Concrete Thinkers – see things as they are and say why?
  • Dogmatic Talkers – to be absolutely sure about something one must either know everything or nothing about the problem. At times knows nothing but conventionally says something.
  • Continual Failure– many people look at past failures and fear the risk of pursuing future visions.
  • Satisfied Sitters – people who strive for comfort which sits on the heels of complacency, predictability, and boredom.
  • Census Takers – some people are never comfortable stepping out of the crowd.
  • Problem Receivers – some people can see a problem in every solution.
  • Self-Seekers – people who live for themselves.
  • Failure Forecasters – extract only discord; outlook is always gloomy and times are always bad.

Summary:

Spend some time and think about the dreams and vision you have as a data professional. Whether you are in an organization or a consultant I challenge you to consider the following:

Refuse to accept failure with self-worth.

Don’t restrict thinking to established, rigid patterns.

See the big picture.

Welcome challenge with optimism

Don’t waste time in unproductive thinking.

Can a Data Professional Be Organized?

Organization“One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries.”  While this quote is true it is often times too late to act on an opportunity therefore it is missed. If you are a leader at your respective shop it can then be conceived that you are somewhat out of control.

Becoming a bit more organized in your day will allow you to have priorities that are clear in your mind and can help you orchestrate complex events with a masterful touch. You can transition smoothly from one project to the next without wasting motions. People will begin to believe the promises you make because you are following through on them. When you enter a meeting you are prepared for it and when you show that hand of knowing the topic ~ well it pays off.

It might sound funny, but I run into a lot of data professionals who are and are not organized. I get it; it happens to everyone – but if you are interested in taking steps to become organized below are some thoughts that may help you on your journey.

Set Your Priorities

Sounds easy enough? Two things that are difficult to get people to do. The first is to do things in order of importance, and the second being continuing to do the things in order of importance. Try listing out all your major responsibilities according to importance and time needed to accomplish those tasks. This will become the gauge to help keep you on track and keep moving forward. Perhaps start with a monthly checklist.

Place Priorities In Your Calendar

Place this list in a prominent area such as your calendar. You could also share this list with a trusted resource for accountability sake pending on the nature of the item.

Allow Time For The Unexpected

We all know that things will come up; that is inevitable. Based on your role as a data professional you can build in additional time to the priorities that need to be accomplished.

Do Projects One At A Time

A feeling of being overwhelmed is the result of too many projects that are clamoring for your attention. If this is something that happens to you then maybe try some of the following:

  • Itemize all that needs to be completed.
  • Prioritize things in order of importance.
  • Organize each project that suits you such as a folder.
  • Emphasize only one project at a time.

Work According To Your Temperament

If you are a morning person, then schedule time in the morning to be most effective; if you are a late starter then do the opposite. Whichever holds true, be sure to not allow the weaknesses of your temperament excuse you from what you know you need to do to work most effectively.

Use Your Driving Or Travel Time for Light Work And Growth

I was given some great advice a long time ago. Whether you ride the subway or drive the car use this time to reflect on your thoughts. I have several friends for instance who, while on the subway, knock out tasks or read a book that continues their growth process as a data professional. No, I’m not saying never turn on the radio for a jam session, but I am saying you may find some useful time on the drive in to the office.

Develop Systems That Work For You

Whether you utilize your phone, computer, calendar, or writing tasks down – all of these are there to help you do things better and quicker. By improving them, you can decrease your expenses and increase your results. Don’t fight the systems; instead improve upon them. Remember, you are the CEO of your journey.

Always Plan For Those Minutes Between Meetings

I find myself in meetings constantly. That can be both good and bad. Hours can be saved by making the best use of minutes in between meetings. I try to keep a list of things to do that can be done anywhere in a very short amount of time. Keep handy a list of things you can do in a short time such as:

  • Email reply.
  • Call to make.
  • Thank you note to jot down.

Focus On Results, Not The Activity

Doing things right versus doing the right things? Focus on doing the right things and what is truly important. Welcome responsibility and be responsible for who you are. It is often rare to find a person who will be responsible, who will follow through correctly and finish the job. An old boss of mine once told me the following:

“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something; and because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do the something that I can do”

Summary

Whatever the case may be take steps to improving yourself along your journey and look for ways to help improve efficiency on your day-to-day processes. These items mentioned are just to provoke your thought process; not something that is or should be a standard for you. If you’re struggling; maybe try some of them out and see how it works for you. Don’t expect more from others than you expect from yourself. Get after it and let’s get it done.

SQL Doc by RedGate

SQL DocI recently was on a call where a technical unit indicated they did not receive any form of documentation around the vendor database that was created. Now, seeing that I fall into the database profession it sparked my fancy. I began to ask a few questions to the individual who was asking for this documentation; these are important questions in that you have to determine if there is a need for what was running through my mind. Sure enough, the technical team, was just needing some guidance on overall structure and what they were dealing with in terms of tables, procedures, and so on. This group was trying to review and write a process around information they were not privy to.

My mind went straight for the SQL Doc utility that RedGate has available. It’s a simple utility really to utilize and often times can save the day for such cases like the one above. Check out the steps below on how easy the utility allows you to document a database on the fly:

Step 1: As you open the application you will be prompted to enter a server location followed by how you’d like to connect to it (Windows or SQL authentication). In this case we’ll just hook up to a local instance I have on hand.

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Step 2: Once connected you’ll have some default settings. There will be a cover page option along with the databases that you want to document.

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Step 3: Looking at the project you’ll begin to review some of the following information:

  • Database Selection
  • Server Properties
  • Server Settings
  • Advanced Server Settings
  • Sections that are included in the report

For this specific test I’m just going to take a look at the TempDB

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The screen capture will note that under Object Types you are able to drill into and get as granular as you can. The below example will show you a snippet from a table in the TempDB and will also show that you can enter a description of what the field is utilized for in the far right hand column under Description.

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Step 4: If you have to save this documentation out for any meetings or other purposes you can create a cover letter along with any logo information and description. Simply click on the cover page option on the left menu and complete the following:

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Step 5: After all the choices are made you can click on the General Documentation Go button on the menu and be prompted for the following:

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Give the location and file a name and BOOM; you’re done.

Summary

You may find yourself in a situation where you are needing a quick hit for documentation purposes. If you are an avid RedGate user and enjoy using their SQL Doc product; or maybe you had this product and didn’t even know what it was then you can benefit greatly from documenting multiple databases in a matter of minutes. This post is to show you what type of utility SQL Doc is and what it can actually be used for in a real life circumstance. In the end it was the right product and right time to use it for a technical team in need. Well done RedGate, well done.

Integrity–A Key Ingredient to Leadership

IntegrityWhen I have the opportunities to speak, whether local or elsewhere, on leadership I am often asked what are some things that make up a good leader? Over the years one very common word keeps coming up ~ integrity. It is a small word with a big meaning; if you were to pull up a dictionary integrity is defined as, “the state of being complete, unified.” When one has this ingredient their words and deeds match up; meaning they are who they say they are no matter where they are or who they are with.

This ingredient seems to be vanishing where personal standards are crumbling with data professionals in hot pursuit of finding shortcuts to success. Integrity is not what we do so much as who we are, and who we are often determines what we do. Our system of values is so much a part of us that we cannot separate it from ourselves. It is a navigational system so to speak that guides us. We often struggle in our respective shops with situations that demand our decisions between what we want to do and what we ought to do. Integrity establishes those ground rules for resolving such occasions.

Below are some traits that I believe derive from Integrity:

  • Integrity builds trust.
  • Integrity has high influence value.
  • Integrity facilitates high standards.
  • Integrity results in a solid reputation, not just image.
  • Integrity means living it myself.
  • Integrity helps a leader be credible, not just deemed clever.
  • Integrity is a hard-won achievement.

All the above are not given factors in everyone’s life. It is as result of self-discipline, inner trust, hard work, and a decision to be relentlessly honest in all situations.

Summary

Think about the situations as a data professional that you find yourself in. Begin asking the question am I taking a shortcut in order to get to success? Will that security permission not mean anything if I give it now and let another data professional handle the fall out at a later time? Or maybe you are a leader at your shop, is it something that you would sell a team or colleague out to get ahead. Whatever the case may be I urge you to take a long look at what your leadership looks like in your current role. Everyone influences someone in some form or fashion, will you have this key ingredient that is called integrity?

Are You Wasting Energy?

Teamsuccess.jpgOften times we as leaders within our respective shops tend to waste our time focusing on the wrong things. Think about that for a moment and think about the team that you are on or that you are leading. I’ve seen it happen among some very talented teams where we (yes I include myself in this) are not tapping into the expertise of our teams bringing for the most potential out of each team member.

Over the course of time I’ve come across some things that have helped me in a leadership role that may help some other data professionals out there who are starting out or maybe even a season vet.

Want Results?

  • Eliminate those distractions – you have to define out what matters most. What are you or the team doing that may prevent you from focusing on the real tasks at hand.
  • Get Real – face it; there will be times when those awkward conversations are needed. Hold each other accountable if you are on a team, and if you are a lone DBA which some of my friends out there are then build a base in the community of trusted advisors. Bounce some ideas off them.
  • Point out what is not working – this may seem simple enough, but believe me it’s not always that easy to overcome it. Constantly review processes and procedures to make sure you are thriving forward; not drifting backward.
  • Set some goals – do this with your team, individuals, or yourself – put the emphasis on with.

Change is hard; change is never easy. That’s where coaching comes in; you have to stick with it. Trust me; if it were easy then everyone would be doing it.

What Are Some Ways To Define Success?

  • Respect and leverage – I’ve personally found that when teams respect each other and can strategically leverage each persons talents then watch out. You are about to witness something special take place.
  • Management has focus – as I typed this I had to take a moment and reflect on the team I’m blessed to lead. I’m I positively focused on leading the group – I do believe I have their best interest but that doesn’t mean “we” won’t make mistakes. I include we, cause dear reader, you may be in this category with me.
  • Does your team matter – your colleagues and teammates; the ones you get in the trenches with on a daily basis should feel like they matter.
  • Ability to be innovative – one of the key success points I’ve experienced is turning a team loose and just say, “be innovative”. End of day I got your back, and guess what you will fail. Let me repeat myself; you will fail. However, if you are not being innovative or your team or colleagues are scared to try anything new from fear of backlash then are you truly pushing forward?
  • Good enough isn’t really good enough – a saying that has stuck with me my whole life is a simple one. Somewhere someone is practicing getting better, and when you meet that person one on one will you rise to the challenge. It is okay to set the bar high and it is also okay to keep working hard toward and end goal. On the flip side to that it is also okay to learn from your mistakes and let that be the fuel to the fire to keep getting after it.

Summary

I challenge you to embrace your aspirations today. If you lead a team of data professionals then take a long hard look at how you are leading your group. Let innovation; collaboration, and engagement with others turn into respect, leveraging talent, and building on success. If we are bragging or dwelling on the past; then that may mean we are not doing enough in the present.

How’s that fuel in the fire; are you passionate about succeeding? These are just some thoughts in my own mind that I’ve jotted down over the years that may help you along your journey as a data professional. Time to get after it and make it happen ~ BE THE CHANGE.

The Pen Cap

This post is for all you up and coming data professionals out there. Over the course of the last week we had a T-SQL Tuesday block party which I missed. The beginning of the year is a very hectic time at the shop; doesn’t negate the fact that I should have taken time to get posts out on the topic. With that said you will find at the bottom of this post what T-SQL Tuesday is and how to get involved with it moving forward.

PenCapSo, the pen cap ordeal….what is it and why?

I gave this talk to the Louisville SQL and Power BI User Group a few years back, and got some amazed looks. Looking back, it actually is quite comical in a sense of what not to do. Dating myself a bit we would have to go to the year 2000-2001; back when I had hair on the dome and thinking I could take on the world. I was green as green can be right out of college and I was being shown around the building and my new digs on where development gold was about to take place – – that’s right I was a developer in my former life.

As on any first day at a new job you meet a lot of people. I remember like it was yesterday; walking around the various floors and coming back down to the development area. The person showing me around was someone I had known from my past so it was a comfortable setting. We get to “dev row” as we called it; just a myriad of cubes in a straight line – in getting to this one cube no one is present. Now, you have to remember – I was straight out of college, but I did have a sense regarding security and also things that one should and should not do. Chalk some of that up to common sense (although most people today will debate if I have any!).

Looking in at this cube picture an old school monitor, keyboard, mouse and a pen cap. That’s right a pen cap – oh no my friend. This pen cap was not just any ordinary pen cap. It was stuck in the keyboard with the stem holding down the enter key. Odd you say, yeah I thought so as well. Moving on; we would come back too meet this genius of a person later on.

Getting back to my own cube and sitting there that darn pen cap kept coming back to my mind. I couldn’t shake it; couldn’t let it go. Time passed and I went back over to the person’s desk to introduce myself. I was the newbie on the block, but not shy (shocking I know <insert sarcasm>). The conversation went something similar to this:

Me: Hello, my name is Chris Yates and just started today. You were out earlier when we came by so I just wanted to drop by and introduce myself.

Them: Hello, my name is (we shall protect the non innocent and go with Richard).

Me: Noticed you had a pen cap in your keyboard earlier; curiosity has got the better of me.

Them: Oh, that – yeah I left a message box in the code that imports data into the system. I just put a pen cap on the enter key to keep hitting ok until it got to the end.

Now, even back then as a young kid I knew that didn’t smell right. Come to find out that import was being loaded into production because well why not. The enter key being held down for so long kicked off the job again, and to add insult to injury the import did not check for any duplicates. Was a good lesson of what not to do.

Summing Up

To this day I do not use a pen that has a cap on it – No thank you.

  • If you ever see a pen cap stuck in a key board by all means question it Winking smile
  • Do not test directly into production
  • Do not leave your computer unattended at your desk without it being locked
  • If you see me out and try to get me to use a pen with a cap; well that’s why I carry my own pen.

…and the list could go on. Remember, use your head and if you are questioning if something is right chances are you need to visit more into it.

T-SQL Tuesday Plug

I know I missed the party this past week, but I still want to share with you what T-SQL Tuesday is. T-SQL Tuesday is a blog party that SQL Server expert Adam Machanic (blog|Twitter) started. Each month different community members from around the globe host a topic and other community members and fellow bloggers get to write about what they want to share. To find out more check out Adam’s blog mentioned above. It’s a great way to get your blogging juices flowing and get to know and learn from other community members.

Looking Back At 2016

lookingback2016When this blog started back in 2011 I had no idea that it would continue to grow to where it has gotten to today. There have been many learning curves along the way – some fun and some not so fun, but that is part of the journey.

Each year since inception this blog has steadily gained steam in terms of increased traffic each year ; so I am thankful for that. The SQL Professor was not started for that sole purpose though. Rather it was a place to keep my thoughts regarding issues, ideas I have or have ran across over a period of time, and to write about happenings in my own professional career. Getting feedback from, you the reader, is an added bonus. Receiving both good and bad comments and discussions is an integral piece in helping this blog to continue to morph and grow – a living document if you will.

I’m reminded often that while producing good content is key; it is also key to write about what you love and enjoy doing. SQL has been a big part of my professional career and I look forward to creating additional blog posts in that area. Another area that I’ve come to have a strong passion for is leadership. In 2017 I plan on perhaps producing a series on leadership and how it pertains to one’s career.

Looking Back

Nope; not doing that. While 2016 was a great ride professionally I want to set sights on 2017 and continue to hopefully make an impact.

Looking Ahead

In looking ahead there are several things on tap for 2017. Some of them are:

  • Continue to grow the User Group base here locally.
  • Continue to help and grow the SQL Saturday event here locally.
  • Expand speaking opportunities where it makes sense.
  • Continue to help as much as I can with the HA/DR virtual chapter.
  • Dive further into PASS and continue to help the organization that I’ve come to be strongly passionate about.
  • Continue to lead and build a strong DBA team here in the current shop (very talented individuals. Extremely blessed to have an outstanding team).
  • Build on leadership qualities.
  • Continue to do the best work I can for the SQL community.
  • Continue to build on new and existing relationships within the SQL community.

Expectations

Something that I’ve learned long ago is that we can’t make everyone happy regardless of how hard we try. Mistakes will happen, and events will occur – that is part of the journey. I said the other day that 2016 slapped me in the face on various fronts, but I’m still standing. While it is important to reflect on what lessons were learned in 2016; I also want to encourage you to look forward to 2017. Change, if you want it, starts from within. Will you take the first steps? Break out of your comfort zone and explore new heights.

Here is to a solid end of 2016, and to new beginnings/adventures in 2017 ~ Cheers.